Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Editor's Corner


March 2016

"A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love."
--Max Muller

Although it is Leap Year again, your editor has no plan to marry this time, but hilariously the first two marriages did fall in a Leap Year, although not due to a proposal by her. It is a charming asset to having one extra day every four years, to be able to nudge that shy male toward the altar. If your marriage falls this year, don't be concerned that everyone will think the bride made the suggestion in the first place, but all females know little hints help things along.

Phil Hennessy shares seven poems that are likely destined to become songs as so much of his poetry is being sought out by musicians wanting to record it. John I. Blair adds one poem expressing the essence of Spring. Bud Lemire and Bruce Clifford also submitted one poem each for this issue.

"Armchair Genealogy" by Melinda (Carroll) Cohenour, directs our attention to some random bits of research and how not to let them fall through the cracks in your family's history. Clara Blair's novel "Emeralds for Emma" adds chapters 7 and 8, but you can catch up by clicking her byline to read what you might have already missed.

Thomas F. O'Neill buys new phone from Chinese supplier and tells why it was a mistake. Mattie Lennon's "Irish Eyes" tells what being Ecentric can mean (or not) for March.

LC Van Savage's column "Consider This" regrets the lost usage of many of our words. "Cooking with Rod" author Rod Cohenour reminiscing about his nanny's special birthday treat for him offers a streamlined but still lucious version of Double Chocolate - Triple Raspberry Cake and Icing. Judith Kroll has her own Reflections and advises you to seek your own in her "On Trek" this issue.

"Adventures of Ollie-Dare." Chapter 11 by Rebecca Morris, has the bear visiting his parents. What a sweet tale.

Thanks again to Mike Craner for his expertise and patience that allows this little ezine to continue its mission of encouraging writers, experienced and beginners, and to promote reading.

And if you proposed to your guy since this is Leap Year, may the marriage be happy and last forever!!! Watch for us in March!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Armchair Genealogy

Genealogical Tidbits
Bits and Pieces of Random Knowledge
Recently, I checked back to the last column I wrote that preceded my regular role as a monthly contributor of articles inspired by my love of genealogy. This was published in May of 2015 before I took up the challenge to write the regular column that started in September of the same year. In this article, I mentioned the stories from my two grandmothers, Grandmother Nora Viola Alexander Carroll Fisher King (paternal line who kept no written tree or Bible records but who had, obviously, been regaled with her heritage and knew it by heart) and my Grandmother Carrie Edyth Bullard Joslin (who had the Bible records, a hand-written family tree, three or more photocopied books from the Hopper, Joslin and Bullard lines, reams of letters to family members, information she shared with noted Joslin biographer Edith S. Wessler [Wessler, Edith S. (Edith Marguerite Stanley). The Jocelyn--Joslin--Joslyn--Josselyn family. (St. Louis, Missouri: E.S. Wessler, c1961, 1962)] and oral histories by the ton!

 I looked for that Joslin book for decades before finally locating a publisher who specialized in finding out-of-print family histories and offering photocopied versions. I bought mine for $50.00 plus tax about 15-20 years ago and later bought the two volume update offered by Edith Wessler's daughter, Carol Wessler Treadway who, in concert with our family's professional genealogist Roger D. Joslyn, and fellow family historian, Roland Joslin of Grandview, Texas, sought to correct errors in her mother's original work.  I am so glad I made the purchase of that first Wessler book for now it is to be found listed at about $600.00 for a print!  The books published by her daughter are nicely bound in deep, rich green with gilt lettering and make very nice additions to my Family Tree Library.

These three books offer historical knowledge of the Joslin family, which is reputed by many to have originated through the relationship of Charlemagne with one of his eighteen wives and/or concubines. If that is, in fact, true - and I am one who believes it to be true - that takes this branch of our family line back into about 430 BC with Charlemagne's earliest known paternal Frankish king ancestor. In those ancient, misty times no surnames existed. There were so few peoples that only given names existed. Later, as the population increased and given names were repeated endlessly by tradition of honoring prior ancestors by giving new children the same names, it became necessary to distinguish one person from another by three primary methods:

1.     trade or occupation or honor/title (thus the Bullard name was originally a "buller" or a keeper and breeder of bulls, Jagger from the street merchant in medieval England who carried his goods in a large bag tied to a stick propped over his shoulder - or his 'jag"),

2.     by relationship so that Anderson was the son of Ander, Jonsonsdottir was the daughter of Jonson, and so forth, ultimately leading to the fixing of surnames to distinguish the line; or

3.     by location. Cohenour, for instance, derived from the place name Goch or Hills, Gochen denoted the people living on the hills, and Gochenour referred to those same hill people who had migrated elsewhere), Today no less than sixty-four spellings of the Cohenour surname are accepted and relate to the same family line that originated in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. 

One of the reasons I feel so strongly about researching our family lines is my belief that we are truly crafted, individualized, and influenced by the characters who preceded us in that long line of DNA. Perhaps we even “inherit” our likes and dislikes, habits, artistry and skills from not only the people who lent their piece of DNA but by the very sights, sounds, and events that affected their lives.  For instance, my husband, a Cohenour, has always shown a distinct love for any piece of land that shows green grass bordered by a white fence.  Come to find out that was the primary property boundary for folks in the hills of  Alsace-Lorraine!

I have a love of water mills. Have been fascinated by their beauty since my earliest memory. One of the first good oil paintings I ever did was of the Mabry Mill, the painting on the right in this picture. (Photo of Mabry Mill below.)

  In researching my family history, I find that my immigrant Creek ancestor (whose name in Germany was Guilliam Grieg anglicized to Killian Kreek) was made famous for his architectural and construction skills. What remains of his water-powered Mill is now listed on the Register of Historic Places in Kentucky – Killian Creek’s Mill.  In the photos shown here, one black and white photo shows the mill as the scene of a baptism in 1910, (see pic at bottom of page) one provides a side view with the wooden superstructure still mostly intact, and the color photo depicts the remaining foundation of stone built by Killian which, in an attempt to help preserve it, has been given  modern roof.

Side view.

Remains of foundation Killian built.

My endless research into our family’s list of characters and the events that affected their lives has led me to some fascinating discoveries and has involved some real mysteries. In order to unravel some of those mysteries, I’ve had to incorporate into my research some insight into the change in writing styles through the centuries in order to transcribe handwritten documents, naming conventions, how we relate to one another through the siblings of our ancestors, plagues and natural events that may have contributed to the deaths of those ancestors, and the wars that brought about great heartaches, tremendous losses and incredible acts of bravery.  Since most family tree software applications and even the sophisticated tools available through Ancestry.com do not provide all the cross-checks essential to discovering possible clues to such things as the maiden names of our oft-forgotten grandmothers through the centuries, or the parentage of blood-line relatives, I have resorted to a complicated set of files within my computer that include folders for things such as 17th Century Historical Information, Land Ownership Facts, Plagues, Military Men of the Carroll-Joslin Line, Correspondence from Researchers, and the like.  In those folders, I have prepared aids to my research that include the use of spreadsheet applications. 

