Time flies by so fast! Due to real life obligations, I haven’t had much time to write, but I appreciate your patience and continued support! Without further ado, please enjoy the new chapter. If you like, please write your comments below. Thank you in advance!
While Candy and Albert were deeply engaged in their conversation, they were completely unaware that Mrs. Watts had woken up from her nap. Yet, she had chosen not to disturb them. After all, they were just talking, so she wasn’t too concerned.
Of course, the middle-aged lady had heard of the vicious gossips about this pair, her own mother being one of Madam Elroy’s long-term friends. However, after spending some time with the girl as well as her legal guardian, Mrs. Watts figured the nasty individuals who had spread the rumors couldn’t have been more wrong about them.
In fact, on their way to Miami, Mrs. Watts had talked to Miss Candice a lot. The older lady could read the girl like a book, and after listening to the girl’s explanation of why she had wanted to take care of the amnesiac patient by living with him, Mrs. Watts had been convinced that Miss Candice was utterly innocent about men. While Mrs. Watts had found it incredible that the young man had been able to rein in his desires, acting like the girl’s big brother all this time, even sharing the same bunk bed with her, the chaperone believed that they had indeed kept their friendship pure.
Besides, Mrs. Watts hadn’t been able to detect a hint of romance in their relationship. She had observed that Miss Candice had been cordial with Sir William but remained somewhat reserved, as though there existed a barrier between them. Similarly, Sir William had a casual air about him that put the people around him at ease, and yet he had carefully maintained a safe distance from Miss Candice. At any rate, though they didn’t behave like father and daughter at all, they were more like close friends than lovers.
Hence, for the time being, Mrs. Watts kept an eye on them without putting on an alert mode. Although she hadn’t paid much attention to their words, nothing unusual had transpired so far. Just when she began to relax even more, a sudden silence fell upon those two. It was then the chaperone found Miss Candice looking at the man beside her with undisguised adoration in her sparkling eyes. Though Mrs. Watts couldn’t see Sir William’s face, her instinct warned her that she could no longer brush it off as a gesture between good friends. Just when Sir William wrapped his arm around the young lady’s shoulder, pulling her towards him, the young lady fluttered her eyes closed as if she was in anticipation of something. At that very instant, Mrs. Watts had to intervene in the least rude way.
As expected, a shadow of astonishment crossed the girl’s features, and this expression soon gave place to one of chagrin. The way the young lady made a conscious effort to paste a smile back on her face hadn’t escaped Mrs. Watts’ attention. At that point, the middle-aged lady admitted she had jumped to conclusions before this. The two must have kept their emotions well under control when they were with people. In that case, Madam Elroy’s worry was not without foundation. Madam Elroy had a hunch that her young nephew, having lost all his memory, had inadvertently developed romantic feelings for his adoptive daughter while living together with her.
Yet, who wouldn’t fall for the kind-hearted girl? Sir William was only human. Not to mention he was really too young to be the girl’s father. Even Mrs. Watts herself had begun to like Miss Candice as a person, not just a client. Similarly, Sir William was handsome, sensitive, chivalrous, gallant and a gentleman. Who wouldn’t find him attractive? Therefore, Mrs. Watts felt sorry for both of them, but Madam Elroy had given her trust, and her job was to supervise them.
Over the course of supper, Candy was still reeling from the moment when Albert had drawn her close to him, his warm breath hovering over her eyebrows. The rhythm of her heartbeat synchronized with the chugging sounds of the rapidly moving train. On the other hand, Albert was actually relieved that Mrs. Watts had interrupted just in time. His emotions had got the best of him again. Not only he had revealed too much about George, he had almost kissed Candy’s eyelids. He had longed to feel the softness of her eyelids beneath his lips. How many times had he dreamed of kissing her eyelids, the freckles on her nose then her rosy lips?
No, he wouldn’t let himself take her lips with his own yet, not before he had declared his love for her. He would wait till she accepted him for who he was and still willing to love him back with all her heart.
“Sir William,” Mrs. Watts said when he beckoned a carriage which stood near the train station. They were going to take Candy back to the Pony’s Home.
“Yes, Mrs. Watts?” he answered as the carriage was coming towards them.
