Short stories are at the heart of why Phyllis loves to write. Her father left her a legacy of the art of storytelling.
Millie's Past Life
Millie's diaries were full of the growing up years of her twins, Simon and Seth. The twins developed a very close bond with Millie and they followed her all around the house when they were little. They did not like to be away from her, even at bedtime. Millie always sat in a chair between their beds each night to pray with them then read till they fell asleep. Even though Millie had hired an excellent nanny for the twins, Simon and Seth preferred to be with their mother.
Simon and Seth outgrew their fear of being away from their mother by the time they were ten. This was a bit difficult for Millie to get used to. To fill up her spare time when the twins did not need her close so much, Millie returned to needlework and writing in her diary.
Millie expressed sorrow several times over her two miscarriages. Both her losses were girls. and she had a trunk full of clothes for girl babies she had made early in her marriage. All the boy clothes were used for the twins when they were little then stored in a separate trunk. The beautiful girl clothes, many that were crocheted or knitted, was too painful for Millie to keep in her tower room so she hid them from sight.
In her 1876 diary Millie wrote about a conversation between Simon and Samuel which greatly distressed her. She was going to the den after Willard, Samuel's bank manager, had left to spend the evening with Samuel when she heard Simon's angry voice. Rather than enter, she stood at the door and listened long enough to know what their discussion was about, then she left and returned to the back parlour to read one of her favorite novels.
When the twins were eighteen, Samuel had them apply to West Point Academy for military training. They received a nomination from a Congressman who was a close friend of Samuel's. Millie was proud of her sons but would miss having her rambunctious boys in the house. They had always showered her with affection and often played tricks on her by pretending to be each other. Minnie could usually tell them apart, for Seth was more quiet and calm than Simon who had a temper that was easily set off.
Simon was fiercely protective of his mother and often feared for her safety. This fear stemmed from Samuel's bank manager, Willard Preston, a close friend of Samuel. They had known each other for many years. Not many people liked Willard, but Samuel trusted him.
It greatly irritated Simon that his father allowed Willard to be so much in control of not only the bank but also Samuel's family life. It was Willard's idea to send the boys off to the academy. It was then that Simon discussed his dislike and suspicions of Willard with Samuel. He poured Samuel a snifter of brandy and began the conversation.
"Don't you see, Father, how dominating and sneaky Mr. Preston is? He even insists on advises you on our family matters, which is none of his business! And I am disappointed you do not step up and tell him it is your place, not his, to take responsibility for your own family!" Simon raged on about his distrust of Willard.
"And now I find out it was Willard who decided Seth and I should enlist in the Academy! That cuts me to the core, Father. We were more than happy to enlist because we thought it was your idea. We wanted to make you proud of us," Simon tried to hide his hurt. "Now I feel like it is a ruse to get us away so Willard can have his way with you and Mother."
Samuel remained quiet during Simon's anger, but finally spoke up. "Simon, I am saddened you feel the way you do about Willard. He is my closest friend and a good bank manager. He has no one, no family, and enjoys coming here to be a part of our life. I depend on him a lot and your Mother is gracious to him. I fervently hope you will change your mind about Willard after you learn some discipline and respect for your elders at the Academy. I am not feeling well lately and have no wish to continue this conversation."
Simon was exasperated. "Mother is gracious to everyone, Father! She is a fine gentlewoman. I am very proud of her. I feel, however, you are weak and unaware of what is happening around you. I am greatly disappointed and ashamed of my own father!"
Simon angrily turned away and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Samuel had stood up to call to his son, but fell back in his chair, feeling sharp pains in his abdomen and sick to his stomach. He poured himself another brandy, drank it down, then passed out.
The twins left for the Academy shortly after the argument with Samuel. Simon never spoke to his father again.
Samuel's health continued to deteriorate slowly. He often felt nauseous. One month after the twins left, Samuel awoke with severe abominable pains and could not get up. He had dark patches on one cheek and his arms. Minnie was frightened and sent for the doctor and Willard. Within two hours Samuel was dead.
Willard did his best to console Minnie and made all the funeral arrangements for her.
"I don't understand," Willard told Millie and the doctor. "I spent a few hours every evening with Samuel. He always had a brandy or two but I preferred a wine. Last evening he seemed fine, a little tired, yet his usual self. The next morning I find out he is gone. He was the only friend I had." Willard sat down and cried.
When Samuel died Millie was devastated. She missed Samuel and felt her whole world had shattered. She notified the twins and begged them to get leave to come home. She feared she would lose her home and said she would do anything to keep it.
Willard visited Millie every day and stayed for supper. He expressed concern that without Samuel she would not be able to keep the house. He said he had been appointed executor of Samuel's will and told Minnie there was just not enough funds to provide for her, the twins, and upkeep of the house. She would have to let the servants go and the twins would have to make a career of military service to survive financially.
"There is one possibility," Willard told her, "how you can keep the house and that is to marry me. Allow me to provide for you and you can keep on living here. I will give you time to think about it, Millie. I want to help you. Now that I am owner of the bank I am able to do this for you, my dear."
Millie told the twins about Willard's proposal and they were furious. Millie said it was the only way she could keep the house.
Simon threw up his hands in frustration. "Mother, we will be able to keep the house without Mr. Preston's help. Since Seth and I are the legal owners of the bank and the house we will manage it. We will not make a career of the military, just do our two years of active service and when we graduate we will come home and work at the bank. Father did it and now it is up to Seth and me. Mr. Preston can manage the bank till we come back home. He will make no major decisions without our approval."
Seth agreed with Simon. "It is settled, Mother. You will keep the house and go on living as you have always done."
"Oh, no my dears! Willard told me he is now owner of the bank and will take care of everything," Millie cried. "It is up to him how or if we keep the house."
"Father told us years ago that when he is gone Seth and I will inherit everything. That includes the bank! He wrote it down and gave us the letter where he expressed his wishes. Father's attorney has the letter. It is signed by Father and witnesses. And Father's wishes will be honored by us personally and legally."
"Simon, we will discuss all this with Willard tonight at dinner," Millie insisted. "It will all be fine, you will see."
"Mother, you exasperate me! You act as though Willard is head of this family and he is not! He is not a family member and I resent the fact that he is here every evening for supper! He is an intrusion and I prefer spending my evening with family, not intruders!"
"Simon is correct, Mother. With Father gone, Simon is head of this family since he is three minutes older than me. And please stop inviting Willard over here. He irritates me with his phony politeness," Seth mimicked Willard's manner. The twins laughed and playfully punched each other. They would not be laughing later when the evening turned deadly.
End of Part Three. See Part Four of Millie Hayworth's Life and Afterlife.
© 2022 Phyllis Doyle Burns