One of those ongoing spreadsheets is one still in the process of fine-tuning that was created as a tool to unravel my biggest mystery: the link between my known and proven 3rd Great-Grandfather William “P. R.” Joslyn and his parents.  A DNA test graciously provided by my maternal Joslin uncle has led to the discovery of some very close hits. One must rely upon the documentation of family lineage of such a match, of course, in order to give credence to the ancient lines to which they lay claim.  My Joslin DNA matches include those whose Joslin lines lead clearly and distinctly to our Immigrant Ancestor, Thomas Joslin (the ship’s manifest of the Increase in 1634 listed Thomas’ surname as “Jostlin” and provided the names of his wife, Rachel, their children and maid-servant.) So, I now have excellent proof that our line leads back to Thomas “The Immigrant” Joslin.  However, there is a break in the line – a brick wall when it comes to the actual parentage of our William “P.R.” Joslyn and just how he is related to Col. William “of Deerfield” Joslin (1701-1771).

Family history states great grandfather William Henry Joslin was told by his father, Riley, that Riley was “the son of William, son of William, son of William.” Since most of the William Joslins who were alive and appearing on the US Census in the 1800’s are related in some way to our own line, my spreadsheet attempts to capture the various facts that have been revealed for each William Joslin through the years. The columns list such things as Date of Birth, Date of Death, US Census Date (and relevant entries captured by the comment capability of my Excel application), City, County, State for each such fact.  It is a rather complicated spreadsheet and has the potential of growing beyond the bounds of both my creativity and the structure of the application itself. When preparing this spreadsheet, I became fascinated by the coincidence of appearance of various branches of my family in the same locations on the same dates via Census and other records.  A second spreadsheet has sprung forth attempting to cross-reference those coincident occurrences. (I REALLY wish Ancestry would come up with a way to utilize their tremendous search engines to sort all profiles by date and location…Wow! Wouldn’t that be a great tool? I will provide that as my latest suggestion for improvement since some of my suggestions have now been incorporated. Who knows?  Our very first tree application offered that capability, where you could pick the Facts you wanted to sort and play with your associations. Unfortunately, that software had a capacity that was long since exceeded by my research.)

Another fascinating list is the one started to memorialize the contributions of our ancestors to the building and preservation of our great country.  This listing has been divided by major war, prominently including the Revolutionary War.  The list is a Word document. When research uncovers a new military connection, this list is opened in a second window and pertinent facts relating to the person and his/her military service is popped in under the relevant War. By this listing we are now documented to descend from no less than eleven Revolutionary War Patriots, all by direct bloodlines.  The list begins with an entry for The Crusades and our 24th great grandfather, Hugues de Payens (DuPuy) who, along with his cousins and other kinsmen, were the original Knights Templar who protected Christians on their trips to the Holy Land.

The cousin relationship is one of the most complex of all. Most of our tree will always be occupied by cousins: first cousins, first cousins once/twice/thrice removed, eighth cousins…the list is endless. The relationship is so complex that one must usually resort to a chart prepared to cross index it. Perhaps the easiest way to remember the basic “cousinships” is your first cousin is the child of one of your parent’s siblings; therefore you and your first cousin share GRANDPARENTS. Your second cousin is your PARENT’s first cousin. But the first cousin, once removed is the cousin of your grandparent or the child of your grandparent’s sibling.  As I said, there are charts to which one can refer, but a good family tree software will automatically provide the relationship for you.

Naming conventions offer both the biggest stumbling block and aggravating puzzlement to a researcher and one of the greatest methods for tracking associated families. Old English families gave honor to first the husband’s father for the first-born son, then the wife’s father for the second-born son. Third and fourth sons might be named in honor of the father’s favorite or eldest brother and so forth. This led to the replication of the same names for generation after generation with each son of the grandparent naming their first-born son similarly. Thus, the proliferation of William Joslins in our tree.  Second given names did not come into vogue for some time.  These second given names are sometimes valuable clues to the maternal line’s surnames. In this fashion, a first-born son might be named John Kellogg Jones where John was his father’s father’s name, Kellogg might have been his mother’s maternal surname and Jones would, of course, be the surname for his paternal line.  These naming conventions differ by nationality, by race and by belief. Chinese families actually list their surname first so that Li Xiang would be the son, perhaps, of Li Pei. In pursuing Native American ancestors the naming conventions were truly confusing for one person might have several names by which they were called, depending upon the situation. Many tribes were maternalistic so that the mother’s line would be honored as the surname. Also, a feat of bravery or humor might grant an individual a new nomination.

And, to harken back to my Joslin DNA issue, the closest “hit” or match for my uncle’s DNA was that of a man who had been adopted at an early age.  His DNA had been offered by his daughter who wished to help her aging father in his lifetime’s quest for confirming his real identity. Rather than identify this man or his daughter, I shall refer only to the methods we’ve used in trying to close the gap to identify my uncle’s and her father’s MRCA or Most Recent Common Ancestor. My own efforts led to me starting a new family tree on Ancestry devoted to this line of inquiry. Originally, the daughter and I started email conversations. Her father had never been told the truth of his original family. He was told his parents both died in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic and that they were English. Not true. The mother and one twin daughter succumbed. The father, son and remaining twin daughter survived. When the daughter found that her grandfather was actually still living when her father was given up for adoption, the natural question was “Why would he abandon his children?” Through endless research, I was able to show that rather than being an unfeeling ogre who abandoned his children, this man was a hero. He was a Navy medic who had extensive medical training from a career in the military. When his wife and infant daughter were hospitalized, he worked tirelessly, side-by-side with the doctors who were overwhelmed with the numbers of patients. He even contracted and was successfully treated for the flu himself. He had a remaining obligation to the Navy that he fulfilled. His sister lost her father-in-law, and brother-in-law and the entire family was thrown into a state of disruption by the emotional and financial stress brought about by this plague. Shortly after the two of us began researching, I was contacted by a third researcher – the granddaughter of the surviving twin daughter whose grandmother was also given up for

Westcott Campbell Joslin, Sr

Our research has culminated in tracing the principal, the father of my uncle’s DNA match. His name was Westcott Campbell Joslin, Sr. He was the child of Walter F. Joslin, a barber, in Camden, New Jersey, and his wife, Mary Campbell. Walter’s parents were Edward S. Joslyn, a silversmith, and Nancy A. Rasor of Paducah, Kentucky. We have information that our Joslin line had connections to John Joslin, the Patriot, through whom most Joslin families claim their DAR and SAR memberships. John relocated from New Jersey to Kentucky. Records from Kane County, Illinois, histories indicate that my 3rd great grandfather William “P.R.” Joslyn traveled from New Jersey to Kentucky before migrating to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois before his death in 1846. John Joslin was the first-born son of Col. William “of Deerfield” Joslin (1701-1771) by his first wife, Mary MNU. One of these days, I hope soon, that brick wall will crumble. I will find the father of Edward S. Joslyn b. 1826 and how he was related to my 3rd great grandfather, William “P.R.” Joslyn b. abt 1760 to 1796 (different records show that wide deviation in birthdates).

Research will continue. My armchair search will carry me to places and times of great mystery, some sadness (for I still tear up at times when I discover the hardships that brought loss of children, babies, husbands, through war, accident, plague or meanness) and, oft-times, great jubilation at how steadfast and true my ancestral line has been. 

