‘Hello, who is calling at this early hour,’ growled a man on the other end of the phone line, obviously unhappy at having his morning routine disturbed.
‘Gilbert, this is Patience Mount. I do apologize for calling so early, but I have a situation of utmost importance and I wanted to catch you before you left for your office.’
‘Dear me, Miss Mount, I hope you are not in some kind of trouble requiring a barrister to free you’, exclaimed Gilbert.
‘No, nothing of the sort, but of critical importance nevertheless. As you may know, I am leaving shortly for Hong Kong to attend to Father, and I find myself confronted with circumstances that just recently interjected themselves into my life, but which must be resolved before I leave England.’
Patsy then started rambling, her disjointed statements barely making sense to herself, finally getting to the point that she and her ‘best friend’ wanted to adopt abandoned twins left at the convent, and that they wanted to be listed as co-parents on adoption papers. She then went to great lengths to make this request sound innocuous as possible by nonchalantly remarking that with her absence from England, Miss Busby would need the authority to make decisions regarding the twins’ health and welfare that simply could not wait for approval from Hong Kong.’
‘Miss Mount, Patience, this is highly unusual. Have you spoken to your father about this?’
‘No, Gilbert, and I would prefer he not be concerned with this. He has given you considerable authority and latitude to act on his behalf, and it is my desire that you do so in this instance, if at all possible. My father is quite ill, and he doesn’t need to deal with anything that can detract from his rest. Besides, I will soon take the mantle of responsibility for the Mount Enterprises, so there is no need to trouble him at this time.’
‘That may not be possible, but I will do what I can,’ said Gilbert with a hint of exasperation in his voice. ‘Please understand I may need to involve your father if I hit an insurmountable obstacle. He is a very well connected man with considerable influence throughout the government. One thing in your favor, Patience, is the fact that these children have been abandoned, and that they are of mixed race. The fact that you are willing to give them a home speaks well of you and Miss Busby. It may be that you have to adopt them individually rather than together, meaning you would be the parent of one and Miss Busy the other, or perhaps, you adopt both of them, and award Miss Busby legal guardianship over them in your absence, incapacitation, or death; I’ll have to find the legal syntax necessary to get this through this appropriate agencies.’
‘Gilbert, neither of those options is preferable, but I, we, are willing to take whatever legal arrangement you can get through the courts so long as both of us have parental authority over both children, and of course, the courts are amenable to this.’
‘Before we hang up Miss Mount, I’ll need to know their birth names, and the names you wish to give them if different, as well as their date of birth.’
Patsy uttered an audible gasp, stunned and embarrassed that they had not thought about names for the twins. Fearing the solicitor would think she was another vacuous trust fund baby rushing into something without thinking beyond the immediate urge, regarding the twins as just another bright shiny object that had momentarily caught her attention, she profusely apologized. ‘Oh dear, forgive me Gilbert, please don’t think me an empty headed twit, but I don’t believe the mother ever named them, they’re just the O’Shanassy twins. We, I, haven’t had time to consider naming them, this has unfolded so quickly. They were born the day the blizzard hit in January, so their birthdate is January 22nd, which makes them six weeks old. May I call your office today as soon as we have decided their names?’
Laughing, Gilbert said, ‘Yes, and please don’t worry about this oversight; it’s totally understandable considering the urgency with which you have acted, and it will actually make the process much smoother since we won’t have to unname them before we can rename them; it will further prove to the court that they truly were unwanted and abandoned. But, please name them quickly so that I may file whatever briefs necessary. And Patience, I may need to involve Charles; I shall look forward to your call.’
‘Gilbert,’ Patsy said with great trepidation in her voice, ‘what if Father disapproves of this? What if he sabotages my efforts? I don’t think I could abide the disappointment.’
