Chapter 36 New Beginnings

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Down at the Ballard locks, Elsbeth and Woodrow were sitting on a bench watching the boats filing into the smaller chamber.

"How long have you known?" she asked quietly.

"I didn't know." Woodrow said. "My mother figured it out when she was looking for a new secretary for me. You know how thorough she is about people's backgrounds. She put one and one together and insisted I hire Jerry. She wanted to tell me her reason, but I refused to listen."

"You didn't want to know."

"No," Woodrow said, "I respected your right not to tell me." He looked at her. "When did you realized?"

"I suspected right away, but I never dared to look at the records. When Victoria mentioned 1922, I knew that she'd confirmed what I'd always hoped. I was overwhelmed, and proud, and terrified."

Woodrow nodded. "Of course, now I understand. You were always trying to protect him. I'd flattered myself that you were trying to protect me."

"And what about Loretta," Elsbeth asked. "Were you in love with her?"

Woodrow leaned back and sighed. "In love with Loretta? I suppose I was taken in by her charm for a time, but that's never the same thing. A person's charisma shines at first, but it's when you get to know them that you realize who they really are. No. In my whole life, I've think I've only ever been in love with one woman."

Elsbeth looked over at him.

Woodrow looked out at the water. "And the best way to express my devotion that was to honor her privacy."

Elsbeth reached over and took Woodrow's hand in hers. Woodrow turned to her and smiled. "My dear Elsbeth, you're the most wonderful woman I've ever known."

A few minutes later, the couple saw Jerry Tannenbaum approaching them on the path. His hands were in in pockets and he looked uncertain. But at the same time, he had never looked happier.

"If you ask him," Woodrow said, "I think he'll tell you that Loretta had offered to help Jerry find some information."

"What information?"

Woodrow handed Elsbeth a handkerchief. "Jerry has been trying to find out about his mother. I'm afraid your secret is exposed for the world to see and nobody can take it back. I, for one, wouldn't want to. Your son is an excellent young man. And he has a mother he can be truly proud of." Woodrow kissed Elsbeth's hand and let it go. "Now, I think I'll go for a stroll. I know what I want in my future, and I need to think of the best way of persuading you to say 'yes.'"

He approached Jerry and asked quietly, "I hope you're not too disappointed about the young ladies, Jerry? In their own ways, they each stirred up a lot of trouble."

Jerry grinned. "Not as disappointed as I would have been to get stuck with one of them. Besides, I've got more important relationships in my life right now."

Woodrow smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "That's the spirit." he said and he tactfully strolled off so mother and son could talk.

***

"Did you really spend time in prison?" Winifred asked a few days later.

"Yes, I was in prison. And since you asked so nicely I'll go ahead and tell you the crime; horse stealing."

"A horse?"

Clyde nodded. "My brother stole the horse. He wasn't a bad guy, but he wasn't the best guy either. He had all the good looks and I had all the good sense. He'd already had some trouble with the law, not too serious but enough to scare our mother. Her health wasn't good and she worried herself sick over him. My brother promised to go straight and he seemed to be making good. But one night, he got drunk and stole a horse as a prank. The next day he was sober and he returned the horse, but the owner of the horse didn't think it was funny. It would have broken our mother's heart if she found out. I honestly think it would have killed her. So, I offered him a deal: if he joined the navy, I'd take the rap. The military gave my brother the discipline he needed and with my spotless reputation, the judge let me off easy."

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