The chaperone then explained that she would go back to Chicago herself, which surprised both her travel companions.
“Are you not feeling well, Mrs. Watts?” asked Candy with authentic concern in her tone. She still vividly remembered Great Aunt Elroy’s strict order, so that was her best guess why Mrs. Watts wouldn’t take her home as directed.
Mrs. Watts was touched. Miss Candice hadn’t given her any hard time throughout the journey like some young ladies had done to her before, not even after her timely interruption yesterday just before supper. In response, Mrs. Watts leaned forward, whispering to her, “I wish you the best of luck, Miss Candice. Remember, true love prevails.”
Candy could only stare at her with wide innocent eyes, utterly bewildered by her statement. Dazed, she heard Mrs. Watts say to Albert, “Miss Candice is in good hands, so I suppose I’ve done my part. Besides, I’m anxious to return because my son’s wife is heavily pregnant.”
Nodding with a smile, he promised, “I know what to say if my aunt asks me about you later. I personally guarantee you’ll be fine.”
She laughed. “Thank you, Sir. I guess Madam Elroy has never expected that I wouldn’t fully follow her instructions.”
After shaking hands with them both, Mrs. Watts turned to Candy. “Miss Candice, please pay me a visit in Chicago if there’s any good news,” she finished her invitation with a wink.
Neither Candy nor Albert could decipher her statement as if she had spoken a foreign language. Noting their blank and quizzical expressions, she only flashed them a smile before going back inside the train station.
Unbeknownst to the young people, while lying in the berth last night, Mrs. Watts had recalled how Rosemary, Sir William’s late sister, had fought for the love of her life back then. Even though they were about the same age, they had never been close, and yet Mrs. Watts had truly admired Rosemary for her courage. If Rosemary hadn’t passed away so young, she would have been in her early forties as well. Unlike Rosemary, Mrs. Watts herself had totally obeyed her parents’ arrangement of her marriage, but occasionally, she had thought about her first crush still, wondering how he was doing with his own family.
When the carriage was making its way towards the orphanage, Albert and Candy sat side by side but were unusually quiet. Initially, Albert had felt elated to be alone with Candy at long last, thanks to Mrs. Watts, but he had so much on his mind that he couldn’t decide where or how to start. The same applied to Candy. Moreover, she was mentally rehearsing her speech to her foster mothers.
Some moments later, Albert finally broke the silence between them, “Candy, may I ask you a question?”
She smiled. “Of course. Anytime.”
Hence, he began, “How exactly did you cross the Atlantic when you left London? All these years I’ve assumed you had spent your allowance money, but just recently, I found out from George that you hadn’t-”
Before he could finish, she sincerely apologized, “I’m sorry for my reckless behavior, Albert. I should have thought twice back then.” She hadn’t told Albert or her foster mothers about her adventure at all.
He instantly arched his eyebrows in a worried expression, and she understood he wanted her to elaborate in detail, so she looked away and uttered in a low voice, “I came back as a stowaway.”
“Stowaway?” he echoed aloud, his eyes widened incredulously.
“Yes,” she mumbled, shooting him a sheepish glance. Then she began relating to him how she had ended up in a widower’s house, staying there for a while, etc. Albert gave a hearty laugh at first but continued to listen to her story attentively. As the events unfolded, he fidgeted, his expression turning serious; he was feeling more and more uncomfortable. By the time Candy talked about meeting another stowaway named Cookie inside a storage room of the ship, Albert suddenly held her tight in his arms. She drew in a sharp intake of breath; his action caught her by surprise. Then he murmured under his breath, “Candy, how could you… Thank God nothing bad happened to you then…”
He sounded highly emotional, but the feeling of being loved swelled within her. Ever since their affectionate embrace in the Miami resort, she had gradually become aware of his feelings for her, and right now, she was absolutely certain that he cared about her tremendously, but not as his sister or adoptive daughter. She felt it despite not being able to describe it. Just when she was about to wrap her arms around him, the carriage lurched to an abrupt stop, tossing them forward. It was then he released her and peered out of the window. They had arrived at the Pony’s Home faster than expected, and the carriage was already surrounded by at least a dozen of young kids. That was probably why the coachman had to draw up his horses with a sudden jerk.
