Chapter 53: Emmett’s fortune turns

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January 9, 1901
Tallahassee, Florida
The Leon Hotel

I woke alone in the hotel room — panicked, I sat up and looked at Cephas’ pocket watch on the table — almost 8:30 in the morning.

I felt like hell. I didn’t sleep well last night; Cephas came in around 3 am, smelling of cigars and something else, I think it was perfume. He tumbled into bed and commenced to snoring loudly the entire rest of the night.

But I had also been restless because I decided to see Paul Carter over in the dormitory anyway, a last minute decision. I closed my eyes as I sat up in bed, remembering our conversation….

Paul H. Carter, from the 1899-1900 WFS yearbook, The Argo. Source: FSU Archives.

I had to tell my best friend I wasn’t coming back to school — and Paul told me he guessed it because some of our friends had reported back to him seeing me prowling around in front of College Hall. So much for my success in remaining invisible.

He told me he understood; family comes first, and besides, he knew I wasn’t really happy at WFS. But Paul still seemed uneasy talking with me.

“Something else is going on,” I said. “Tell me.”

Paul said his mother is moving his family away from Chipley to Appling, Georgia, and will probably stay there for good.

I was floored by the news. Irritated. 

“How long have you known?” Paul says since New Years.

“When were going to tell me?” Paul shrugged helplessly. “Emmett. I felt bad for all you were going through with Francis. I just didn’t think I ought to make it worse for you. I’m sorry…there hasn’t been any good time to tell you this.”

I turned away from him; damn him. I knew it wasn’t his fault, but it seemed like everything in my life was coming apart, or leaving me behind. 

“Look. I plan on coming to Chipley and Marianna often. And you can visit me here, too, if you like.”

I shook my head. “No. I don’t think I’ll be back at the Seminary again.”

===

When I went downstairs to the hotel lobby, l saw Walter and Cephas in the dining room, having breakfast. I went over to their table; they wished me good morning, and Walter pulled out a chair next to him.

As I sat down, a waiter came over to the table and poured a cup of coffee for me. “Hungry?” Walter asked.

“No,” I said, as I poured milk into the steaming cup.

“You sure you’re OK, little brother?” Cephas asked as he peered at me over the top of The Weekly Tallahaseean.

“Fine.”

We head back in a few hours ourselves. Going back to Marianna, I didn’t know what the future would hold. I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. God, I would be so bored…

Walter was watching me out of the corner of his eye.

Ceph stood up, drank the last of his coffee, and put the cup down. I’m going to settle up the bill, then head back up to the room and pack. Come up when you get done, OK?

I nodded.

Walter watched Cephas leave. He turned to me. Are you all right, Emmett?  You’re awfully quiet; you seem a little down today.

I sighed.

Want to talk about it?

I shook my head. No, I said, quietly.

All right son, he said kindly, pushing a small dish of toast towards me. I think Walter probably knew something about what was going on, but he didn’t pry.

Well, he said, you should know that I was talking with some friends from legal circles up here, and you’ve made quite an impression on Judge D.J. Jones. Do you know him? 

I looked at Walter questioningly. “Yes, for years. He’s been friends with the family as long as I can remember.” 

“Judge Jones thinks a lot of you, and your father, of course. Busy man, you know. He’s a successful lawyer, a lot of cases going on.”

“Yes,” I said. I ate a few bites of toast.

“Judge Jones needs a law clerk. Someone who is precise, smart, detail oriented to help him out, and in turn, someone he could teach the ropes of running a law office. Interested?”

I paused, the toast midway to my mouth. I looked at Walter, astonished.

“Me?”

Walter smiled. “Who else? It’s a great opportunity, son.  Your brother started out with in Chipley with Judge W.O. Butler, you know, much the same way you will, and look at where it took him.”

“Yeah,” I said, still surprised. “But wait, Walter — me? I don’t have any experience.”

“That’s OK. Jones wants to work with someone new, someone he can train to take care of his office for him. You’d be back home with your Father, of course, but at the firm all the time, and probably traveling with Jones to different courts. He needs someone smart, trustworthy, and with integrity. You’ll hear a lot of information that can go nowhere else, you understand?”

“I do.”

“So, I take it this is something you’d want to do?”

“Yes. Yes!”  My future was looking up at that moment….

“All right, then. Congratulations, Emmett. You start on Monday, January 14. That should give you plenty of time to get settled back in Chipley.”

From the February 23, 1901 issue of The Chipley Banner. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

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