The Mona Lisa Sisters

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Chapter 28

When Joseph returns from Bridgeport, I send the girls off for a walk with Earl. “What did Julien tell the judge?”

“He told them nothing different than what he has assured us. France will take no action until the adoption is settled.”

“What did the judge say? How did he act? Is he favorable to my petition?”

“Lura, the judge appeared impartial. I don’t think he has made up his mind. He shouldn’t until he hears our petition in court. He had a few questions of Julien about you and the girls.”

“Oh Lord. What did he want to know?”

“It is simple. He wanted to know if you loved the girls and if you would be a good mother.”

“What did he tell the judge?”

“What do you think he said? He told the judge you love the girls and would be a fine mother. He also said that he believes the girls love you and would be happy to be your daughters. Now can we eat? I’m ravenous.”

“The judge has notified me that he will hear your petition in three weeks’ time.” The news that we have a date for the hearing is both wonderful and frightening.”

Father once took me to the courthouse in Bridgeport. The old courthouse had been built entirely of wood. The harsh Connecticut winters required several fireplaces which were located on the ground floor with outlets on the second. Another was housed in the basement. When court was in session, a handyman was kept busy servicing the fires. In 1888, he decided upon a plan to reduce his effort. Once the fires were going well, he placed enough wood in each to fill the burning chamber. Before he reached the second ground floor fireplace, the wood in the basement spilled out and soon the entire building was engulfed in flame.

The town elders, fearful of losing courthouse business to another town, hastily made plans to replace the old building. Several ideas were under consideration when word reached the elders about a similar situation in Litchfield County. Their courthouse had burnt to the ground only to be replaced by a second wood structure. This second structure burnt to the ground before the building was dedicated.

The Bridgeport elders commissioned Robert Wakeman Hill of Waterbury to design and build a courthouse built of stone. Hill completed the Litchfield County courthouse and then one of similar design in Bridgeport. Father took me to the dedication of the new Bridgeport Courthouse in 1890. Now I’m back. The edifice is an imposing structure with a tower facing the city square. A large clock dominates the bell tower, with its cold and stark stone walls.

“Lura, sit here in the front row with the girls. When the judge calls our case, the three of you should remain here until I call you forward. How do you feel?”

“I’m fine and the girls are as well. We have Emily, Mr. Bartolini, and Julien here if we find the need for help. I thought Mr. Brandies would be here.”

“Louis is on his way. I understand that there was a derailment halfway between here and New York. I’m sure that as soon as he gets past the hazard, he’ll be here.”

Joseph turns his attention to the girls. “Katie how are you this morning?”

“I’m fine Uncle Joseph. You told me before, but I forgot. What must I do? I’m a little bit scared.”

“It is okay to be nervous. Everyone feels that way in a courthouse. I’m sure even Miss Lura is anxious.”

I’m fearful, but don’t see the need to tell the girls that. I give Joseph a look that tells him he is not helping. I pull Katie close and whisper in her ear, “Don’t mind Joseph he doesn’t know everything. If you get scared, just hold me tight.”

Joseph has one final question for each of the girls. He first asks Katie. “This is the day of the adoption. If the court grants our petition, you will be Lura’s daughter, Catherine Margaret Dean Myer. The judge will ask you if that’s what you want. Is that what you want?”

“Oh Uncle Joseph, that’s what I want more than anything. I love Miss Lura and I want to be her daughter.”

Joseph smiles and gives Katie a hug. He repeats the question, with the same answer from Ada Mae. After hugging her, he proceeds to the inner area of the courtroom and takes a seat next to three other lawyers. Turning, he whispers that our case won’t be heard until after the other three lawyers have their hearings.

The morning drags on for what seems like a fortnight. After the judge finishes with the other cases; the marshal steps up to the bench. They converse for a few minutes before the marshal leaves the courtroom. The judge doesn’t look pleased. “Mr. Myer, please approach the bench.”

While Joseph is listening to the judge, Mr. Brandies sits down next. “Good day Mrs. Myer.” He points to Joseph and says, “What’s going on? I thought our hearing would start long before this late hour.

“I don’t know. We were about to be called when the marshal came rushing in and went right up to the judge. When the marshal left, he called Joseph up there. They’ve been talking for a good five minutes or more.”

It is another five minutes before Joseph steps back. As he does, the judge hits his gavel on the counter top and says, “Court is adjourned until two o’clock. Mr. Myer I expect you to be ready to proceed at that hour.”

“Yes sir. We will be ready. Mr. Brandies has arrived and will join me at counsel table.”

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