Researched and Compiled by author.
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1910 Baptism at Kreig Mill

On Trek


         When I look into the mirror, I am face to face with me. When are we truly faced with ourselves? I can picture in my mind what I "look" like and who I am, but to stare myself down is an interesting concept that brings truths to the forefront.

         I see dark hair speckled with transparent strands of white. Each strand has its own story of life, love, and struggle. My hair constantly changes, those darling white strands have been thru it all with me . They are feeling the strands of time also ,but they never quit, they keep coming and enhancing my looks, after all they are ME , and we are one.

         I continue to look at my reflection, and then my life starts reflecting back to me. I have had it all.

         I have had my family growing up, my trek thru the halls of religion, totally immersed in the concept of cultish bondage that would save my family and I from total destruction,. I finally learned that the only destruction I was doomed for was staying in the brainwashing cult, because it was destroying ME!

         I look into my eyes, and I see how far I have come. I have seen much happiness, and I have seen much sadness thru these eyes.I have seen good, and I have seen bad.

         I have felt elation, the kind that tingles every part of my soul, and brings with it memories,that stick to my entire being, and bring me good feelings when I recall them. I have felt hurt. Blinding hurt that prohibits the mind and body to function with the intended joy of the universe. Hurt that makes me want to retreat into a shell of my own making with no way for anyone to come in without me opening a latch first.

         The best way to handle hurt of any kind, is to run right into it. See it, feel it, embrace it as a lesson learned, then run it through your toes as you stomp on it, and walk away. Any kind of frustration, etc, is to be faced and not run away from. We must meet our struggles face to face. So Look into that mirror, and let all that has transpired make you smile, and know that you are who you are because of all the beautiful, and non beautiful events in our lives.

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Cooking with Rod

Double Chocolate – Triple Raspberry Cake

       While a young boy our nanny, Louella, surprised me for my birthday each year by baking my favorite cake – a scrumptious chocolate-raspberry blend with fudge icing. On my eighth birthday, she surprised me when her response was “No!” to my question, “Louella, are you baking my favorite cake?” She immediately hugged me up, kissed me on the top of the head as she was wont to do and said, “Ole’ Louella it’nt gonna be ‘roun’ for all o’ your birthdays, so I think the best gift I could give you is to teach you to make the cake yourself. That way, you can have it any time you want!”

      She was right. It is a gift that keeps giving. It is still my favorite cake. It still goes straight to my hips and belly. And I do not care because it makes me feel GOOOOD! So, here’s my modernized take on Louella’s fabulous cake. If you choose to make chocolate cake and fudge icing from scratch from a beloved recipe, feel free. But these days, I take advantage of all the pre-blended ingredients I can. I select what I consider to be the richest, most delicious prepared Chocolate cake mix and Fudge icing. Instead of making my own raspberry preserves, I buy the best on the market. Louella, I believe, might even appreciate my creativity, although all her cooking was “from scratch” and delicious.

      Bon appetit!

  • 1 Box Duncan Hines (my preference) rich chocolate cake mix
  • 1 lg. pkg Jell-O Raspberry gelatin mix
  • Additional ingredients called for by your cake mix
  • 2 jars Smuckers’ Raspberry Preserves
  • 2 containers Duncan Hines Sweet Chocolate Fudge Icing
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries, rinsed gently
    1. Dump dry cake mix into mixing bowl, add entire package of Jell-O Raspberry gelatin mix. Then prepare cake according to box directions.
    2. Prepare two (2) 9” round cake pans by generously greasing with butter (easiest to use the paper from a stick of oleo) and dusting with Cocoa mix. This prevents the cake from having the white flour splotches when baked.
    3. When cakes are done (test: Toothpick method – it should come out clean; Finger touch method: cake should spring back when gently prodded on the center), permit them to cool.
    4. Invert one cake onto your cake stand. Whip first container of Fudge icing and spread evenly on first layer. Dribble first jar of preserves over icing
    5. Invert second cake layer on top of first, evening up edges for best presentation.
    6. Whip second container of Fudge icing as above and begin icing the sides of the two layers. Finish with the bulk of the icing on top of the cake. Dribble preserves over icing and permit to drip down sides over icing as well.
    7. Garnish with fresh raspberries and – if you want to make this Triple Chocolate-Triple Raspberry, use sweet chocolate shavings to decorate along with the fresh raspberries.

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   Ever since I’ve been living in China I have been completely dependent on my BlackBerry smartphone and I have used various other BlackBerry phones over many years. But I just recently discovered, that my current BlackBerry phone is not as smart as I once thought. As a matter of fact BlackBerry’s are a tad bit slow compared to the Samsung Galaxy phones that now dominate the Chinese market.

   A few months ago my phone reached its last text message and began to showily teeter out on me due too old age. Out of desperation, I sought a younger and smarter model but to my utter dismay I learned that you can no longer buy BlackBerry phones in China.

   I reluctantly went to a local Samsung store and bought a Galaxy S6 Edge plus phone. I was absolutely awestruck by my new phones features, especially, by the sheer number of apps that come with the phone, a huge selling point.

   It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the Google services applications on my new device are blocked by a computer chip that was installed in the phone. The Chinese government to my frustration has ordered those computer chips to be embedded in all Smartphones and Computers being sold in China. The Chinese government, through this embedded chip, has the capability to control what computer applications can and cannot be used in mainland China. I became pretty angry when learning about this and about why I could not use the Google services features.

   That being said, there is still a Chinese feature on the phone that has opened up a whole new world for me – WeChat. This smartphone application has dominated the social media scene here in China.

   The country of China is now home to the world’s largest smartphone market and the WeChat app is built in to all the smart phones being sold in China. The app incorporates some features of most western social networks, but it started out as a messaging app, and messaging is still at its heart. I was also awestruck by the amount of users there are in China and not to mention that all the teachers at my School are now using the app.

   The thing I love the most about WeChat is it has a built in translator that can be used for any language. The app can instantly translate any language to whatever language you want it translated too. In January, I started using the app to communicate with my cousin in Italy via the internet and with my fellow teachers. Now instead of getting text messages I get WeChats. The app can be used over any cellular or WiFi connection.

   People can send me photos, voice notes, file transfers, live video streams or short animations instantly for work or play with WeChat.

   People can also use the app to pay their utility bills, buy items in stores, order a taxi, and pay bills in restaurants and Bars. They can even use it to purchase tickets for movies and plays. I like using it to purchase additional data for my phone and additional data for my other smart technology devices.

   According to the latest data released by WeChat, in September, 2015 about 570 million users logged into the app - every day. In addition to personal accounts, individuals and companies can register for public accounts. They work a little bit like blogs which live in the app and are embedded in the messaging experience.

   Updates from friends and associates appear in the app and from public accounts you subscribe too.

   Messages, videos, documents, and voice notes sent to me via the app can appear right below a message from my wife and daughter or above a group chat of fellow teachers. I have found the WeChat experience to be much more intimate than the comment section of a website or a blog. The app has become more than just simply sending out a text messages to colleagues. It’s more like having a private messaging thread with someone close by and personal.

   Some WeChat users have gotten huge followings in relatively short periods of time. One good example is a WeChat account called “Serious Gossip.” The creator, Zhang Ziyan, was an entertainment reporter at VISTA magazine, one of the largest news and lifestyle magazines in China.