At this moment, a mixture of love, longing and loneliness swept over Candy. On one hand, the long journey was over, and she was home at last. On the other hand, Albert would be leaving her soon, so she couldn’t help casting a forlorn glance at him.
When the coachman swung open the door for his passengers, Albert got off first and greeted Miss Pony before offering Candy a hand to alight.
“Miss Pony!” Candy masked her sadness and exclaimed in delight, throwing her arms around the old lady.
“Welcome home, Candy!” she uttered in a happy voice, patting Candy’s upper back with motherly love. While the kids were taking turns to hug Candy, Albert was moved to see how much love Candy experienced here in the orphanage. No doubt this had always been her home, where her heart belonged.
Where’s home for me? He wondered as he paid the coachman and picked up the luggage. Where can I rest, relax and be my true self?
To him, home was no longer in Lakewood where he had grown up with Rosemary. Ever since she had gone, his only companions had been George and other tight-lipped servants plus tutors. His home wasn’t the principal mansion in Chicago either, where his aunt had ensured his safety by isolating him from the outside world for years. Even now, it wasn’t a place where he felt being loved.
Home should be like a refuge, where people accept me for who I am… While musing, one of the happy moments reappeared in his mind. When he had first lived together with Candy, he had insisted to wash his own clothes. But one evening, when he had found out that his shirts and pants had been neatly laundered by his roommate, he had been moved to tears. Back then, the apartment had been their little haven indeed.
Miss Pony’s voice jolted him back to the current situation, “Thank you, Sir William, for taking Candy home. I know you must be exhausted from the long trip, but do you mind to join us for lunch?”
“I’d love to!” he couldn’t have responded faster, his eyes brightened up. He didn’t feel like returning to the bustle and hustle of life in Chicago yet, not after he had already run some errands back in New York.
Meanwhile, Candy’s brain could scarcely register the signals transmitted by her senses. Why is Miss Pony not a bit surprised to see Albert here with me? As if she was expecting him?
Nevertheless, she trailed after Albert. Miss Pony led them back to the orphanage, where Sister Lane was busy preparing lunch for all of them. Again, Sister Lane welcomed Albert like it was a natural thing for him to come home with Candy. Not only that, when Albert offered to help her, Sister Lane gladly accepted and even passed him an apron. Needless to say, Candy wanted to give them a hand too, but Miss Pony asked her to play with the kids outside, saying, “They have missed you a lot!”
Candy thought, what’s going on? But she complied with her request and grabbed her winter gloves and scarf.
At any rate, Candy could hardly contain her happiness that Albert would stay for lunch, which was more than she had expected. She thought he would drop her off and returned to the train station by taking the same carriage back. Meanwhile, she wondered how long he was planning to stay, and if so, would he spend time with her alone? With all these questions on her mind, the kids complained that she wasn’t really playing with them. When Candy gave them a sheepish grin, Miss Pony announced it was time for lunch.
During lunch, Albert became a storyteller. He talked about his days in Africa, telling the kids about the poor living conditions over there. People had to walk miles to get fresh water, but the people were content because they had no comparisons. He also talked about some fascinating facts of several wild animals.
After lunch, he offered to wash all the dishes, but Miss Pony said no to him in a polite way and urged him to rest. He then turned his smile on Candy. “I’d like to visit Dr. Martin. It’s been a long while since I last saw him. Would you like to come with me?”
“Yeah! I can imagine his reaction!” she replied, bubbling over with excitement.
At her positive reply, Albert sincerely got the permission from Sister Lane to go out with Candy. Candy quickly searched her suitcase for the souvenir she had got for the kind doctor, but no sooner had they stepped through the front entrance than a uniformed delivery boy pulled his bicycle to a stop right before them, asking, “Is someone called William A. Ardlay here?”
“I am,” answered Albert, a frown forming between his brows. The boy handed him a telegram, and Albert had a premonition that this was from his aunt. Unfolding the envelope, he began to read, his eyebrows furrowing deeper. Candy knew something was wrong, so she swiftly asked, “What’s the matter?”
He looked up from the paper and stared at her, his expression glum. “I’m sorry. I have to return to Chicago. My aunt informed me that George suffered high fever.”