‘Patience, I have worked for your father for many, many years, and he and I have had many candid talks, especially after several glasses of scotch. I know how ashamed and remorseful your father is about what happened to his family, and the void that has developed between you two. He feels he failed his family by not evacuating you before the invasion. He has been in continual torment over the decision to send you to boarding school because of what it did to you and how you interpreted his intent. It is my belief that your father would do anything to earn your forgiveness, and your love, before he dies. So, my position is that he will support you totally; I know he has great sorrow about leaving you an orphan; your happiness would permit his tortured soul to find some peace knowing you have a family to love you. Have faith, Patience; your father is a good man. Good day, Miss Mount.’
‘I hope you are right, Gilbert. Goodbye.’
‘My, my, what has that Mount child done, dear? Arrested for soliciting? She is such a pretty thing.’
‘Oh no, dear, Patience is nothing like that, quite the opposite; as a matter of fact, she and her ‘very special friend’ are trying to adopt twins who were abandoned at the convent this morning. Pray tell me, in god’s name how I am going to get this through any court in England.’
‘Why sweetheart, you'll find out which judge is beholding to Charles, or who needs to be beholding to him, and get the case on his docket. Goodness knows, you definitely know where all the bodies are buried, in a manner of speaking. Here’s your tea with extra sugar, sounds as though you’ll need it today.’
‘Thank you, Robert. What ever would I do without you?’
‘Delia, we must talk,’ Patsy said as she rushed to Delia’s side by the stove.
‘I take it your conversation with the solicitor was productive,’ Delia, in full mummie mode, said as she tested the temperature of the formula on her wrist, her Welsh lilt more pronounced than usual. ‘We have two very hungry babies to feed so we’ll have to talk and feed them at the same time. Grab a bottle and a baby and let’s go to the lounge as everyone has gone to work so we will have privacy. Sister Julienne called The London and got me excused until we can make arrangements for their care, and she approved me suspending my midwifery training for the time being.’
Once comfortably seated in the lounge, Delia with baby girl and Patsy with baby boy, Patsy blurted out, ‘Delia I did put forth my best argument to have us listed as co-parents on any adoption papers, but Gilbert thinks that is too far a stretch to get through a court, so it may have to be that I adopt both of them and then give you full legal guardianship in my absence, incapacitation, or death.’
‘Patsy, please don’t talk like that, the thought of either of those circumstances is more than I can bear right now.’
Patsy placed her hand gently on Delia’s knee before softly saying as she looked into very tired blue eyes, ‘I know, sweetheart, but if something should happen to me as the legal parent, it is absolutely imperative that you have the legal standing to keep them; god knows what could happen otherwise. He did suggest that we could each adopt one twin, but then they would have different last names so that was not to my liking, and besides they need to know that they belong to both of us equally. Gilbert will do his best, but may have to involve my father to wield his considerable clout.’
‘Patsy, we’re at the mercy of society and the courts; I will be happy with whatever legal arrangement he can get through the system so long as we get to keep them and they know we are their mothers, it doesn’t matter what words are used to make it so.’
‘Delia,’ Patsy said as a slight pinkish hue crawled up her neck to her cheeks, ‘I was so embarrassed when Gilbert asked me for their names; everything happened so fast that I never realized they didn’t have names. We have to rectify the situation. He needs them in order to proceed with the court petition. Have you given any thought to what you think they should be named?’
Smiling at Patsy’s uncharacteristic embarrassment, Delia stared pensively at baby girl for several moments before finally speaking, ‘Pats, when we were student nurses and realized we were in love, I used to fantasize about our baby and what she would look like and what we would name her. Back then, in my idealism, I thought we would do some combination of our names, ‘Deliance’ or ‘Patlia’, but as I have gotten older, I don’t want to pin a cutesy name on them that they will have to explain for their entire lives; my older self now thinks we should stay with traditional English and Welsh names, and pay homage to our parents by naming our children after them; how do you like ‘Catherine Anwen Mount? Anwen is Mum’s middle name, I just can’t name a child Enid because it sounds so old fashioned, and Catherine is so classic it never goes out of style.’
‘I prefer Catherine Anwen Busby Mount.’ ‘How do you like ‘Charles Rhys Busby Mount?’ I think it is important that they know they belong to both of us.’