   She started writing about celebrities and movies on the app with a very distinct voice, pointing out sexism and corruption. The account gained about 200,000 followers within one year. Another example is “Miss_shopping_li”, a lifestyle and fashion account started by Fang Yimin, a veteran reporter at a metro paper. Her side project became so successful that she decided to quit her job and hire assistants to develop it full-time.

   Many successful WeChat users tend to focus on the lifestyles of celebrities rather than corruption in government. Tech news has been gaining an ever growing following among the app users as well. Not too many people are writing about politics on WeChat because it’s still the business of the state-run media to disseminate state run propaganda in China.

   But a deeper point is that former reporters and editors at traditional news organizations have successfully - on WeChat - shown their former employers an important lesson about engagement and brand development.

   Today’s youth are more interested in interacting with the news providers on social media than simply turning on a radio or a TV.

   Today's millennials, especially, here in China are not just turning to social media to be informed. They are seeking also the experience of being the informer and expressing themselves to a wider circle of people.

   Now getting back to my new phone, when I purchased it, I was a bit frustrated and disappointed by the sheer number of apps that the Chinese government has blocked from being used on the phone. I am unable to use the apps in China and due to the embedded chip - anywhere else for that matter.

   The only way to get around China’s extreme censorship is to purchase your smart technology outside of mainland China. Looking back in hindsight - buying the phone outside of China is something I should have done. But as for the WeChat app on the phone it has certainly opened a whole new world for me. That is definitely a good thing for new social media folks - like me.
    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Email: introspective7@hotmail.com
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:
    Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Irish Eyes

Which Drummer Are You Marching To?

      “Eccentric? If you feel that you might be, contact Dr David Weeks at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Phone; 44 131 536000.”

      Don’t rush to the telephone. Those were words put on cards more than a quarter of a century ago by the good Doctor and displayed in pubs, launderettes, libraries and supermarkets in Edinburgh. (And no, before you ask, I didn’t reply to it.)

       Dr Weeks, who was principal clinical psychologist, at the hospital, had found that the, “ actual scientific knowledge about eccentrics was virtually non-existent.” So he decided to do a study .

      The dictionary Definition of an eccentric is: “A person of unconventional and slightly strange views or behaviour.” Of course as has been pointed out an eccentric is not necessarily out of step, just marching to a different drummer. In Dr Weeks’s study he found that eccentrics had a higher level of mental and physical health than the population at large. And they tend to be above average intelligence. (Didn’t Dickens refer to “ the eccentricities of genius.”) It was also found that although eccentrics are not happy all the time, ( how could they? ) they tend to be fairly contented with their lot.

      And, like OCD sufferers, most eccentrics know that they are “different.” Most of them became aware of this as children because they were constantly in search of answers. When an eccentric child asked their parent “why” he or she wasn’t satisfied with “just because” or “ because I said so” as an answer. Dr Weeks points out that curiosity is the only human motivation that is primary intellectual.

      If you are an eccentric you are in good company. Down through the ages the list of eccentrics included, William Blake, Alexander Graham Bell, Emily Dickenson, Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hughes and Albert Einstein to mention but a few. Einstein said, ”The normal adult never bothers his head about space-time problems. Everything there is to be thought about, in his opinion, was already done in early childhood. I, on the contrary, developed so slowly that I only began to wonder about space and time when I was grown up. In consequence I probed deeper into the problem than an ordinary child would have done.”

      It would almost appear that anybody who was worth a damn for anything was an eccentric. According to Freud creative people enjoyed “looseness of repression” a temporary removal of intellectual control which permitted them to make achievements of what he described as “special perfection.”

      How are we fixed in Ireland for eccentrics? James Joyce is on the list. “D’you Remember Yer Man“? A book by Bobby Aherne lists more than 100 Dublin eccentrics alone. Most of them are dead with a couple of exceptions including Pat Ingoldsby. Mr. Aherne also lists one Brendan Kilkenny who was a DJ on a radio station where I used to present a programme. It will give you an idea of what the rest of us were like when I say that Brendan didn’t stand out.

      Liverpudlien singer-songwriter, Colin Vearncombe moved to west Cork because, he said” . . . eccentricity is tolerated here.” In the past Cleric John Barrett of Trinity College, Dublin was a famous eccentric. He was born the son of a Church of Ireland cleric in County Laois, spoke Latin and Greek fluently but had difficulty with the English language. When he died in 1821 it was discovered that he had saved his income and left £80,000 "to feed the hungry and clothe the naked".

      Are there many eccentrics about now? The word eccentric is hardly ever heard now to describe someone’s behaviour.

      I can remember it being used to describe those with Bohemian leanings . People who were generally well educated, often members of the upper classes but mostly uncaring about what others thought of their dress and style but who lived in their own world and among their own sort. They were called eccentric. The rest of us who were outside the Pale were known as “a bit odd” or “stone mad.” Or . . .in Dublin “a character.” Where have they gone? Is there no room for modern day eccentrics? There are plenty of crackpots around still but are they eccentrics or simply looking for attention? Dr Weeks points out that, “True eccentrics are never acting. They are strong individuals with strange inclinations of their own, which they are not afraid to express.”

      In the past it was looked on mainly as an English thing but of course America had its share. Joshua Abraham Norton is a perfect example. In September 1859, he laid claim to the position of Emperor of the United States. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humoured by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honoured in the establishments he frequented.

      If you exhibit such traits as optimistic realism, originality, heightened imagination and indifference to the approval of society, according to Dr Weeks, you are most likely an eccentric. In his book “Eccentrics, he observes that, “Eccentric behaviour has always been more frequent among the leisured classes for eccentricity itself is essentially a leisure activity.” That makes sense to me; I didn’t ever have the money to be a true eccentric and if you are trying to hold on to a job by the skin of your teeth you can’t really tell the boss to “go away” or words to that effect. The good doctor gives a table of the social class distribution of the condition:
  • Aristocracy 16%
  • Landed Gentry 21%
  • Upper Middle Class 49%
  • Lower Middle Class 10%
  • Working Class 04%

       (I don’t know where I fit in there as one of my old teachers once described me as “no class.”!)

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Consider This

Words, Glorious Words…

      There are so many changes in our aging world and for someone like me, so firmly stuck in time about 50 years back, it presents a myriad of problems. No, I promise I won’t list them all here because I hate the sound of ZZZZZZs, either mine or anyone else’s.

      First of all, I’m saddened by the theft of all the good words of vituperation. Time was, when if I got angry I could shoot out a few choice mots to express my emotions and I’d feel lots better. But no, those strong, once forbidden words are used so casually today that to utter them in expression of raw or happy or angry emotion is now just an exercise in soft, flabby meaninglessness. They are all used up and when hurled furiously by me at another human, they flop to the ground like useless, leaking water balloons. What a shame. A waste! You just can’t curse at a person any longer. How I yearn for the good old days when if you cussed someone out, they got genuinely outraged. Now they just sigh or snicker, or worse, they don’t even notice.

