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"Now, now," said Vera, "don't talk that way about Gloria. She's been a good friend. I'll call her and set everything straight. You've got nothing to complain about. At least you got some nice clothes out of it. And, I must say, Gloria did touch upon something true: you don't see enough young people your own age."

"You're not going to make me stop seeing Adam or Maggie, are you?" asked Charlie.

"Of course not," replied Vera. "But I do want you to promise me that you'll try to make friends with other teenagers. It's not healthy for you to always be around others who are three times your age!"

Later that evening, Charlie walked to Mullen-Overholt and watched Jerome and Adam as they played chess. As usual, Jerome won the game and exulted over his vanquished enemy with typical animosity. And, as usual, Adam brought up one or two timely necessities that needed Jerome's attention. When their game had come to an end, Charlie lingered a while after Jerome left the room.

Seeing there was something on her mind, Adam offered Jerome's vacant chair to the teenager, which she readily accepted.

"Penny for your thoughts," said Adam, setting up the chessboard. "You do play, don't you?"

"Try me," challenged Charlie.

Charlie moved her pieces with rapid decision, while Adam preferred to take his time. Even with Adam's thoughtful pauses, the game finished all too soon.

"You win," he acquiesced.

"I can't say I'm surprised," replied Charlie, disappointedly. "Don't you ever stick up for yourself?"

"What do you mean?"

"You let me win just as you let Uncle Jerome win. At least I don't belittle you like he does. Why do you let him win, anyway?"

"It's my choice," pointed out Adam, setting up the board again.

"People say horrible things behind your back and even to your face, and all you do is remain silent! Why?"

"What horrible thing did you hear about me?" asked Adam, soberly. Charlie hesitated. Even in her fluster of righteous indignation, she was embarrassed to say it out loud.

"Our next door neighbor accused you and Maggie of having an affair," whispered Charlie, not wanting the staff to overhear her.

"I see," replied Adam, quietly. There was sadness in his eyes, but he tried hard not to let it show. "To answer your question, I play chess with Jerome, because he is in a position to help the people in his care. My mother happens to be one of those people. And, sometimes, I'm able to intercede on the behalf of others. Chess affords me rare access to your uncle. As for what others say about me, all I can do is live my life in the fear of God, so that when others try to defame my name, those who truly know me, will recognize a lie when they hear one."

"For what it's worth, I know you're innocent," said Charlie, looking up from the chessboard. "I never doubted it for a second."

"I'd say that's worth a great deal," returned Adam, gratefully.

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold." (Proverbs 22:1)

As time passed, the ugly rumor was unfortunately replaced by another concerning someone else. (Much to our relief, it wasn't concerning anyone we knew.)

It was an hour after midnight when Charlie first realized something was wrong. She had been fast asleep, when a muffled noise came from the living room. Charlie opened her eyes, and wondered if she had been dreaming. Still half asleep, she dozed off only to wake up, inexplicably, once again. From her bed, Charlie strained to hear any abnormal sounds in the house. All was silent. Thinking she had imagined the noise, she was about to go back to sleep, when the grandfather clock by the front door chimed once. It was one in the morning. Realizing that she would not be content until she went to investigate, Charlie climbed out of bed and put on her robe.
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