The Vespasian Warner Library is Proud to Present "A Home for Ruth Penin," by Lydia Cahill
Throughout the month of February, the library invited teens to flex their creativity and write an original short story. We're proud to be able to share some of the winners with all of our patrons. Featured below is our First Place winner, "A Home for Ruth Penin," by Lydia Cahill.
The short stories are published in the format in which they were submitted. Enjoy!
"A Home for Ruth Penin"
by Lydia Cahill
Part One: What Happened at the Home of Mr. Gereld D. Goldson
Snow swirled around and grazed the fingertips of Ruth Penin. Her boots sunk deep into the snow creating an increased struggle with each step. The manor loomed ahead, but a thick blanket of fog, made it hard to make out the manor’s precise dimensions. The cold bit at Ruth through her thin cloak as she tried in vain to pull the cloak tight around her thin frame. ‘I do not care how kooky this man is,’ Ruth thought to herself, ‘No one could be worse than Mr. Goldson.’
An image of the stern old man popped into Ruth’s head despite her best attempts to push it away. She still remembered his constant accusations of her work. The vase of flowers did not look cheery enough, the oak desk was not shiny enough, the way she read the poem was not graceful enough.
“Read it once again girl,” Mr. Goldson had told her numerous times, “It shows that you peasants have at least a meager education if you can recite well.” So, she would begin again,
“Somber and slow
Descends the snow
Down to the grassy earth
Down to children in their mirth
Out of her door peaks a kindly dame
She looks upon her children not with shame
The children play in the icy lace
Admiring the snowflakes beauty and grace
Oh, beautiful winter why can’t you stay
Can you not stay one more day?
Yet winter says that she is done
Leaving the land to be scorched by the sun”
But Mr. Goldson was still not impressed,
“It was slow and boring once again; you made each syllable to long. Read it again.”
So, Ruth would read it repeatedly, but it never suited Mr. Goldson. This applied to her reciting abilities and to everything else she did. Nothing ever suited him. The final straw came when Mr. Goldson asked her to recite before a group of guests. A glimmer of hope came to Ruth, maybe the other guests would think her reciting quite good. Maybe she would finally please Mr. Goldson. She gave the guests Mr. Goldson’s favorite poem, the one about snow. Ruth always found the poem to be quite melancholy, but she gave it anyway. This time she would please Mr. Goldson.
But the guests did not think that her recitation was lovely, instead they laughed at her. Ruth’s mother and father loved it when Ruth recited. Listening to guests laugh at Ruth’s prized talent shocked them. That day Ruth Penin left the home of Mr. Gereld D. Goldson.
Part Two: The Friendliest People in Queensburrow
The large mahogany door stood before Ruth, looking as if it could withstand an apocalypse. Ruth raised her hand to the huge bronze knocker, but before she could offer a short “clang” the door flew open.
“Hello dear!” A cheery older woman said, “You must be the new personal maid that has come to assist Mr. Soon. We are all incredibly happy that you have come!” The woman threw her hands around Ruth and gave her a hug. Ruth stood rigid in her grasp. She had never received such a warm welcome in all her years in Queensburrow. Perhaps she had gone to the wrong manor. However, Ruth did not know of any other manor on the outskirts of town.
The town talked of Mr. Soon as if he were a lonely old crazy and eccentric rich man. “Townies” said he lived by himself as a hobbit away from the rest of society. It was rumored, he in his younger years he had gone on crazy adventures and rarely came back home. They said that Mr. Soon had gone to Spain and jousted the king, when Mr. Soon won, the king made him the lord of a small island in the Pacific.
However, Mr. Soon did not live by himself. Mr. Soon, while unmarried, lived with a manasuree of servants. Lots of questions swarmed around Ruth in taking the job - was she doing the right thing - was she just desperate for work? The servant woman who had welcomed Ruth, her hands grasped around her, she took a step back to get a closer look at the young woman.
“Goodness gracious child! You are as skinny as a broomstick!” the woman turned her head to address someone inside the house, “Cookie, please give me a plate of those plum tarts from the pantry please. That is our nickname for the cook, Cookie, he will not mind if you call him that along with the rest of us. But where are my manners! My name is Judy, and I handle all of Mr. Soon’s business matters. He no longer wishes to travel abroad so we handle it for him. Come inside dear!”
Ruth took her first steps inside Soon Manor. A place of mystery might one day become home. As these thoughts cross her mind, a large man bustled out of a side door with a large tray of tarts.
“Here are the tarts Miss Judy, and you must be Miss Ruth.” The man with the full red beard smiled down at Ruth. ‘Was everyone as nice as Judy in this manor?’ Ruth pondered.
“Indeed, I am, and you must be Cookie.” The tall man’s eyes twinkled, and Ruth smiled at him. Ruth did not realize until later that when she smiled at the cook, it had been the first time she had genuinely smiled in a long time.
“Aye, that is what they call me.”
Suddenly a small bell sounded from a shelf to the side of the door. Ruth looked over to see a row of bells with names over them. The last one in the row had her name over it. The bell with her name over it still swung gently side to side.
“Well Miss Ruth,” Judy began, “It looks if it is time to meet Mr. Soon.”