      And speaking of the diminishment of great words, do you realize if you ever get to the Grand Canyon you are now deprived of a way to describe it? Yes. Because there’s really only one word that’s genuinely perfect to describe that magnificent hole in the earth but it’s no longer available to us. “Awesome.” Yep. Now lost in the mists of overuse. Today everything is “awesome” from nail polish colors to soft ice cream, to Solitaire, to weird Australian animals. How wasteful. Now when we stand on the edge of the magnificent, historic, breath taking Grand Canyon we can’t really properly describe it because “awesome” has been hijacked from our lexicon. That amazing place, adjective-embezzled. Oops, sorry. Can’t say that. “Amazing” too has been pinched from our vocabulary list. Now everybody and everything, if even vaguely OK, is “amazing.”

      There are a few phrases and words I’d love to never hear again and I’ll bet the rent you’d be willing to also let fly away forever. For example, how many “y’knows” can one human being possibly load into a simple paragraph? Too many, and most of them are uttered by people of the jock persuasion. I am painfully bored by most sports but I do have fun counting the “y’knows” those sweating “heroes” can fit into a one minute interview. It’s gotta be some kind of a gift because while I don’t know who holds the world’s record, they are all in very strong competition and they sure do say it a lot. One has to be sharp though—it’s become such a staple in usage one doesn’t even hear those speedy “y’knows” anymore.

      And I would not care either if “basically” vanished. Where and why did that get birthed into the language? Does every sentence have to begin with that word? Basically, I think not. Do you basically agree?

      And while I’m in complaining mode there are a few people I’d love to never have to hear, see or read about ever again. The Kardashians for starters. Who are they anyway? What have they actually done, I mean apart from calling more attention to themselves than Marie Antoinette did back in her day? And Donald Trump? OK, he’s political and I’ll never win this one but enough with that hair debating, and his overwhelming, overpowering and ceaseless exhibition of inflated ego.

      And could we possibly stop with the Star Wars hype? Yes, it’s a great flick and the imagination of those creators is just awesome, ooops, but please, stop. vAnd I’m begging you here, all of you, and in particular you young people --- is there any way I can implore you to please please stop using the word “like” all the time? I always bet my grandchildren they can’t go an hour without saying “like.” I always win. Oh, and the use of “goes,” when “said” is the appropriate verb. So annoying. So wrong.

      So without all of the above in our lives, what have we left? Are we to be eventually speechless?

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When The Walls Close In

When the walls are closing in on you
There's only one thing that you can do
Get out, get out, get out of that place
Quit climbing those walls, put a smile on your face
There's nothing as great as some socializing
It especially good for the soul, which isn't surprising
Maybe have a cup of coffee with some of your friends
Gather around in the lobby, the list never ends

Just go anywhere where people can be found
You'll feel so much better with your feet off the ground
Inside and alone can make you insane
Being closed in is just too much to contain

Some fresh air is the best that can be
Or take in the beauty of a beautiful tree
Down by the water, there's always someone there
Out on the island, there's so much if you're aware

Just to take a little trip close by
Can help to make you a little more high
Don't let the walls close in on you
You know exactly what you should do
©Feb 22, 2016 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
When the walls close in on you, get out.
Go for a walk down the stairs just out
in back or front, or to the store, or by
the water, or to have some coffee, or to
the lobby. Just getting out for a short
while helps you in a big way.

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Those You Love

Those you Love don't go away
They walk beside you every day
They cannot share their Heart with you
without becoming Part of You

Just when you feel like you're alone
-it's then you realise we're Shown
each turn you take, each way you go
you learn to Wake each day, and Grow

Those who Love you always stay
Close enough to show the Way
Each time you really need them near
they're always close enough to hear

Those you Love
don't go away
they walk beside you
.........Every Day

©2016 Phillip Hennessy

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The Things We Do

We have to make our dreams come true
We have to do, the things we do
If I don't go where my heart sends me
I will never be apart from envy

Every time that I'd think back
I'd wander down another track
The road I take toward the light
will be the one I know is right

For each beginning, there's an end
Who knows which way the road will bend?
It couldn't be forever straight
..not All the way to Heaven's gate

The friends we meet along the way
will all come back another day
and when we tell them where we've been
could we describe a Truthful scene?

So here I am to say to you
We know just what we have to do
we have to walk our talk together
doing what we ought...

©2016 Phillip Hennessy

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You Forgot

You forgot something.
You left something behind.
You forgot to take something with you.
       ...(it was Me)

You remembered something.
Something came into your head.
it was a memory.
       ...(it was Me)

This was only a thought
that you left behind
It was only whatever
was on your mind
This was ALL
you had in your Head
at the time
       ...(it was Me)

©2016 Phillip Hennessy

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Where is the Love

Some say that love is all a woman needs,
to get by, just doing all she needs to please
why is it every time I try,
I just don't get enough to see me by

But I can't find another way
to do those things you're thinking of
What is the reason, who can say,
where is the Love, where is your Love?

Love is Patience,
it doesn't make sense,
who cares about the implications ?
just remember, all you do is Share

You can Make it,
but you can't Take it,
No-one ever could Mistake it
just remember, all you do is Care

But I can't find another way
to do those things you're thinking of
What is the reason, who can say,
where is the Love, where is your Love?

©2016 Phillip Hennessy

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You Gave Me Something

You gave me something
that I keep returning
Each time I give to you
It comes right back
From somewhere else
Or the other
From this person, or that

Though you –
You are each of these people
And everyone “Knows”
That you are not Mad
Just Different
and that beautiful world
you live within
when Dreams invade, so loudly
into the Silence of your wakening thoughts
the lightning of expression
within thunderous realisations
and beautiful insights

“the power that you gave away
returns to you, another way
do not chase, the way it went
for all your toil will be spent
stop and rest – catch your breath
there is no race – only Death”

you’ve done it before
don’t do it again
for there is no Reason
to be forced with
and there is no Force
that can be reasoned with
not in your Mind

there is no remote
control, you know
press Forward, not “Eject”
and make the minor adjustments
so the picture becomes clearer
and you step inside

The Dream.

©2016 Phillip Hennessy

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You MAKE me

You make me smile
You make me happy
You make me do things
I couldn’t do

You make me see things…
I couldn’t see
You make me understand
What things “mean”

Like …. “BE”-ing friends
Like …… “Trust”-ing
Like……. “Knowing”
That Truth
Has finally arrived,

In all its’ splendour,
Enlightening our paths
With glittering stars
Shining their light
In all directions
That we take

You make me FEEL
This way
You make me BE
This way

You MAKE me

©2016 Phillip Hennessy

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It Might As Well Be Me

I didn't Hurt you,
All I did, was Leave
It wasn't Me, deserted you,
My Heart, was on my Sleeve

Someone has to Break the Chain
the links were Broken, open wide
Someone has to take the Blame
those words unspoken choke, inside

Someone has to Break the Chain
it Might as well be Me.
Someone has to take the Blame
it Might as well be Me.

©2016 Phillip Hennessy

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Quince Blossoms

I just looked out my window
And saw quince blossoms –
Quince blossoms and finches
And blue sky
And the sun.

A breeze blows by.

It’s spring.

 ©2016 John I. Blair

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The Surface

This is not a race
But for how long can I see your face
This is not the wild
Calm, smooth, sober and mild

This is not the vision
Never knew we ever made this decision
This is not the miracle mile
Free, the fire burning like when I was a child

I can’t let go of this pain
I can’t go to sleep unless it’s going to rain
I can’t see the edge as it forbids me to explain
There's no surface when I’m drowning in my pain

This is not the words of the few
How can one ever let these things spoil our view
All it takes is a little quiver and heartbreak
I just don’t know if this is real or fake

I can’t let go of this pain
I can’t go to sleep unless it’s going to rain
I can’t see the edge as it forbids me to explain
There's no surface when I’m drowning in my pain
 There’s no surface when the clouds roll in.

