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Meet Martha Hamilton

November 2, 1987

Martha Hamilton put the phone back on the hook and turned to Marion Randolph.  “That was Bob.  He’s up to something.”  The two of them were standing in the kitchen at Hamilton Oaks, making breakfast.

In the preceding weeks, Robert III had sold off all but one hundred acres of the grand estate to developers, and then sold all the horses.  The night before, Robert III had told Martha, with considerable satisfaction, “We won’t need Marion any more.  I let him go this afternoon.”

The next morning, Robert III came down to the kitchen to find Marion scrambling eggs for Martha.  “What’s going on?” he had asked.

“The cook quit yesterday, so I hired Marion to take her place.  He’s quite a gourmet.  We’re having chateaubriand tonight to celebrate.”

“How would you like your eggs, sir?” Marion had asked with a smile.

Robert III had made a face and said, “Never mind.  I’m late for the office.”

Just after Robert III had slammed the front door, the telephone had rung.  It was her son, Bob, calling from New York.  After Duke and Wharton Business School, Bob had made a small fortune as an investment banker on Wall Street.

“He says he’s decided to join the Peace Corps,” Martha said to Marion.

“What makes you think he’s up to something?” Marion asked as he dished the eggs onto their plates.  Alone together, they were like an old married couple, easy and comfortable, reading each other’s thoughts and moods, touching often.

“Because I know my son.  He doesn’t have an altruistic bone in his body.  A college buddy got him interested.  This is so unlike him.”

Marion pulled a coffeecake out of the oven, and the two of them sat down.  “Maybe he’s had some sort of crisis of faith.”

Martha took her vitamin pill and washed it down with fresh squeezed orange juice.  “He’s no more capable of a crisis of faith than I am.  I mean I love him, but I don’t trust him.  He’s carrying on about taking a break from the rat race and helping the less fortunate.  I felt like saying: ‘This is your mother.  Don’t bullshit me.’  But, I suppose there’s a one percent chance of redemption.  And, it’s not as if he won’t be doing good.”

The kitchen was warm from the morning’s baking.  Marion leaned over and cracked the window to let in a breeze.  It was a pleasant November morning.  “Maybe the experience will transform him,” he said.  “The Peace Corps can have that effect.”

“We can only hope.  Robert will be apoplectic.  He wants Bob to come home and take over the business.  It’s not as if he’s ever done much but keep out of the way at the office, but he has this vision of turning over the reins to Bob, just as his father did with him.”

Marion sliced a couple big pieces of homemade pecan coffee cake.  “You better hope that doesn’t happen.  Then, he’ll be home all the time.”

“I know,” she said, as she stroked his arm.  “That will never do.