As Helen Tunstall took the jacket off of Benny, she was remembering seeing the gravestone of Eleanor Hinton as she passed by. Next to it, there was a smaller grave, for an infant girl. The date on both markers was the same year, 1942. Then, where did...?
He had always told her the mother didn't want the baby, but she never had believed him. She had always suspected the baby was Eleanor's. But if Eleanor's baby was buried beside her, then where had their baby come from?
And, who...how...where had Arlissa come from? Had Mrs. Hinton had more than one daughter who had given birth to a child out of wedlock? Or was Arlissa actually Mrs. Hinton's daughter? Maybe belonging to Zeb's grandfather?
"Have I been wrong all these years about our Rosie?" she said aloud.
"What, what about Rosie?" Jake asked as he came in from parking the truck.
"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking out loud. I was remembering the funeral. It was a lovely service, wasn't it?"
"I'm hungwy, Gwamma," stated Benny.
"Sure, would you like a glass of milk and a cookie? We have lots of cookies right now."
"Yes, Gwamma, I'd wike dat! Can I go out to pway?
"No, not today, dear. Didn't Miss Hawkes let you go outside for awhile?"
"Yes, but she not hab no kitt'ns, wike you does."
"Let's do some coloring on your coloring book instead, okay?"
They went into his room and sat at the little table in the corner and she took out his crayons and coloring book.
Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Arlissa had left for awhile and Granny sat slightly elevated in her hospital bed, reminiscing...
The woman had come for her in the middle of the night, with news that Eleanor had just given birth to a baby girl, and most likely would not make it another day...
Sanderson knew she could never, should never, make such important
decisions about someone's home without at least consulting them, so she
decided to go visit the hospital and talk to at least Arlissa first.
she went to the hospital and inquired about Mrs. Hinton and her
granddaughter. She was sent to the sunroom where she found Arlissa
sitting, watching the drizzling raindrops and feeling as though the
weight of the world was resting on her shoulders.
there, little girl! You look as though you just lost your last friend,"
Carla gushed, then realized how that sounded since Arlissa's best
friend was just buried that day. "Oh, my! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to
okay, Mz. Sanderson. I understand. I was feeling kinda blue, settin'
here, lookin' out at that Fall rain drippin' down the winders. What are
you doin' here? Visitin' somebody?"
actually, I came looking for you. I got something I want to talk to you
about. You know how, every so often, Miss Hetty takes it into her head
to be helping somebody?"
she decided to make cleaning up your all's farmhouse a thing for our
lady's group to take care of, so...they're all out there working on it
and it's my job to pick out the paint to repaint the walls. But I didn't
want to do it without talking to you first."
see. We're her next project, then?" Arlissa sat back in her chair and
felt her mood darken a little bit more. She and Granny had never been
the object of anybody's project or charity. She didn't know how Granny
was going to react. Granny took great pride in being self-sufficient.
I know it's hard to have people doing for you, but their hearts are in
the right place. You know, if somebody wants to do for you, it gives
them a blessing. We like to do for others because it makes us feel good
inside. You know? When you don't let others do for you, you're robbing
them of that feeling. Believe it or not, you can get a blessing just by
you put it that way...it does make sense. I jist hope I can convince
Granny of it. I'll jist use the same words you used with me, I reckon."
was wondering, could you maybe come with me to Harvey's Hardware and
pick out the colors you would like to see in the house and what rooms to
put the colors in? Then, you're gonna have to do a mighty good acting
job when you come out and see the house. Would you do that for me,
"We won't be gone long, will we?" Arlissa was anxious about leaving the hospital for a long period of time with Granny so sick.
no! I promised I'd be back in a couple of hours, so we don't have long.
We'll have to swear Harvey to keep mum about you being there."
two stopped off at the nurses' station and left word that Arlissa would
be back very soon; that she was going to the Hardware store, if they
needed to reach her.
team of women moved throughout the house, working steadily. They came
to Granny's room, which didn't seem to have suffered as much damage as
the rest of the house. Hetty noticed the drawers had been removed from
the dresser, so she got busy picking up the clothing scattered over the
had apparently not cut Granny's clothing up as he did Arlissa's. Hetty
had one of the other ladies hanging up the few dresses the old lady had
that were lying all over as she picked them up. Then, as she went on to
the contents of the drawers, she noticed the rosewood box and picked it
she inspected it. She remembered her Aunt had owned one very much like
it. Her dad had brought it back from some of his travels and her Aunt
Lula had expressed an interest in having it.
Hetty sat down on the edge of the bed, holding the box and remembering....
"Now, Hetty! You know you are not to play with my new rosewood box! I have told you, time and again!"
"But Auntie Loolie! I just want to look in it and hold it awhile," she had pled. "I promise, I won't hurt it any."
memory was so very clear...she had dropped the box and had dented the
corner of it. Her punishment was a trip to the woodshed. She could still
feel the belt welts on her buttocks that her father had inflicted on
her tender seven-year old skin.