This is not the end
But with you how long can we pretend
This is not the wild
Calm, smooth, sober and wild

©2/20/16 Bruce Clifford

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Emeralds for Emma - Chapters 7 and 8

Chapter Seven


Berta was quiet in that far-off way of hers, as if listening to the last, fading notes of a beautiful waltz. Then she turned too-bright eyes on me and Josef. She looked as if she would either laugh or cry, or both.

“Well?” she asked softly and eagerly, looking from one of us to the other.

“Well what, Bertie?” Josef replied, gently placing his hand on mine.

“I knew it!” Berta whispered breathlessly. “You have fallen in love. I’ve been looking for the signs ever since you two met. I have never seen it before, you know. Only read about it in books and heard about it from Grandma Mina. Oh, Gott in Himmel! This is wonderful, and awful, too. So many complications! So many obstacles to overcome! My dears…”

“Berta!” Josef whispered, putting a finger to her lips to quiet her. “Please, have you gone mad? The whole household will hear you!”

“You’re right, little brother. I will control myself. But I’m right, aren’t I? Tati?” Berta looked at me and I could not help but smile and nod. She placed both her hands over her mouth and looked absolutely radiant. Berta’s delicate beauty had somehow ignited because of Josef and me.

“Are we that obvious?” I asked her. “We’ve only just admitted the possibility to ourselves and you are already planning the wedding! Please, Berta, we’re not ready to make an announcement. We met only this morning!” I looked at Josef and saw a whole prism of emotions on his face – pleasure, concern, embarrassment, and tender affection for his sister.

“I never could keep secrets from you, Bertie. You usually know my mind before I do, and you know my heart, too. But we must be cautious. Papa will not be pleased. And if he is displeased, Mama will be, and so will Carl and Franz. Moscow is far away. We must not wear out Tati’s welcome before we know what we’re going to do about this.” Josef turned to me: “More coffee, Miss Lelko?”

“The von Oesternwalds,” Berta announced lightly, “are hosting a grand ball at their country house again this year to celebrate their daughter’s birthday. I think I would like to go this year, if you two will come with me. Gretchen has been trying to lure me to one of her parties ever since we both started wearing long skirts. I think you would enjoy her company, Tati. And I would like to see you and Josef dance. That’s something we don’t do enough of in our family – dance.”

We sat around the table quietly, the three of us holding hands as if at a s̩ance. When the maids came to clear the coffee things, we retired to the parlor and played cards until it was time to go to bed. I realized that I had found in Berta the sister I had always wished for. And she was right Рthis would not be easy.


Horus was ready for my inspection the next morning, and I found the experience of riding him quite exhilarating. He was almost as tall as Globus, but not as heavy. His movements were quick and sure, requiring my close attention as we went through his paces along the bridle path. I realized that I had to work to ride him. Kismet was stubborn, but Horus was mercurial. Daydreaming on this one could be dangerous.

As much as I love horses, I was relieved to be off Horus and had to take extra care to make myself presentable for lunch. He was a fine horse, but simply too big and too willful for me. I was, many would agree, due for a lesson in humility, and Horus would certainly give it to me if I were not careful.

Berta was waiting for me in the dining room, eager to talk.

“Gretchen is just about your size, and she has gathered quite a collection of gowns,” Berta announced. “I’ve known her forever, and I’m sure she will be glad to lend you something beautiful – especially if that will get me to dress up and come to her party.”


And so it was that I was included in the invitation to Gretchen’s party. I had not brought a formal gown with me from Moscow, but Berta took care of that.

While Josef and I had been riding, Berta had arranged to take me to visit her friend Gretchen. The von Oesternwald manor was not far away, and Gretchen’s mother had tea ready for us when we arrived. Their home was as informal as the von Willensky’s was tense. In this home, there would be dancing.

Over fruit and cookies, we chattered lightly about dresses and hair, about horses and travel. Gretchen had been taken to Paris and Vienna as a birthday gift two years earlier, and was interested in everything I could tell her about Moscow. She was indeed just about my size, with chestnut brown curls and gentle brown eyes. Her short, upturned nose may not have fit the standard for feminine beauty, but she was a lively and kind young woman, really quite pretty.

“Berta, I have chosen gowns for many occasions,” Gretchen said, “but never for someone with such beautiful red hair! And those eyes! Tati, forgive me, but your hair and eyes are so exotic that no one will care what dress you are wearing. You could probably wear your culottes and no one would notice.”

All three of us laughed and she continued, “But I have an apricot silk that I think would be stunning on you. Mama bought it for me in Paris and I never wore it. I generally prefer darker colors for myself. The dress I will wear to the party is a deep wine red – the color of garnets. Berta and I can easily alter the apricot dress for you. Take it in just a bit. Change the sleeves a little and maybe adjust the neckline to show more decolette. Add some simple gold jewelry and you’ll be so beautiful even I will be envious of you.”

We went upstairs to her room and spread out the lovely gowns, preening and giggling like little girls playing dress-up. Gretchen was right. Apricot was a good color for me, and a very little bit of sewing would make it fit perfectly. We agreed to shorten the sleeves and deepen the neckline, but I had to insist on a little lace to be respectable. “After all,” I said, “even Moscow is not Paris.”

It would be two weeks until the party, and Berta assured me that was more than enough time to transform the dress. “And there are plenty of horses you haven’t ridden yet,” she laughed.

Berta spoke with her parents and I wrote to mine. I had become Berta’s good friend and now Gretchen’s, and there were no obstacles to my staying with the von Willensky family until after the party. Two weeks seems like a very short time, but Josef and I had very few doubts.

The days and nights passed with pleasant activity and delicious leisure. Telling stories, riding horses, fussing with hair and dresses for the party. One by one, Josef introduced me to the horses, but I kept coming back to Kismet. Although Berta never cared for riding, I talked her into wearing a pair of my culottes and coming with Josef and me for a ride into the countryside and a picnic. She discovered that what she had found unpleasant was not being on horseback, but the dreadful sidesaddle.

“Tati,” she said with delight, “if nothing else, your visit has given me the gift of riding!”

But the day before Gretchen’s party, Berta became very withdrawn, spending most of the time in her room. Josef and I tried to persuade her to take a picnic lunch with us, but she said – distractedly – “No, my dears, I have too much to think about today.”

She kept to herself that evening and had breakfast in her room the next day. Worried, I knocked at her door to ask her down for lunch, and she greeted me as if nothing unusual had happened. At her suggestion, Josef and I joined her for lunch in the garden, where she once again was full of enthusiasm for Gretchen’s party.

My apricot silk dress was perfect. Berta and Gretchen had worked wonders with their needles and finally refused to include my bit of lace for modesty. I would be, they reminded me, among friends. I wore my hair up, with curls and ringlets cascading down my neck in the French fashion, and Berta lent me a huge pair of dangling gold earrings.