Part 3: The Person Everyone Called the Kooky Old Man
Butterflies raced around Ruth’s stomach as Judy guided her up a set of stairs. The pair turned the corner to approach a study room door. Ruth looked over the balcony and down below, Cookie gave her a thumbs up. Judy opened the door and put a hand on Ruth’s back to urge her forward.
“Fredrick, Miss Ruth is here. Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”
“No thank you Judy, just send the girl in.” Judy exited the room and Ruth turned the corner to face her new employer. Mr. Soon sat in a leather chair with one hand holding his chin.
“Hello Mr. Soon, you sent for me?” Ruth clasped her hands behind her back to keep Mr. Soon from seeing that her hands were trembling.
“Yes, I did Miss Ruth, but you do not have to call me Mr. Soon. Just call me Fredrick as the others do love.” Ruth shifted from foot to foot,
“Is there anything that I can do for you Mr... I mean Fredrick?”
“Indeed, there is love, I am glad you asked. I hear that you enjoy reciting, is that true?”
“Yes sir, I do enjoy reciting, but I am afraid that I lack skill.”
“Nonsense love, I am sure that you are very good, why don’t you try something.” Ruth took a deep breath and started to recite the poem about snow, but Fredrick cut her off. Ruth braced herself for his criticism, but it never came. Instead, Fredrick gently said,
“No disrespect love, but I find the ending of that poem to be incredibly sad. Can you give me a more cheerful one?” So, Ruth chose a different one,
“A fair knight sits upon his stead
The warning of the flaming dragon he did not heed
He is a wise man who knows right from wrong
As he returns home, he sings a little song
A song of his beloved, graceful and fair
With teasing hazel eyes, and golden hair
Her heart the knight hopes to gain
Though to giving away her hand, the maiden has showed refrain
Her spirit is wild and free
The world she wishes to see
But the knight is kind and loving to her
And they lived happily ever after
Together they traveled down every road
At night they admired the stars and how they glowed
The fair lady is still wild and free
But now they are both happy, it is easy to see”
“Love, that was beautiful. I have never known someone who could recite that poem so well.” Beautiful. He had called her recitation beautiful! Fredrick looked kindly at Ruth; Mr. Goldson never looked kindly at her. Ruth decided that Fredrick was a truly kind man and that this was the best master she had ever had. Maybe people are better than their reputations.
Part 4: The Man in The Black Cloak
Ruth settled into Soon Manor and flourished. She had never been so happy in all her life. One person at a time, Ruth began to meet all the servants that called Fredrick their master. Ruth especially liked Tina, the maid who handled the manor’s constant cleaning and repair. Tina was but a few years older than Ruth and the two became great friends.
One night as Ruth was walking around the manor, she saw a black figure out the window. Ruth rushed over to the window and just caught a glimpse of the man as he jumped over the outer gate. Plagued by curiosity, Ruth ran after the mysterious figure.
The shadowy figure entered town with Ruth hot on his heels. He carried a large sack over his shoulder, and it seemed heavy. Suddenly, the figure stopped, Ruth quickly ducked behind a wall to remain out of sight. Out of the sack the man pulled a small bag. He set the bag on the doorstep of the nearest home and bounded again and again, one home after another, delivering small bags to each.
Once the figure had rounded the corner, Ruth tiptoed over to look at what was inside the bag. . . . food. Fruits, vegetables, bread, and even some sweet treats. The figure was providing basic necessities for families! Continuing to follow the figure, Ruth could see this shadowy character left bags at every home. When the large sack was empty, Ruth followed the figure back to Soon Manor. She suspected one of the servants of being the shadowed robin hood. Cookie was the first on the list of being behind the mask, who else would give food to those poorer families?
When Ruth and the man clad in black went inside, Ruth hid behind an open door as the figure took off his cloak and pulled off his hood. It was not Cookie. Instead, Master Fredrick himself stood before Ruth. Fredrick moved over to Ruth’s hiding place and pulled the door out of the way. Ruth stood dumbstruck; did he know she was following him the whole time?
“Did you enjoy that little venture love?” Fredrick cracked a smile and Ruth blushed.
“Yes sir. It is very kind of you to help those people.”
“I consider it more of a job to help those who have less. It is something everyone
“Goodnight, Miss Ruth. Let’s keep this our secret for now, okay?”
“Of course, Fredrick.” Ruth left her employer and went to her own chambers. Fredrick’s reputation could not be further from the truth. He was not a crazy eccentric old man who lived alone. He was the kindest man she had ever known. Ruth had floated from serving one master to another for her whole life. She had never respected or liked any of them. Now she had a master that she thought the world of. She had found kind friends who cared for her. Ruth Penin had found herself a home in Soon Manor.
Now that this story has ceased
And from its reading you have been released
The story of Ruth Penin you now know
And her journey to Soon Manor through the snow
The place that she now calls her home
She no longer has to roam
From master to master she no longer has to go
Or deal with Mr. Goldson’s blow
She has found both family and friend
Her time at Soon Manor will have no end
Tina is loving and kind
A true friend Ruth did find
Judy is loyal and sweet
Cookie is always ready with a treat
Fredrick is very generous
Of his character Ruth was presumptuous
Ruth’s heart Soon Manor did win
A Home for Ruth Penin