Tears ran down her face and she quickly wiped them away and hid them, along with the memories.
she gazed down at the box - she really wanted to look inside - but
didn't know if she should. What kind of secrets could it hold? What
juicy item would be at her disposal to share with others?
Her conscience had never kept her from delving out nuggets of titillating facts to use.
Just as she was lifting the lid, Harvey's wife came in and asked if
Hetty wanted to help in the kitchen. They were getting ready to tackle
the box to one side, she got up and headed with Betty into the kitchen
to clean in there. She looked back longingly at the box, and promised
herself that it would not go unopened.
After Arlissa had made her choices of paint, Harvey's wife took her back to the hospital.
you so much for letting me choose the paint colors, Miz. Sanderson! I
really appreciate what you ladies are doin' for us. Don't know how my
Granny's gonna take it, but I'll explain to her what you told me about
blessin's and all. I hope I can do it justice the way you told me. Like I
said, she don't take too kindly to bein' a charity case. It was good of
you to come get me, too."
Arlissa reached up and kissed Carla on the cheek ever so gently, then turned and headed for Granny's hospital room.
"Hey, Granny! I see you're settin' up a little! You feelin' better, then?"
Granny picked up the ever present chalk board and wrote, "Where you been?"
"I went out a little while to get outdoors some."
"In this rain?" were the words that appeared next on the board.
it ain't too bad, Granny. I needed some fresh air. I'll take you out
when the rain clears up, so's you can get outta this buildin' some,
had already decided not to broach the questions about her origins to
Granny again. She would find out what she ached to know in some other
way. The young woman didn't want to bring on another spell with Granny's
did she know that Granny didn't have all the answers. Only the woman
who had been seen by Mildred, the Sheriff's secretary, talking to
Alberto Donelli knew all the answers.
women finished cleaning the kitchen; there had been stuff splattered
everywhere and they were tired. The painting was left to do, since Carla
had only recently returned from town with it. It was way past
lunchtime, so they decided to head back into town to the diner where
Mildred had seen Donelli and the woman talking.
five women piled into the car driven by Hetty, since it was a Cadillac
and would comfortably hold all of them. They put little Jan Hankins into
the middle of the back seat.
ladies began chattering about what all they had gotten done during the
morning. Hetty's mind, however, was on the rosewood box. She knew that
quite often they were used to hold important papers and keep them away
from prying eyes. Her curiosity was going to keep pinging away at her
until she got a look at them. There had always been some kind of secret
about the girl's parentage. She just bet herself that she could find out
something from inside that box.
Perhaps that Douglas boy had already looked inside it. She wanted to be
the only one who knew whatever it held, other than Ms. Hinton, of
knew she was obsessing over that box, but she really needed to know
what was in it. Perhaps she could look while the others were painting
the walls. It would only take a minute or two. She had always had her
suspicions about who the girl's father was. It was evident, wasn't it?
Of course, there was a whole bunch of that family's boys and a couple of
all left the farm at an early age; couldn't get along with the old man,
from what she heard. He beat them everytime they turned around, was the
word in the town. Hmmm. Wonder if it was the old man? Nah...couldn't
Granny lay there, waiting for Arlissa to return to the hospital, her
mind drifted back to the night she was awakened by someone knocking at
Her husband was sound asleep, but she had been lying there thinking about her daughter, Ellie.
Where was she? What was she doing? Would she ever see her again?
she arose from their bed and went to answer the door. It was raining
and very cool. She had heard the old clock on the mantel strike two as
she went through the house.
Opening the door a crack, she felt the breeze blowing through her flannel gown and shivered.
"Yes? Who is it? Who are you? What are you doing here?"
"I come to get you. Yore daughter sent me. She needs you. Come quick! She said to hurry."
"Jist a minute. I gotta get my shoes on and a coat and a scarf for my head. I'm hurryin'!"
The woman stepped inside to wait; her red hair glistening with raindrops hung in clipped ringlets.
remembered the long drive to the little house the woman had taken her
to. It was difficult to see through the rain on the dark mountain roads.
Fortunately, she could follow the tail lights of the woman's car.
hadn't seen her Ellie since they had the big argument over Ellie's
wanton behavior with that fella she'd been seeing all those months
before. Then she heard he'd up and joined the army, leavin' Ellie high
It had been at least seven or eight months since she'd heard from the girl. Now, her daughter wanted to see her.
they finally arrived, they found another woman in attendance to
Eleanor. It was a local midwife, sitting near the bed where Eleanor lay,
with a tiny baby wrapped in a clean blanket lying next to her.
The midwife looked at Mrs. Hinton and shook her head in a negative manner.
