Welcome to The Miller House
Don Lehman, 2018


Cover Index
Chapter 01
Chapter 02
Chapter 03
Chapter 04
Chapter 05
Chapter 06
Chapter 07
Chapter 08
Chapter 09
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21

Chapter Four

The marriage license gave her access to more information about Aaron and his work. Aaron was an agent for a somewhat shadowy import company but apparently he was not involved in any illegal activity. There was enough money for her defense. The house had been inherited and was now hers, free and clear. When the trial was over and bills were paid, there was still almost a thousand dollars in a bank savings account. She was however a prisoner in her house. She could not make herself go out and face the public. Some days she cried. In the mornings she was sick and could not eat. That’s when it occurred to her that she might be pregnant. The thought of living with pregnancy and preparing herself to be a mother was her new focus and a welcome distraction from the misery of the whole Aaron experience. At the end of the trial she asked her lawyer to have her surname changed back to Miller. She was Francis Miller again but now she was a young widow, recluse, in an unfamiliar town.

A few weeks later there was a knock at her door. Francis checked from the kitchen window and it was a stranger. She hesitated before answering the door. Was it another nosey reporter or someone with a new accusation? Just opening the wide door a crack at first, she said, “May I help you?” He removed his hat and for a moment just looked at her, something she was used to. Men often took a moment to look at her before speaking. He was dressed in a mismatched suit and a plaid shirt open at the neck and about medium height, meaning he was a bit shorter than Francis. His face was weathered with a well manicured, mustache and beard. He spoke like a southern gentleman. He introduced himself formally as Earl Kipler and said , “My friends call me Cappy.” He then asked if she would consider taking in a boarder. It was hard for her to tell how old he was. She thought he was maybe in his fifties - she would later learn that he was forty two. He was crippled in one leg and walked with a cane. Over coffee, he assured her that he would not be a bother and would pay for room and meals out of his government disability check. Cappy told Francis that he knew all about the tragedy and the trial. She confided that she truly did not know how it happened and that events just somehow got out of hand. She had given it a lot of thought. She found the whole thing embarrassing and she had no desire to go out in public. He told her that he had known Aaron well. Locally her husband was thought of as a trouble maker and maybe if she hadn’t done it, someone else would have. He said, “Ask yourself why that person put that gun in your hand and why nobody told who it was.” He made his point but Francis still had no desire to leave the house and face the locals.

She liked Cappy and she welcomed him, in spite of how it may have looked in the community. She needed company, income, and a man to help with the house. Cappy was a tough old bird but he was kind to Francis. If he had any possessions beside a few changes of clothes, he left them some place else. Gradually she learned he had been in World War One and had returned in 1919 just before the end of the war with a mangled leg. He spent several months in a veterans hospital before coming back to Greenville with nothing. His family had scattered and he had not stayed in touch. For a while he took to drinking but one day he just gave it up. Now he was in his early forties and ready for a bit more stability. He knew about Francis and her big house. He had an idea that she needed a friend and he needed good meals and comfortable accommodations. He told Francis that his only requirement was to remain on the first floor because he had a lot of difficulty with the stairs. For that reason, she put him in the large bedroom at the end of the hallway, at the back of the house. She felt safe with him near by.

Francis came clean with Cappy that same day. She said, “I’ve got to tell you, it’s early so I’m not sure yet, but I think I’m pregnant. You deserve to know, there may be a baby in this house.” Cappy just told her he would cross that bridge when he came to it. She was right, she was pregnant and in a few months it was obvious. Cappy wasn’t able to do much around the house with his gimpy leg but that was ok because Francis had it all under control. Somehow he managed to do the light yard work and he was good at minor repairs. He fixed doors that didn’t latch and bled the old cast iron radiators. Groceries were delivered and the boy brought the bags in and set them on the counter. The newspaper landed on the front porch. There was a coal furnace in the basement that Francis could fire up on winter days then the house was cold. By the start of summer she knew she needed a kind of help that Cappy could not provide.That’s when she picked up the phone and called her mother. She was embarrassed by everything that had happened and she had not talked with her mother or her brother Wilson since the day she left with Aaron.

It was never clear to Francis but some how her mother seemed to know everything. Maybe word got back to Wilson or maybe he was somehow keeping track of her. When Francis said, “Mom, It’s me, Francis. I’ve got a lot to tell you.” Her mother just told her to never mind, that she knew all about it. Well she didn’t know that Francis was expecting a baby in a few weeks. Francis had done the math and she knew it had to be soon. She just came out and asked if she could come back home to have the baby. Her mother said it was ok and that she could come back. Francis told Cappy to take care of the house while she was gone, packed a bag and called a taxi to take her to the train station.

Somewhere between Norfolk and Washington, DC, on Saturday July, 3rd, 1943, the pain started and before the train arrived in Baltimore, in the dark of night, Carl came out pale and sticky like a normal newborn and right away turned a sort of purplish red when they wrap him in a towel. There was a nurse that happened to be on that train and she delivered the fatherless baby who was to become Carl Wilson Miller. Far from ideal conditions, it was a bloody mess. There was a taxi waiting at the station. Francis and her newborn were helped into the car and driven to the home of Carl’s grandmother on Lafayette Avenue. It was not an especially happy reunion. Fortunately, Carl was not a cry baby and Francis devoted every waking minute to his comfort and care. He would sleep at her ample breasts. She took her meals in her room which had a small crib her mother brought down from the attic and dusted off. It had been used by Francis and her older brother. The grandmother washed diapers and fixed simple meals for Francis. She appeared at the door several times a day with fresh diapers and meals. Francis slept when Carl slept, held and fed him when he was awake.

They couldn’t stay in Baltimore because, well, they had that big house in South Carolina to look after. Carl was born now and a little time had passed since his daddy had been shot, the situation back there had improved and Cappy had a lot to do with that. Francis thought things in Greenville were about as normal as the situation was going to get for them.

After six weeks Francis packed up, said goodbye to her mother and boarded a Greyhound Bus south. The bus was cheaper than the train and the money was a loan from her mother. A loan she would repay after she was resettled back in Greenville. Twelve dollars for the tickets and another thirty-five for the accommodations wired to Lillian Miller, Baltimore, Maryland. That transfer of money was paid out of her savings account at the First National Bank of Greenville. Francis was aware of her limited financial resources. She still had most of the savings, but the only income was the small about amount for Cappy’s board.

Francis was grateful for two things regarding Aaron - baby Carl and the big house he left her. She was safe now inside the house especially with Cappy there. It felt good to returning with her baby and she hoped Cappy would stay. Cappy’s arrival had been a stroke of good fortune for Francis. He was company for her and provided that bit of income. Francis knew she would need money but had no intention of finding a job. Having a boarder gave her the idea to use the house as a business. As soon as she and baby Carl were settled back in Greenville and Carl was sleeping through the night she put out a hand painted sign, “rooms to let.” Gradually there were knocks at the door. Some people just stayed the night and some stayed on for longer. Those transient folks became what Carl knew as family. He began by experiencing a second hand world.

  Chapter 05