When Berta came down the stairs to join Josef and me, I was speechless. She looked absolutely splendid. It was more than the effect of the pale gold gown, which matched her hair so perfectly and brought out the golden flecks in her pale gray eyes. Or the creamy pearls that circled her slender neck and flowed in tiny showers from her ears, emphasizing her glowing skin. Or her thick, flowing hair that was pulled back, the ends twisted into ropes of gold that draped over her shoulders.

The real difference was in Berta herself – she had become regal, possessed of a serenity and grace I’d never seen before in my mild-mannered, self-effacing friend. This was not the gray-clad, retiring spinster who rejoiced only in her brother’s new romance. Tonight Berta was a woman who knew her power. I felt stunned by her opulence, and Josef could find nothing to say until we were settled, just the three of us, in the carriage.

“Sister,” he said, “you look magnificent tonight. I only hope you won’t inspire a duel!”

“Josef,” she answered, “don’t be silly. Robert will be there tonight, and none of the local boys would challenge a Frenchman.”

“Who is Robert?” I blurted, like an excited child.

Berta laughed softly and said, “Robert is a great secret. Only Gretchen knows about him. And our grandmother in Paris.”

“Mina?” Josef asked. “What’s going on, Berta?”

“Can’t I have secrets, little brother? God knows I don’t have much else. Would you, if you were a woman, be satisfied with the choices our father has laid out for me? You’re not happy with the choices he’s given you.

“I met Robert at Gretchen’s party three years ago, and I’ve been corresponding with him ever since, with help from Gretchen and Grandma Mina. Papa would never allow it, so he doesn’t know. Neither do Mama or Carl or Franz. I did not tell you because I didn’t want Papa to blame you if he found out. I learned only yesterday that Robert will definitely be at the von Oesternwald’s tonight. I’ve been struggling all day not to become hysterical. This may be the most important night of my life.”

“Dear Bertie,” Josef said softly, “I want you to be happy. If this Robert turns out to be a cad, I’ll horsewhip him all the way back to France!”

“I’m not worried about Robert, or you. Just Papa and our brothers,” she sighed.


When we arrived at the von Oesternwald’s home, the place truly looked like the setting for a grand ball. All the windows glowed with many candles, and the gardens and balconies were lit with romantic Asian lanterns. Liveried footmen helped us from our carriage, and Josef proudly escorted Berta and me into the ballroom of the great house.

A string quartet and a pianist were playing softly at the front of the hall, beyond the sumptuous buffet, and waiters were keeping wine glasses and beer tankards full. Beautifully dressed people were engaged in conversation – some sitting and some standing – and many couples were dancing.

When Gretchen saw us, she rushed over, bestowed loving hugs, and introduced us to her beau, Anton Marcus von Lichtenstein. He was a tall young man with blond hair and blue eyes, and he seemed totally mesmerized by our Gretchen, who glowed in her garnets and red silk.

“Robert is here,” she hurriedly whispered to Berta, and glanced over her shoulder to a place near the musicians.

Berta was transfixed. “My God, I had forgotten how handsome he is!” she murmured.


A dark-haired man with piercing blue eyes made his way across the dance floor to join us. He had fair skin and an aquiline nose, was dressed like a gentleman but had a workman’s hands. He greeted us with a courtly bow and introduced himself.

“I am Robert Paul Roman, a friend of our hostess’s family. I am very pleased to meet all of you.”
Proper introductions, immediately reduced to first names, were made all around our little circle, and Robert offered his hand to Berta.

“Will you honor me with this dance, fair lady?” he asked.

“Most certainly, dear sir,” she replied softly, and they danced off into the crowd.

Josef released his breath in a low sound that was not quite a whistle. “Dear Saints and Angels, Gretchen!” he exclaimed softly. “What have we here?”

“As far as I know,” she replied, “it’s exactly what it looks like. Both of them have been waiting for this reunion for three years, Josef. Your Grandma Mina has been keeping an eye on him in Paris, and it seems that he has been as faithful to Berta as she has been to him.

“Brace yourself, my friend. I don’t think he intends to return to Paris without her. I just hope your father doesn’t suffer a brain hemorrhage when he finds out.”

Josef shook his head and said ruefully, “Maybe he’ll just capitulate when he finds out about Tati and me. But there will be a great explosion, no doubt about that. If we were near the Alps, I’d fear an avalanche!”

“You and Tati!” Gretchen gasped. “This is too good to be true! I thank God every day that my parents have no objection to Anton, nor his to me. I’ve dreamed of a double wedding, but the baron is not likely to allow that.”

“The baron,” Josef replied, “is not likely to allow anything at all. And Mama is so docile and religious, it’s hard to believe she’s Grandma Mina’s daughter. Carl and Franz are very much like our father, but sometimes they are unpredictable. This is going to be very interesting, indeed. But I love Tati, and it’s obvious that Berta loves Robert. The only thing certain right now is that we will marry. And we’ll need our friends to stand by us.”

“You know I love Berta like a sister, Josef. I have already defied the baron by acting as a go-between for Berta and Robert. My parents are much more modern than yours.” Gretchen added, “Titles and class distinctions mean little to them. I really don’t think they’d mind if Anton had to work for a living, as long as we love each other.”

Meanwhile the musicians kept playing waltzes and polkas and light classical music. A few couples, including Josef and me, attempted a minuet and almost got it right until we started laughing at ourselves.

When the musicians paused to rest, the six of us filled our plates from the buffet and took a table together. Berta was glowing, and not just from dancing. Robert was no longer so solemn, and soon he and Josef were joined by Anton in talking about horses.

We three girls chattered about gowns and food, how lovely the music was, everything except what was at the top of our minds – our men.

Finally I could stand it no longer. “Berta,” I asked softly, “do you have any other secrets Josef and I should know about?”

Gretchen blanched, but Berta laughed and said, “No, my dear, now I am transparent.”
“You are luminous, my friend,” I said.

The musicians returned to their instruments, and Robert whisked Berta away onto the dance floor before I could say more. Then Josef took my hand, Anton took Gretchen’s, and we joined the dancers.

That evening was like something from a fairy tale. Unlike in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," there was no confusion or doubt among the lovers: Berta and Robert, Josef and I, even Gretchen and Anton -- true love was in the air as we danced and laughed and made plans together. We were filled with a priceless innocence and happiness we wished could last forever.

Berta invited Gretchen and Anton to a special luncheon the next day, when she would introduce Robert to her family. Full of joy and wine, we agreed it would be a good idea. And so it was decided. The fare would be simple, the luncheon informal, the mood celebratory.

We left Robert at the von Oesternwald's, giving him and Berta time for a private farewell, then rode back to the von Willensky manor in alternating dreamy silence and manic chatter. We spoke in French, hoping the coachman would not listen.

By the time we reached the gate, Josef had become subdued, worried about his father's reaction to Berta's announcement.

"Be happy for me, brother," Berta murmured. "No matter what Papa says or does, I have made my choice and am prepared to pay the price for it. I am not a child and will not be treated like one. Be happy for me."

Chapter Eight

Berta's Choice

At breakfast the next morning, Berta invited her parents and brothers and me to her impromptu luncheon. No fancy menu was involved, and the addition of three extra people to the table was of little concern to the baroness. The baron seemed intrigued that his usually passive, socially withdrawn daughter would take on such a task. He seemed almost to look forward to it, and assumed it was her awkward way of repaying Gretchen's family's hospitality.