“George?” she repeated with her eyes doubled in size, and a flicker of anxiety crossed her face.
He nodded gravely. “That rarely happens to George,” he murmured, doubts and apprehension swirling in his mind. Just then, the delivery boy apprised them before taking off, “Sir, a carriage is coming to pick you up.”
The reflex of his eyebrows revealed his surprise, but within seconds he heaved a deep sigh of resignation. His aunt had taken measures to ensure that he would return at the earliest possible hour. Candy promptly expressed her wish to see him off, which he accepted. Not long after he went back inside the orphanage to pick up his luggage and say goodbye to all the people, a carriage drew up in front of the Pony’s Home.
During the ride, assailed by the turbulence of his emotions, Albert couldn’t keep the hints of his consternation from finding their way to his handsome face. Oh God… please… not the devastating Spanish flu… 
Candy had undoubtedly seen the angst in his eyes. She supposed he was tremendously concerned about George, and she was touched that Albert regarded George as a real friend, not just an employee or subordinate. When they were getting near the station, he said, “I’m sorry, Candy. I meant to spend some more time talking to you, but now, my mind is filled with-”
While holding his gaze, she put a finger to her mouth to hush him. “It’s alright. I understand how you feel at this moment. If this happens to Miss Pony or Sister Lane when I’m far away from them, I would have left immediately to go back too.”
He diverted his eyes to his lap, nodding slowly, and she became aware that he might be afraid of losing George too, having lost his parents and beloved sister early in his life. Perhaps George was the only ‘family’ to him, and she was right. He spoke over the lump in his throat, “Nobody knows me better than George. He is the only man I can always count on…”
As his voice trailed off, it dawned on her the reason why George had deliberately disobeyed his young boss back when Neil had forced her to marry him, claiming she had to obey Granduncle William’s order. Could it be… could it possibly be that George had seen through Albert’s inner thoughts…?
The next thing he knew, she blurted out, “Albert, I can’t believe I still haven’t properly thanked George yet!”
He wasn’t sure what she was talking about. At his puzzled expression, she explained, “I’m truly grateful to him for revealing your whereabouts in a critical situation.”
He appeared bewildered for a moment and then looked like something hit him. “You mean… Neil?” he prompted, his tone unsure.
In response, her smile lavished on him as though he had just won a prize, and he was mesmerized by her captivating smile. She then began telling him in detail how excited and flustered she had been, leaving Chicago for Lakewood with high hopes to meet her mysterious benefactor at last. Before long, they had reached their destination, and Albert went ahead to buy the ticket for the next available train. It wouldn’t leave until an hour later, so he urged Candy to go home now. Yet, she insisted to stay for at least half an hour or so. After giving her a long, scrutinizing look, he knew she had made up her mind. Fully aware that sometimes she could be very stubborn, he gave in and thanked her wholeheartedly for keeping him company. “Since we have some free time, want to hear my side of the story?”
She gave an enthusiastic whoop, which warmed his heart, so they found a bench to sit down before he related to her how terribly shocked he had been that day. “I took a short break after a grueling business trip, and both my aunt and George knew I would spend a few days in solitude in Lakewood before returning to Chicago. Therefore, I never expected to hear a familiar female voice, addressing myself as Granduncle William. When I thought it must be an illusion, she continued begging me not to force her to marry Neil. I was like, Neil? What? That spoiled brat?”
He paused here and regarded her tenderly, his eyes unwavering. It was she who suddenly felt shy and avoided his striking blue eyes, but he went on, “I understood right away my aunt was behind this, misusing my name.”
Albert abruptly ceased talking, exhaling a long sigh. He recalled how hot rage had rapidly coursed through his veins like fire at that very moment, and he had determined to help Candy regardless of the cost.
At Albert’s sudden silence, Candy brought her eyes back to his, and it was then he let out another sigh, saying, “I knew you eventually would discover my true identity, but not when I wasn’t even ready myself.”
He shook his head and a bitter chuckle escaped his throat, his eyes looking far into a distance. She stared at him, feeling butterflies in her stomach. Would he disclose something else to her now? If not for George, when did Albert plan to come out from hiding… from me? Why had he been avoiding me… why couldn’t he tell me the truth, his recovery or our legal relationship? That day, when I complained to him about feeling much older as a result of spending many sleepless nights, worrying about him, he said he’d rather I look older… so that people wouldn’t think I was his little sister… What exactly did he mean by that?
