Daughters of the Hall – Chapter Thirty-Three

Grand Ballroom 0002

September 29, 2015 – Chapter One, Chapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter Four, Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter FourteenChapter FifteenChapter SixteenChapter SeventeenChapter EighteenChapter Nineteen, Chapter Twenty,Chapter Twenty-One, Twenty-Two,Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six,Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine, Chapter Thirty, Chapter Thirty-One, Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

The gala loomed closer, and the big event was scheduled for tomorrow night. Andrew had phoned yesterday to let Jenny know he would pick her up at 6 p.m. Although there had been no contact between the two of them since the day he showed up at her store, and asked her to go with him, there was warmth in his voice over the phone yesterday, and she was looking forward to their time together. It was one thing that helped her focus on her goal.

She’d also received a package from Mr. Hiller yesterday, as promised. Inside was a letter explaining that he wished her well that evening, but he knew she did not need his well wishes because she was more than up for the task in front of her. Inside the silver metallic box that looked like an antique itself, and like something she had seen on Antique Roadshow a few years back, laid a beautiful hair comb with a small butterfly encrusted in crystals. The note attached said, “If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.”

The sweet, simple words brought tears to her eyes, and she missed her treasured friend more than ever. He sent her his heart and soul with his wonderful gift, and she would be forever grateful to know him. She hoped she was wrong, but somehow she believed she would not see him again. She had decided that she would donate the $250,000 he gave her from his lottery winnings to the DIH, with one stipulation. It had to go to the needy in the city and not to refurbish a historic building. Mr. Hiller’s kind gift made her change her mind. Instead, she would look for a charity that better suited him, such as animal rescue, or something to do with butterflies to show he had a way of bringing beauty and grace into every life he touched. He did that for her.

Jenny had also received a call from her mother, before she and the girls left for Paris, telling her she understood why she couldn’t come along. It was a huge development for them, and Jenny wished her mother a pleasant bon voyage, and asked her to extend it to the twins, as well. She hadn’t spoken to any of them since the blow up at brunch, and it was nice of her mother to reach out to her. Things had finally started going her way again.

Things had even softened between her and Fiona, and she knew her troubled friend did her best to conquer her therapy sessions. It would be a long road for her for sure, but the habits that she had picked up over the last 25 years would not disappear easily.

“I’m being reprogrammed,” Fiona was fond of saying. “My therapist suggested that I avoid dating for at least six months. Well, he said a year, but I fainted at that suggestion. “I’ve never done that!”

Jenny laughed since her life was the complete opposite. She still approached the friendship with added doses of caution, and was not ready to bounce back to the way it had been before the situation with Andrew, but she knew her heart had softened and the forgiveness process had begun.

“This dress is beautiful, Jenny,” she said taking in the soft coral gown that was simple but elegant, and almost form fitting, which was a step in the right direction. Jenny asked Fiona to help her get ready, and together they decided on simple jewelry, the one and a half carat diamond earrings her father bought her for her 21st birthday, and nothing else. Jenny even agreed to makeup, as long as she kept it soft and natural, and tucked her hair behind to antique butterfly comb that even Fiona thought was beautiful. It was to be her crowning glory.

“I know I’ll be surrounded by more women whose jewelry cold feed a small nation,” she said, “but these are the best pieces I own.”

“They’re lovely,” Fiona said. “You’ll be certain to stand out for sure that way.”

Jenny smiled. “Thanks. I think I needed to hear that. As excited I am about tonight, I’m nervous about what may happen with everything.” She had not told Andrew or Fiona about the bombshell she would drop that night, and she still worried about its impact. A little mystery was good for a relationship, she reasoned, if that is what she was beginning tonight with him. She still had her doubts about that, but she hoped, and would open herself to the opportunity. Mr. Hiller would be proud.

“Jenny, you look beautiful,” Fiona said. “Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of this.”

Jenny smiled again.

Fiona looked at her watch and shrugged. “It’s almost the bewitching hour,” she said. “I’m going to make my exit now so neither one of you feel awkward when Andrew gets here. I’m going to go upstairs and order a pizza, and try not to think about how our roles have reversed. Have a lovely time at the ball, Cinderella.”

When Andrew arrived, he looked handsome in his tuxedo. She felt proud to be on his arm, and wondered what her mother and stepsisters would think if they could see her now, with one of the most handsome and available bachelors in the city.

“You’re lovely,” he said sounding like the most beautiful music ever, and she blushed although she loved hearing it too. In her world, that did not happen and she wanted to savor the moment.