He noticed, but did not mention, the yellow ribbon in her hair.

The baron spent the morning as usual with Carl and Franz in his study, reviewing the operation of the stables and other land holdings. Josef, however, directed Hans and Gus from the porch of the manor house and did not work with the horses.

Berta consulted with her mother about the menu, place settings and seating arrangements. I just tried to keep my mouth shut and stay out of the way. This was Berta's day, and I did not want my apprehension to spoil it for her.

At just noon, the von Oesternwald carriage arrived with Gretchen, Anton and Robert. The driver was invited to eat with Hans and Gus, and our guests were welcomed into the dining room.

Cook had prepared roast pork with prune dressing, spaetzel, cabbage and carrots. Dark beer and fresh rye bread and butter complemented the meal. Dessert would be a gooseberry pie. It was simple and fragrant and good.

In the baron's house, conversation was saved for after the main part of the meal, over coffee and pie. Gretchen introduced Anton as her fiance, and Robert as an old friend of her family who happened to be in town. Cook's efforts were enjoyed with gusto. Her spaetzel were extraordinarily tender.

As Cook's helpers cleared the table for dessert, the baron loosened his belt and lit a cigar. While the coffee was being poured, he congratulated Anton on his engagement to Gretchen and extended his best wishes to her and her family. Halfway through the pie, he turned his attention to Robert.

"How long have you known the von Oesternwalds?" the baron asked, narrowing his dark eyes. "Your name sounds Tsigane and your accent sounds French, though many French have lived in the shadow of the Czar for a long time."

"I am French," said Robert. "I was born in Paris and have traveled across Europe studying veterinary medicine. I speak several languages well enough to get by, but you are right, sir -- my accent can be heard in most of them.

"I first met the von Oesternwalds about three years ago, when their son Otto asked me to look at one of his dogs. The whole family made me feel welcome, and I am very grateful for their friendship."

"Hmmm," rumbled the baron around his gooseberry pie. "I still wonder what brings us together at my table today. I would expect the von Oesternwalds to announce Gretchen's engagement to Anton at a celebration in their home. My daughter is behaving unusually lately. Is it because of you, sir?"

Time seemed to stop. As my father would have said, "You could have heard a mouse fart in the attic."


Robert stood and addressed the baron: "Sir, I have come to claim your daughter's hand in marriage. She has given her consent, and we would like to have your blessing."

"My blessing?!" The baron exploded from his chair as if to lunge at Robert. Josef and Anton rose to flank their friend. "You come into my home as a guest at my table -- a stranger, a foreigner, a tradesman -- and expect to marry my daughter?! You are an insolent fool!"

The baron's face turned red and he spat as he spoke, waving his arms and stamping his right foot loudly on the oak floor.

Josef interrupted him, saying, "I must be a fool too, Papa. I intend to marry Tatiana and this is as good a time as any to tell you.

"This is your fault, woman!" the baron bellowed at his wife. "Your daughter, at least, you should have raised to be obedient!"

"Papa, please!" cried the baroness, clutching his left arm. "Remember the doctor said you must control your temper!" He pulled his arm free and struck her with the back of his hand.

Josef lept to her side, catching her as she fell. She pulled away from him. "No! You have done enough already!" she cried. Franz stepped around his father and tried to comfort his mother as Josef withdrew. Carl confronted the baron face to face.

"Papa, Franz and I have been loyal and obedient sons to you, but we will not tolerate your striking our mother! There is a line you must not cross, sir. Whatever Josef and Berta have chosen to do, you must not take out your displeasure on Mama."

Trembling with rage, the baron sat down heavily in his chair. Everyone else resumed their places at the table in silence. The air was thick with tension, fear, and the smells of food no longer wanted.
The scene was beyond awkward. Anton was pale and Gretchen cried sofly into her lace-trimmed handkerchief.

Finally, the baron spoke in cold, measured tones: "If you wish to leave, then leave. Take what is yours. You are dead to me. Discuss with Carl and Franz what you want to take with you. They will be fair to you and to me. All of your clothing, books, personal items. Frauelein Lelko came here to buy a horse. Let her choose one, besides my youngest son, and pay for it. Josef, there are some horses you have a claim on. Any others, anything else you need, talk with your brothers.

"Berta, now that you have finally decided what you want in your life, I hope for your sake that you know what you are doing. Whatever happens, neither you nor Josef can come back here.

"Frauelein von Oesternwald, give my best regards to your parents.

"Herr von Liechtenstein, be sure you know what you are getting into. Guten Tag."

With that, the baron stalked from the room, leaving a stunned silence in his wake. The baroness took one last sorrowful look at her two youngest children and then followed him meekly.
Carl was the first to recover his voice.


“Incredible,” he said softly, his right elbow on the table and his chin resting on the knuckles of his right hand. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Silently, he bowed his head and steepled his fingers in front of his face. No one else moved or made a sound.

Abruptly, he sat up straight, looked at each of us, shook his head slowly and smiled grimly, sadly.

“Well,” he breathed softly, “we have a lot of planning to do. I doubt whether any of you but Monsieur Roman has done much planning for this decision you’ve made.”

Carl held up his hand as Josef opened his mouth to protest. “I am not your enemy. If I were, I could hardly have planned more trouble for you than you’ve brought down upon yourself.”

He stepped out from behind the other side of the table and stood before Josef and Berta.

“Did it ever occur to either of you to discuss your plans with me or Franz?” Carl asked. “Did you really think I am so much the Baron’s creature that I could not be trusted? I have spent my life trying to enjoy life without running into opposition from him. Perhaps I could have helped you.”

He leaned back and looked at us, resting his hands on the table behind him, and there seemed to be honest regret in his voice. “But there’s no point in blaming you. We all had the amazing example of our mother’s subservient attitude. I just wish we could have kept this from being such an open rebellion, with burned bridges for everyone.

“You will want to leave soon, I suppose. And you should marry before you leave town if you are serious, as I believe you are. The Catholic priest will not marry you for fear of the Baron’s wrath, but perhaps the old retired Lutheran pastor would?” Carl looked questioningly at Gretchen, who nodded slowly through her tears.

And so it came to pass that I became Frau von Willensky and Berta became Frau Roman in the old pastor’s study at Holy Saviour Lutheran Church, with Gretchen and Carl as our official witnesses.


As I write these memories at my desk in my house in upstate New York, it occurs to me that perhaps I should find fault with The Young Girl Who Ran Away With Her Lover. She was so inexperienced, so impulsive, so thoughtless of the consequences of what she was doing. We barely know ourselves when we are that young – who we really are, what we want and value. Who can imagine at sixteen what will be important at twenty-six, or forty? But she knew and was wise to keep it when it came her way.

The Young Girl Who Ran Away with Her Lover could not have foreseen the long, dusty hours riding in a wagon along rutted roads, not knowing where or when the next stop would be. She could not have been prepared for the embarrassing realities of communal living, with tents for walls and intimacy an illusion for weeks at a time.

Nor could she have understood the near ecstasy of falling into a small bed in a simple inn to do nothing with her lover but sleep after days of travel. And she would have dismissed as make-believe the delights of making love under the stars with noisy abandon within earshot of other couples similarly occupied.

©Clara Blair

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
Watch for the next installment of this novel next month.