For weeks after the funeral of Charlie Woods and Suzanne was the topic of many conversations. When friends, relatives or newcomers arrived in Rankville, the story of the ‘sordid affair’ between the rich Suzanne and the quiet librarian was retold and added to. Naturally, how the whole affair started was a bit sketchy in places, but someone with a grudge, or oversexed mind, or a good story-teller, would fill in the details. The marriage of Suzanna and Leonard Gresham was a series of speculations, but there were older residents who seemed to know the details and even had eye witness accounts of the unusual couple.
The telling went something like this.
Spunky had married Leonard Gresham, an art dealer, who exhibite effeminate mannerisms. Some women said he had ‘a tender side’ to him, the men, well they were not so kind!
As a young man, gossip spread about his lack of female companionship, and the amount of time he spent in the company of men. There were always groups of men who came to the home that he inherited from his grandmother. Now, at the age of twenty-five, Leonard spent considerable sums of money restoring the ancestral home to its former glory. Not being either a handsome, intellectual or social person, Leonard cultivated male friends by lavish entertainment. Leonard’s second passion, after men, was horses.
He had fallen in love with a dashing and handsome man, who was disinherited, reason unknown. The two met at a racing event and Gifford suggested that they start buying thoroughbreds. Gifford spun the story that his forthcoming inheritance was caught up in litigation and that it would be a year or so before he could pay his share of horses bought and sold.
The ‘Two Dandies’ as folks called them, paraded around Rankville in the latest fashion, never gaudy, but eye-catching. Leonard would explain that Gifford was a cousin who was helping him establish a racing stable. Now and again, the Two Dandies would throw a mixed party and each man would act gallantly towards the women present. A young belle would remember having her hand kissed or a rose bestowed on her as she left in the horse drawn carriage.
By the end of the second year, Leonard approached Gifford on the delicate subject of his lover paying his share of the mounting costs. Gifford made a point of removing his gold watch, throwing his leather wallet on the table, and offering to leave that very night. But, he tapped his head and beamed as if a shaft of wisdom had penetrated his skull. Leonard watched him stomp off shouting, “Yes, yes, yes.” He returned with a old metal box, opened it and handed a old and tattered document to Leonard.
Leonard stared at the document with waxed seals attached.
“Giffy, it’s written in Italian. What is it?”
“The Italian estate that I am going to sell as soon as we get boat tickets for Europe.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Look, luvvy, I’m been a strain on your finances and this blasted litigation has dulled my mind. I was a bit of a gambler in my youth; won a villa by the sea. Damn lucky I was back then. I haven’t visited in ten years, but with cheap Italian labor we can spruce it up and sell it.”
“What’s it like?”
“Well, it has a pool and fountain. It’s surrounded by ocean and mountains.”
Leonard rushed to hug Gifford, his head resting on Gifford’s chest and he looked up into a pair of dark enticing eyes.
“You’ll sport me the boat tickets, won’t you love? Think of it, you and me – alone in Italy with music, and the ocean and making love beneath olive trees. I love you, Lenny. You have brightened my dull life.”
And iwth those words, Gifford lifted Lenny’s 5ft.4 inch frame into his arms, and shouting words of love, intermingled with Italian sentences, carried Leonard into their bedroom.
The next day, both men visited a travel agent and came home armed with brochures of Europe.