When they arrived at gala, she scoped the elegant ballroom. She did feel like she was living in a fairy tale. Her horse and carriage in reality was a taxi with a putrid smell, but as long as she was with Andrew, she did not care. They sat at the same table as Charlotte and her date, a handsome architect that was doing work on a property she was building at the Jersey Shore. The rest of the committee was sitting at the adjacent table, which she knew could get interesting, but they had not recognized her yet. The music, food, and everything else were perfect. Some women and men were dressed in colonial garb, although she had yet to see Martha Chadwick, and others were dressed in modern attire but all looked beautiful. In her mind, it resembled one of the party scenes out of “Gone with the Wind” and she was with Rhett Butler. Andrew did look handsome and dashing in his formal attire.

Cocktail hour went by, as Jenny sipped on a glass of champagne and smiled at Andrew while he chatted with some colleagues he knew from Penn. He introduced her as his date, which made her feel warm and cozy, and she thought she’d noticed a smile on his face each time he did that said she made him proud. It had been a long time since she felt this way and it pleased her.

The sound on a microphone voice brought them all to a silent attention.

“May I have your attention please,” Martha said standing up at the podium wearing the dress they had discussed in the store. “Dinner will be served in a few minutes, and I wanted to thank you all for coming to our benefit tonight. Your generous donations will all be put to good use for those who need it in our community.”

“Yes, and your Botox treatments, too,” Jenny thought.

“Tonight we have a wonderful program of dancing for you courtesy of the Jason Rankin Orchestra, and an appearance by Professor Andrew Gordon, the historian from the University of Pennsylvania. He will be here to talk about his book on Benjamin Franklin. He did bring some autographed copies that are available for sale in the lobby, and proceed will go to our DIH charities. This dress I am wearing is an authentic ball gown worn to George Washington’s inaugural ball,” Martha paused to take in the reaction of the audience. “After tonight, it will be on permanent display in our new DIH museum that will be coming soon. More on that later. But first I wanted to welcome our new members, and I understand we have our newest in the audience tonight,” she said, gazing around the room as if to look for the undercover Carrie Grant. The room buzzed with laughter. While she spoke, the masses were scrambling to their seats. Jenny began to breathe deeply to avoid a full-blown panic, and to calm her rapid heartbeat. This was her moment, it may never come again, and she had to make the best of it.

“She writes under the pen name Carrie Grant for our local neighborhood newspaper, and she’s done more for spreading the word about our causes than anyone else in our history. Maybe we can persuade Ms. Grant to come up and say a few words. Besides, aren’t we all dying to know who she is?”

Everyone laughed and began to clap, and Jenny knew the moment that could change her life forever had arrived. As the tension in the crowd built, she did not stand right away, but the applause continued. Seconds later, she turned to Andrew and whispered, “Excuse me. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Standing, with all eyes on her, the whispers began as she walked up to the podium with as much confidence as she could muster. She could not help but notice the joy on Charlotte’s face as she passed her and the look of total shock on the face of Elyse Walton. Nothing prepared her for the look on Martha Chadwick’s face when she walked up to the podium. “Thank you, Mrs. Chadwick,” she said. She wanted to call her Martha, but knew she could not pull it off.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Martha whispered to her.

“Oh, you will,” she said.