For the time being, he mused over how fate had brought her into his life so unexpectedly, time and time again. I had been struggling to get over my feelings for Candy… but to no avail, despite my best efforts, even leading her to Rockstown… No matter how much I strived to distract myself not to think about her, she constantly came into my train of thought, clouding my mind and emotions. Then one day, when I was utterly unprepared, she re-appeared out of nowhere… the awkward moment I had dreaded had finally come… I was forced to face the cruel reality that I was the rich uncle she had longed to meet…
The train whistle tooted sharply, snapping them both back to the present. As the massive steam engine huffed, heralding the time to board the train, Albert and Candy checked the large clock on the platform and then looked at each other. He then gave her a hand and said, “Let’s go, Candy.”
When she put her hand on his, he pulled her up with him as he straightened up. As they ambled towards the train, she expressed her gratitude for what George had done to rescue her. His act of disobedience had brought her back to Albert, or else she would have to flee the country to avoid Neil or Great Aunt Elroy.
Albert burst out laughing. Then Candy asked, “So George knew with whom you had been sharing the apartment?”
He nodded at once. “Since then, George and other men came to pick me up for work, every day. We worked long hours, but George respected my wish.”
The mere fact that she didn’t have much time to talk to him made her swallow the burning question down her throat, why did you decide to continue living with me? Instead, she smilingly recounted the landlady’s suspicions about him being a member of the mafia. “I was offended, and I vehemently defended you against the rumors. Deep inside, I did realize you had behaved very strange for months, and at times I had doubts too, but I chose to trust you.”
He was tongue-tied, overwhelmed with strong sentiments. How could he forget that late evening, when he had come home and witnessed her heated quarrel with their landlady over him?
“Thank you, Candy,” he managed to say to her, his voice very tender. He had to fight with every ounce of his being not to tug her into his arms and kiss her full on the lips.
She blushed even though she was disappointed that was all she got from him, but a couple of seconds later, he inhaled deeply, barely able to suppress the raging tides of emotions he felt within. “Candy, I must say your chatting is the best nourishing medicine of all. I don’t feel as anxious right now. I have a strong feeling that George will soon recover.”
“Oh yes, he will!” she exclaimed with certainty, her smile widening into even more brightness. “He’s a wonderful man, and I’ll pray for him!”
When the whistle tooted again, the conductor hollered, “All aboard!” Albert then leaned down and placed his hands on Candy’s shoulders before planting a peck on her forehead. “Keep in touch.”
She nodded, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill. “When will I see you again?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, his voice thickened. “I’ll see.”
As her mouth curved into an understanding smile, he drew in a mighty breath and uttered in earnest, “Don’t forget to write to me.”
“I won’t,” she uttered in a haste. “I haven’t forgotten once, have I?”
When a faint smile touched the corners of his lips, she pleaded, a couple of tears trickling down her cheeks, “Promise me to take good care of yourself, alright? Don’t push yourself too much!”
Giving her a firm nod, he gently wiped her face with his thumbs. “Please pass my regards to Dr. Martin,” he said hoarsely, sniffing. He could feel the moisture forming in his eyes, his throat tightening even more.
“I will!” came her affirmative response, and she thought she saw the glint of tears in his eyes, but before she could take a second look to be certain about it, he blinked and turned on his heels, heading straight towards the train. He was fighting not to shed a tear, but his heart constricted at the thought of being unable to see her for an unknown period of time. Why does she have to live so far away?
With nostalgia, Albert acknowledged that, other than George, Candy was the only person who understood him like nobody else. That was one of the reasons why he couldn’t leave her even months after recovering from amnesia. How could he tear himself away from her loving attention and genuine care of his needs? The days he had shared with her in that tiny apartment had been heartwarming to say the least. Then, at this moment, he realized that she was his home.
Oblivious to Albert, Candy’s eyes followed him until she lost sight of him. Silent tears were rolling down her cheeks, not knowing when he would have time to drop by Pony’s Home again in the near future. Presently, an old lady standing beside her interrupted her thoughts, “Cheer up, young lady. The man will definitely come back for you.”