‘Patsy, don’t you think the courts may find it peculiar that my surname is included? How will you explain that? We must be cautious with our actions so that we don’t sabotage the adoption. I would be more comfortable omitting my surname until such time as I can legally change my name to ‘Mount’, that is, when you make a honest woman of me,’ Delia said with a wink. ‘Are we in agreement with the names, minus ‘Busby’ from each? What happens next?’
‘Delia, regardless of what we have to do to become legal parents, please know that I will fulfill the promise I made to give us a family, and however the court papers read, these babies will have two mothers. As far as what happens next, I suspect Gill will call in some favors from judges who owe my father a favor, or want to owe him one. Gill has always been a genius at finding creative legal solutions that worked well in Father’s favor.’
‘Are you saying the Mount Enterprise has bought off our government officials, Miss Mount?’, Delia said feigning shock as she placed a nappy over her shoulder to burp baby Anwen.
‘Let’s just say my father knows how to influence the system to get what he wants and Gill is his point man. Let us pray that he comes through this time. Deels, I don’t know what I would do if the court says we can’t have these babies,’ Patsy exclaimed as she followed Delia’s suit and placed a nappy over her shoulder so she could burp baby Charles. ‘ We would have to abduct them and leave our homeland for the Australian outback or the American wild west, somewhere we will not be known. We would board that cargo plane in the middle of the night with babies in tow, and sneak off somewhere, maybe even stay in Hong Kong, although the idea is abhorrent to me, but I will do whatever necessary to have our family,’ said a determined Patsy.
‘Patsy, this will work out; have faith, sweetheart. You’ve always said we’ll find a way, and I believe if it is meant to be and we are to have a family, it is now, and this is the way. Do you think it is all coincidence that we were sent to the mothers’ home, that these twins were born during the worst blizzard England has seen in decades; that we had to become incubators to save them; there must be a deeper reason why we were in that place at that time. It really is beyond me to understand why things happen as they do, but I do believe sometimes things happen for a reason, sometimes they can be explained, although sometimes they can’t. I really feel like this is meant to be. And…...that was meant to be too,’ Delia cheekly said in response to Anwen’s burp.
I’m going to wait to call my parents until this is official and recorded in the court, and they are legally ours.’
‘While you were talking to the solicitor, the girls went through the charity box and found some warm clothes for our babies. Sister Evangelina somehow found a pram big enough for both of them, at least for now, and Fred donated a large wooden box big enough for them both to sleep in. We’ve found extra pillows and blankets to put in the box to make it nice and comfy for them to sleep. We will still need to go shopping for nappies, formula, and baby clothes, but at least they are set for the time. Fred even located a camp bed and put it in my room along with the bed box so all of us can sleep in there. It’s only temporary until the court acts on our petition and we came take them from the confines of the convent.’
Patsy, sounding and feeling like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, moaned, ‘ Deels, I can’t believe it’s only eight o’clock in the morning, it seems like we have been up for days, I’m completely spent. Let’s have some tea and toast while the twins finish their bottles.’
Dr. Turner stopped by to examine the twins just as they were finishing their bottles, so Patsy and Delia took them to the treatment room where he did their examinations.
Patrick carefully examined each twin, listening to its heart and lungs for any sign of malformation. He then examined their skeletal structures, their mental alertness and reflexes, and pronounced that they appeared to be in remarkably good health, despite being a bit underweight. Dr. Turner noted that they came from good, sturdy Irish stock, although he couldn’t speak for their other half.
From the shadows of the treatment room, Sister Winifred emerged wearing a concerned and troubled expression on her face. ‘Forgive my forwardness, Dr. Turner, but I am troubled by what is about to happen to these children where these two well meaning, but selfish nurses, are about to deny a proper couple the right to be parents. I just can’t reconcile their actions with the teachings of the church.’ Sister Winifred cut her eyes toward Patsy and Delia as she finish her diatribe.