With the professional demeanor and grace, and the good wishes from Mr. Hiller, she looked out into the audience. When she directed her attention to her table, and Andrew, she was pleased to see a proud smile, or almost a little bit of a smirk on his face. That gave her even more confidence.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Jennifer Hobbs and I am proud to accept the DIH’s invitation to become a member of this great society. For years, I followed the wonderful events and fundraisers, and watched with pride as this society helped the needy in our great city. My grandmother was a member in the 1970s, and I became more acquainted with it through the board and clubs members, who became my clients and friends through Pine Street Antiques, the shop I run at 12th and Pine Street. Then a few years ago, I started writing a column for the Philadelphia Weekly under the pen name Carrie Grant to highlight all of the wonderful events sponsored by the DIH. I wanted to keep it confidential for several reasons, most of which entails being taken seriously. I am not sure I could have accomplished that with my own simple name, or without the help of my friend and editor from the Weekly. I am honored to be a part of your society, one that I applied to and was turned away from because I don’t have a lineage that connects with one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I urge the DIH board to reconsider that rule, and open the gates for all of those who want to join and help our communities. If that rule had been in place during my grandmother’s time with the DIH, the city government may look very different today. She was single-handedly responsible for sponsoring Marcus Jefferson for a DIH scholarship to Georgetown, where he graduated with honors, went on to law school, and became our city’s District Attorney.” The crowd applauded, and Jenny felt so proud that her grandmother had been a key player in the popular DA’s career. “In times like these,” she continued, “when there are so many in crises, we need all the help we can get, and no one should be turned away who has a pure heart. While I honor and understand the roots of this grand society, there are not many of us who can claim we are a direct descendent of one of our original signers, and I think our forefathers would agree. Our great leader, Martha Chadwick, for example, who is a direct descendent of Edward Rutledge understands. Like Martha, Edward was born into an aristocratic family, but he was destined for a life of public service. As a lawyer, something Mrs. Chadwick is familiar with, and a governor he supported his people and fought for them, especially the poor, and saw they were cared for.” Jenny looked at Mrs. Chadwick, who did not seem amused, but it did not stop her. “In his later years Edward was involved in an embezzlement scandal, blamed for taking money from a public service fund for his own amusement, which he fought until his death. He was innocent, and he did not want the lie to tarnish his or his family’s image so he did not give up on clearing the family name. An admirable quality, isn’t it? Making things right again to protect the honor of those we love is all we can do, and members of the DIH, because of its ties to our forefathers, can be depended upon to always do the right thing.”

Jenny watched Martha Chadwick look around the room and began to squirm. She enjoyed that moment.

“And Elyse Walton,” she continued, “another fine board member with a direct line to signer John Morton.” Jenny could not help but notice that by Elyse’s side, like a good little puppy dog, her husband sat. Knowing their history, she thought it sad to have to pretend to have a happy marriage. How hard that must be.

“John was a local from Ridley Township,” she continued. “Known for his quick intelligence and hard work ethics, Mr. Morton went on to chair the committee that penned the Articles of Confederation. After that, he also had a fine judicial career.” Jenny looked Elyse square in the face and continued. “John had a colorful family, and they were gossiped about among the elite, but to his credit, he didn’t let it bother him or his causes. He adopted the attitude that no one was perfect, and instead of stressing to hide everything about his family, he celebrated the differences, and was embraced for it. He believed at heart, as I do, that deep down we are all the same and we all want to lend a hand to those in need.”

Elyse fumed in her seat and Jenny could see it.

“John Adams and Samuel Adams, the most well-known signers, became president and a business man. Samuel’s work as a lawyer helped him prepare for the most important job of his career, becoming president of the United States, the second in line after General Washington, who we also celebrate here tonight through Martha Chadwick’s dress.”

Everyone in the auditorium began to snicker.

“Samuel was the son of a merchant, and as everyone knows a brewer of beer. Both were born into a common family but turned out to be excellent politicians because they were given a chance. They were a friend to many, and popular and visible leaders in the community, much like my dear friend Charlotte Ampstead, another committee member, who shares their lineage.”

“And, Thomas McKean, the Pennsylvania native who became a lawyer by the time he turned 20, rose among the ranks of the local politicians and came to represent an ideal study of how far political engagement can be carried out by one man. How wonderful, Mrs. McKean, or Georgia, as your friends call you, must it be to be the name sake of such a man.”

“But ladies, these men didn’t do it alone. They had friends and mentors along the way and may not have done such great things without them. Together we are stronger, which is why I again urge you to rethink the membership guidelines, as you have done for me, a new and proud member of the DIH, but one with ties to no one famous, or no one that you would know, but a willing spirit. I, the daughter of a simple working class butcher, stand here remembering what he taught me about giving back to the community and caring for those with less than me. And because I grew up with less material things than many in this room, it doesn’t make me less proud or less worthy of lending a hand to help those in need in our wonderful community.

Now, if you will allow me to close this speech as I would one of my columns. The actor once said, “Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant. It was fun while it lasted. Thank you.”

She could not believe her eyes. They cheered for her, standing tall to show their appreciation for her speech. Andrew and Charlotte looked proud. When she turned to see Mrs. Chadwick, still standing there that a chill ran down the length of her spine. Mrs. Chadwick clapped too, but Jenny realized she was not happy.

She walked back to her table with her head held high.

“Wonderful speech, Jenny,” Charlotte said when she sat down.

She nodded and then looked at Andrew who was still grinning. “I didn’t want to ruin the surprise,” she said.

He nodded and smiled. “I’m glad you didn’t. That was a priceless moment.” Then he took her hand in his and held it there for a long time.

While dinner was served, she kept looking over at Martha and Elyse who were shooting her daggers for most of the night. After dinner, Martha came over and whispered, “You’re through in this town.”