Candy couldn’t stop herself from asking, “You think so?”
“Absolutely! He misses you already.”
So did Candy. She felt like a part of her had gone with him. Yet, she found the old lady’s words comforting, and a weak smile returned to her young face. As she wiped her tears with the back of her hands, the old lady displayed her toothless grin. “What a remarkable smiling face! You should smile more!”
Upon hearing that, the image of Prince on the Hill resurfaced in her mind. She felt encouraged and consoled, as though she had heard her prince say to her, you’re prettier when you smile, little one. Thus, Candy nodded at the old lady, and chuckling, the old lady walked away at a slow pace, leaning on her cane. Only then Candy spun herself around. It was time to head back to the orphanage. She would honestly tell Miss Pony and Sister Lane that she had decided to follow her heart. In fact, after spending some time with Albert these past few days, Candy was more confident than ever that he had nourished feelings for her.
Little did she know that when Albert had sent a telegram to the Pony’s Home earlier, informing Miss Pony and Sister Lane of their delay, he had added the following,
‘Let’s talk, 3 of us.
That explained why the ladies had been expecting him and had sent Candy outside while preparing for lunch. After he had finished giving a heartfelt speech, both Miss Pony and Sister Lane, with teary eyes, had promised him to exercise caution, keeping their conversation a secret from Candy. In due course, he would reveal it to her himself.
 Nobody knows precisely how many people died during the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic. It was estimated the global mortality at anywhere between 30 and 50 million. An estimated 675,000 Americans were among the dead. For your interest, simply search for the keywords, “Spanish flu”.
 Since the telegraph companies charged for their services by the number of words in a message, so people attempted to abbreviate words and pack as much information into the fewest possible number of words and/or characters.
Note: Many thanks go to the following people for their comments to the previous chapter: Agnès, Luna, CKati, Reeka, Tiny12, Evelyn, Antlay, Vera García, Anonymous, Ruth, QuevivaCandy, You Ri Lee, and Princess Masha. I hope I haven’t missed anyone. I’d like to thank the silent readers for following this story too. 😀
Those who are familiar with Candy Candy Final Story (CCFS) may know that I have borrowed some ideas from Candy’s own retrospection in CCFS. In particular, I’d like to explain why Anohito’s reactions to Candy’s first account of her stowaway experience is actually in favor of Albert being Anohito. 😉
First off, I’m no expert in psychology, but my gut feeling and real life experience tell me that if Terry was the one who listened to Candy’s dangerous adventure, he wouldn’t be able to give a hearty laugh. Why? Since it’s supposed to be the first time Terry heard of the story, it’s highly possible he would be struck by the bite of conscience or the pang of guilt to have put his beloved Candy in a panic situation back then. 🙁
More often than not, a person who feels guilty will act defensive, judgemental, or even angry! Sometimes he or she may place the blame on the speaker. For example, in this case, Terry might blame Candy for acting too impetuously without regard for dire consequences. 😕
Come to think of it, if Terry hadn’t left London in such a rush or if there had been a slight hint in his brief note for Candy that he would contact her as soon as he settled down, perhaps she would have stayed in London, waiting for him to give her an update. In fact, have you heard of this quote, “those who try will succeed“? There were many ways Terry could reach Candy somehow, like writing to Stear or Archie using a nickname. Those people who think the staff at St. Paul’s Academy would open every single letter to read is a far-fetched excuse to me. 😮
In addition, if indeed Terry knew about what extreme measures Candy had taken to cross the Atlantic Ocean, mainly because of him, shouldn’t he feel a bit sorry for his abrupt departure? Like he should have discussed his future plan with her before leaving so that she could have peace of mind? Perhaps he should apologize for being inconsiderate of her feelings? 🙄
However, Anohito held Candy tight in his arms with relief that nothing bad had happened to her when she had crossed the ocean as a stowaway. There were no judgemental words, no blaming, and no apology. It makes more sense that Anohito wasn’t the man whom she had blindly chased after back then. 😐
If you would like to know more about guilt and anger, please feel free to contact me.