Delia tensed and started to lunge at the nun, but Patsy grabbed her arm simultaneously as Dr. Turner raised his hand and motioned her to hold her tongue. ‘Sister Winifred, I’ll be frank with you; having just become an adoptive parent, I can tell you with one hundred percent assurance that these twins are unadoptable to the majority of ‘proper couples’ seeking a baby. We, and yes, I include myself in that, want babies that look like us, blond blue eyed cherubs, not brown skinned, black haired infants, regardless of how adorable they may appear. We want babies to blend in with the extended family. I’m afraid that these twins would remain in an orphanage until they were old enough to be transferred to another country. And, I can guarantee that there would be no ‘proper couple’ waiting to adopt them.’
Patrick held up his hand as he said, ‘be quiet, all of you….I’m not finished. My religious upbringing tells me it is wrong and against the teachings of our Lord to deny a loving home to these children. Nurse Mount and Nurse Busby are our colleagues, we have worked shoulder to shoulder with them under some of the most trying circumstances; they are our sisters in service to our countrymen, we know them, and their goodness; we know the love they will bestow on these children; we can’t say that about an ‘unknown proper couple’ just because they can ante up the money to buy a baby. For all we may know, such ‘a proper couple’ may have nefarious intentions that they hide behind a pleasant facade; we’ve all heard horror stories coming out of Australia and other countries where we dispose of our unwanted population. I, and my entire family, wholeheartedly support this adoption without reservation.’
Sister Winifred, stunned by the tongue lashing she had just received from Dr, Turner, turned and walked out of the room in silence.
‘Shelagh and I wish you and the twins the very best, ladies, and if I may be of assistance with the adoption process, please ask’ , Dr. Turner said as he bowed his head and left the room behind a vanished and vanquished Sister Winifred.
‘Their eyes are blue’, said a defiant Delia through pursed lips.
They had just put the twins down in the box bed for their lunchtime nap and started downstairs to join the others for lunch when they became aware of another commotion in the downstairs hallway. Listening at the top landing, they heard Sergeant Noakes telling Sister Julienne that a set of twins was missing from the mothers’ home along with the birth mother, and the matron was frantic to know what and when they went missing.
‘It is afternoon and I find it odd that you are just now looking for these twins, Sergeant.’
‘Sister, I was just notified about half an hour ago that they were missing; I stopped by the fire house on my way here to see if they had been left there. In all due respect, Sister, I acted on this the moment I was notified.’
‘Sergeant Noakes, the twins were found on the steps of Nonnatus House about four o’clock this morning. They are safe and in our care, and I have guaranteed them sanctuary per the written request of the birth mother. I find it odd that you were only notified less than an hour ago. Perhaps you should devote your attention to finding out why two babies and a resident can disappear from that home in the early morning hours, and not be reported to authorities for eight hours or more. I have heard from very reliable sources that there is considerable negligence and possible malfeasance going on there.’
‘I’m just doing my job, sister. I'm relieved to know the twins are safe. Do you have any idea where the birth mother is? I’ll be taking the twins back to the mothers’ home, if you don’t mind, Sister.’
In her very calm, modulated voice, Sr. Julienne said, ‘Perhaps I was unclear, Sergeant Noakes, I have granted sanctuary to the twins per the written request of the birth mother; they are going nowhere. They are well cared for here, and will remain here until pending legal arrangements coming to fruition. You do know, Sergeant, that I, as head of Nonnatus House, have the legal authority to grant sanctuary to anyone requesting it, and that is what I have done.’
‘I see, sister,’ said a chastened sergeant Noakes. ‘Do you have any idea where the birth mother is?’
‘No, I do not, but where ever she is, I pray she is safe. One can cover considerable distance in eight hours, Sergeant Noakes. Have you visited her mother at the market.’
‘I am going there next. Thank you, sister.’
‘Please give my greetings to Chummy and little Freddy,’
The nurses and nuns sat in stunned silence as Sister Julienne glided into the dining room. ‘ I am absolutely famished,’ she proclaimed as she went to the head of the table.
‘Let us give thanks for the sustenance we are about to receive,’ Patsy and Delia heard her say as they entered the dining room.