Jenny looked up into her face and smiled. “I only did what I believed to be right, Mrs. Chadwick, and I simply accepted your kind invitation.” Then she added, “But you will be done if you don’t watch out.”

Elyse joined the Martha at the table when most of the other guests got up. “Why would you embarrass us like that?” she snapped.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” Jenny said. “I wanted to open your eyes.”

Charlotte joined them. “Ladies, isn’t it wonderful that Jenny is now a member. I think she moved many people in this room tonight. We know that hasn’t happened in a long time.”

Martha grinned. “It won’t work, Charlotte,” she said. “Your little plot to open the door to the masses has backfired. It isn’t good for our image or our purpose.”

Charlotte smiled. “I’m not sure what you mean other than Jenny and I agree on this subject. This was a surprise to me, too. I know Jenny from the store like you do.”

Elyse was bitter. “I know you both had lunch recently and planned this entire thing.”

Martha’s eyes sliced into her and Jenny shivered. “I always wondered how you stayed open because I never saw any customers in the store,” Martha replied. “Now I know it was a cover to spy on us.”

Jenny smiled. “Do you mean to tell me you believe I set up shop and opened a business with the hopes you would come in and buy from me so I could spy on you?” Jenny laughed. “Even you’re not that self-centered Mrs. Chadwick. This all came about by accident, I assure you. Besides, your organization is on the up and up isn’t it? Why would anyone want to spy on you?”

“I’m going to put an end to this nonsense now,” Martha exclaimed. “I’m going to buy that nasty paper and put you and the editor out of business for good!”

“Martha, please,” Charlotte said.

“Oh, let me take this,” Jenny said. “Buy the paper if you want to invest in it, but if you try to damage it in any way, I’ll take my report to the police about the money you’ve been embezzling from the DIH charity. Gosh, didn’t you listen to my speech? Read between the lines, for God’s sake!” The new Jenny emerged tonight, full of confidence and wit, and she liked it.

Martha turned bright red. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

Jenny grinned. “Yes you do and I have the paper trail to prove it.

Then Charlotte chimed in. “Listen, Martha, you’ve done a great job for the most part, and I’d like to see you continue with a few minor adjustments. As long as you pay back the funds, the police or anyone in this town do not need to know anything. I’m nice that way.”

Elyse looked at Martha with shock. “You stole money?” she asked in a whisper.

“I did nothing of the sort,” Martha stammered. “I took a short-term loan to move a little money around, but it was all paid back with a nice rate of interest, I must say.”

“Oh, don’t you get all high and mighty, Elyse. I’ve got some interesting stuff on you and your family,” Charlotte said. “It’s personal and not against the law as far as I know but it is not pretty. I’ll keep it to myself as long as you stay in order.”
Jenny smiled. “And Martha, even if you took it short-term it is still illegal.”

Martha and Elyse were dumbfounded and it was a beautiful thing.

“Let’s not forget my husband is an attorney, and what I did was on the up and up,” Martha said, snapping back at Jenny. “I’ve done nothing wrong, and you won’t prove that I did.”

“Perhaps that’s true, Martha, but you still wouldn’t want it known to the other members, would you?”

“I won’t be threatened,” Martha said, turning flush and looking as though she might explode.

“And if all you got on me involves my husband,” Elyse said with bitterness, “it’s old news honey. Everyone knows about him.”

Watching the pitiful scene unfold before her, she noticed Charlotte looked almost defeated. It was time to use her information, the great stuff Mr. Hiller had gathered for her.

“Wait ladies,” Jenny said. “Maybe we can come to an agreement. Mrs. Chadwick, you remember that day you were in my shop when Arthur Hiller was there?”

Martha looked at Jenny, thought for a moment, and looked like she was about to panic. There was a brief period of silence before Martha came to her senses. “There’s no reason to pursue this any further,” Martha said. “Let’s just say it’s a new age for the Daughters of the Hall. Welcome to the club, Jenny.”

Jenny smiled, and noticed the looks on Charlotte and Elyse’s faces were priceless. Martha walked away and Elyse followed after.

Charlotte looked at Jenny and laughed. “I’m not sure what you just did to her, but congratulations. I thought we had lost this battle, after all.”

Jenny smiled.

That’s when Andrew came back over to the table and smiled. “Jenny, would you like to dance?” he asked. “I have a few minutes before my speech, although I’m sure it won’t be as explosive as yours.”

She smiled. “I’d love to.”

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