This here is Arlissa, yore granddaughter. I want you and Pa to raise
her for me, please. I ain't gonna make it. Ma, I want you to promise me
you won't never tell her who her father is, or that she had a twin, who
only lived a few minutes. You gotta promise me, or I'll never have
"Where is the twin? Was it a boy or a girl?" Granny remembered asking the midwife.
was deformed and so I buried it yesterday afternoon, out under an old
oak tree." The woman who had come to get her had told her that.
The midwife had then told Granny that Ellie had begun to hemorrhage and she didn't think Ellie was going to make it.
is so small that the effort just took too much and she's not been
eatin' good, I reckon. The babies took all the good outta the food she
ate, left none for her. I don't hold out much hope for her to get outta
Ellie's voice was weak. "He was a good man. He loved me, I know. He
just said it wasn't gonna work out; his ma didn't like me none, and he
was his Mama's boy. He didn't know about me goin' to have the baby. We
ain't spoke in over six months and I heard he got married soon after we parted. We
argued over his love of alcohol. He just said he couldn't see no problem
in drinkin' a little. When he hit me, it was just the last straw."
"Oh, my Ellie! What am I ever gonna tell her when she begins askin' about her mama and daddy?"
can't never tell her who her pa is. She'd be so shamed. Jist don't tell
her nothin'. You gotta promise me! If you love me, please? Don't tell
her neither about havin' a twin birthed just before her. It'd just make
her sad. One more thing, when you bury me, put up a marker for my other
baby next to me."
"Well, Ellie, what if she figures it out on her own?"
"Do whatever you can to keep her from it, but if that happens, then you can tell her. You promise, Ma?"
"Yes, Ellie, God help me, I promise."
remembered then how her daughter's hand slipped from hers and with a
wan smile, Eleanor Hinton drifted away into the long sleep.
had looked at the baby being held out to her and quietly took Arlissa
Hinton into her arms and drew her close, tears dripping down onto the
Granny wiped the tears from her eyes, remembering.
That was how Arlissa found her when she returned to the room.
"What's wrong, Granny? Are you okay?"
The old lady nodded, giving her the twisted smile that was now so familiar to her.
"Somethin' has upset you!"
just shook her head in denial. How could she ever explain to her
granddaughter what had taken place... How she had been so deceived by
Granny picked up her slate and wrote, "Thinking about Gramps."
Gramps had been told what Granny knew, and it had gone to the grave
with him so many years ago. He, too, had felt great shame in what his
daughter had done, but he loved Arlissa with a deep and fierce
gave the girl the protection that a father would during the years he
lived past her birth. He took her fishing with him. Granny complained he
was turning her into a tomboy, but he just laughed at his wife and
said, "A gal needs to learn to do these things jist like a boy does.
After all, she ain't got no brothers."
Arlissa thought about Gramps as she sat quietly with her Granny, both of them remembering...
had learned to climb trees, and shoot marbles, and fish, even whittle a
stick. Gramps and she had some wonderful times. Sometimes when they
were fishing, she would ask him about her Ma. He would talk for awhile
about how he had taught her ma the same things she was learning, but
when she would ask what he knew about her Pa, he would say something
like, "You know, if we keep talkin', the fish are gonna hear us and
listen instead of bitin'."
She would say, "Oh, Gramps, you're talkin' silly, now."
Remembering brought Granny and Arlissa together in a sweet reverie.
ladies headed back to the Hinton farm, talking and laughing merrily;
all but Hetty McReynolds - her mind was on the box and her lack of
knowledge concerning the contents. She intended to change that,
"Hetty, you're awful quiet. What's wrong?"
"I'm just keepin' my eyes on the road! You don't want us to go off it, do you?"
"Well, it's just that you're usually talking a mile a minute, 'n' nobody can get in a word edgeways."
she's a plottin' somethin', is all!" One of the ladies joked and the
others all laughed. Seems they really knew the woman. "Lookin' fer some
kinda somethin' to gossip on."
why don't you mind your own business. I reckon you know your husband
sure likes lookin' at the young girls he keeps workin' around his
office, runnin' errands fer him."
Since when did you have the right to criticize anybody's husband? I
happen to know..." Myrtle stopped mid-sentence, not daring to continue.
Being on the receiving end of Hetty's vitriolic gossip was not an
Carla piped up and said, "Say, have you all seen that new movie out at the Rialto? It is absolutely a thriller!"
began chattering about the actors in the movie and the uneasiness left
the automobile, but Hetty was not going to forget the stinging remarks
made at her expense. They would pay! She would see to that. She knew her
husband was not perfect, but he was basically a good man; he certainly
helped a lot of people....
they arrived back at the farm, Hetty put on the smock she had been
wearing earlier, and suggested they begin on Arlissa's room since it had
I just remembered! I forgot to finish picking up Granny's stuff and
putting it away. I'll go do that right now, while you all get started on
(To be continued)