Short story - 'A Treasured Tale'.
A Greater Love Hath No Man - Ellie begins to read
When an Irish aunt turns up on the doorstep, Ellie's daily routine is turned upside down! But there's a bigger surprise contained in a small leather bound journal which opens a window to her past.
Half a bottle of a red Rioja was helping the evening along and Ellie sighed as she put her glass down on the little table next to the chair. That's when the book caught her eye, a small leather bound journal which Auntie O'Neill had produced from her cavernous handbag the previous evening. A family treasure she had called it.
"A book in which you will find yourself, my girl. It belonged to your great grandfather and it's the tale of his travels and how he came back to Ireland with his new wife and it's time now to pass it on."
Ellie had said a 'thank you' but with all their chatter she had not quite understood her Aunt's meaning and simply put it down unopened.
Ellie curled her long legs under her. Yes, Auntie O'Neill had used the words 'back' and 'new wife' and said it contained a gift to be treasured above all else. Curiosity got the better of her and she picked the book up and felt its worn leather cover. A musty, old smell, yet vaguely salty invoked an image of the sea which seemed to reach out to her. She opened it and idly turned a few pages, looking at the spidery hand writing, sometimes faint and faded in places, in others the ink dark against the yellowing pages. She turned another page and an old sepia photograph stared back at her. An image of a young face with long dark hair and striking features. A beautiful young woman with piercing eyes and a gaze so intense it seemed to hold you, draw you in as if reading your innermost thoughts. Ellie gasped. The picture, the young woman staring back at her. Underneath was an inscription, 'Eleanor Esmeralda' to which had been added ' a greater love hath no man'
Ellie stared at the picture, transfixed, drawn to it. Then the truth dawned upon her. It was like looking in a mirror, it could have been her, Ellie. She turned back a few pages and began to read.
The leather journal - a diary from the past.
"My dearest, communication reached me today that you are alive and in England. Oh what joy. The news filled my eyes with tears; my heart leapt and beat so fiercely I thought my chest would surely break. After all this time we shall be together again. I have endured so much in my efforts to return to your side, I feared our love would fade and we would never set eyes upon each other again.
I must make immediate haste to find passage but fear my journey may be long and dangerous and events will once more conspire to prevent our coming together. Be brave, my love, we shall prevail.
My horse is saddled, sword at my side, pistol at my waist, great cloak wrapped around my now slender frame. The early light of a new dawn sends its sun kissed fingers o'er the mountains to the east. My journey begins, my sweet, and I pray you can hear my thoughts.
The road is long and tiring. My way is dangerous. I have crossed the snow capped peaks and can now espy the sea less than a days ride away. I am weak from lack of food; the cold eats and gnaws into my very bones and soul. The warmth of your love for me spurs me forward, your passion acts as my guiding star. I will press on, my sweet, but without rest I fear for my well being.
I see a distant light, and the smell of a warm fire starts to fill my nostrils. I have found sanctuary for the night. Until the morrow when my journey of adventure to be by your side continues. Good night my sweet, my dear, you are next to me in my dreams, your warm fingers soothing my tired brow.
I awoke next day greatly refreshed. My dreams and vision lingered with me as I rose and considered the day ahead. I wanted to make haste, to make my dreams come true. I quickly bade my hosts farewell and set off to the port and to find passage to England. I could not have been in better spirits. My dear I am coming home."
Ellie read on turning page after page of the treasured journal, completely engrossed with the story unfolding before her eyes.
"I was not to know that a chance encounter with a fellow countryman later that day would plunge me into the very depths of despair and into such an emotional abyss.
I had arrived at a port and secured a berth on a ship bound for Bristol. With a few hours till the evening tide I sought hospitality in a quayside inn. In front of a warm fire and with thoughts of home uppermost in my mind a man engaged me in conversation, and introduced himself as Samuel Blake. It became apparent from his manner he was a man of good standing, who had seen better times. There was an air of sadness about him. He talked of his circumstances, his marriage, his wife, and what had brought him to this point. He showed me a photograph. It was you my dear, it was you.
Words cannot express how I felt. I stumbled out of the inn and somehow boarded the ship, pushing people aside in my eagerness to reach the solitude of my cabin. For the next two days my world stood still. I slept fitfully and kept to my cabin scarcely eating a morsel. On the third day I paced the decks for hours, the sea spray stinging my cheeks, the cold wind shrieking in my ears. I was soaked through. I looked over the prow of the ship and at the foaming waters below. Mesmerised by the sea I saw you again, my dear. You were there beneath the waves; hair streaming in the ships wake, your red lips parted into a smile, mocking me and with your outstretched hand beckoning me to you. I reached out to intertwine my fingers with yours. My dear, my love, we shall be together again.
Suddenly warm fingers brushed the back of my hand and held it tight, an arm fastened around my waist. I tore myself away from your gaze and turned to see the greenest eyes I had ever seen and long dark hair cascading over bare shoulders. Gently hands pulled me away from the rail and led me to the saloon. There this woman pushed a glass of port into my shaking hands, and smiled. It was the sweetest of smiles, and it reached into the very depths and darkness of my despair.
Later as I lay in my bunk I reflected on how Samuel Blake had shown me the truth, your falsehood; and of the years I had spent within your thrall. It made me both sad and angry. Perhaps I had known in my heart of hearts it was to be thus, but had pretended otherwise, secretly hoping to bind you to me. Now you had almost taken my life. I vowed you would trouble me no more. I lay back to sleep, contented. Thoughts of dear Eleanor Esmeralda flooded into my dreams and overwhelmed my senses.
I stirred as the cabin door opened and my eyes glanced upon Eleanor Esmeralda once more. Pale moonlight danced across her elegant features as she stood silhouetted in the doorway. She gazed affectionately down at me and smiled. Her bright green eyes held me transfixed once more. Hesitating for the briefest of moments she gently closed the door behind her and moved towards me. We spent the rest of the night in each other's arms in the tenderest of embraces. It was the most wonderful of nights.
The next day, calm and at peace, I had the clarity of mind as to know my way ahead. I had spent the past few hours in the delightful company of Eleanor Esmeralda and the prospect of seeing her again excited and filled me with fresh resolve. I was alive again, contented. Thoughts of dear Eleanor Esmeralda flooded into my dreams and overwhelmed my senses. The rest of the voyage flashed past in a blur of happiness at the pure joy and delight of each other's company. God was in his heaven and all was right in the world. I knew we were meant for each other and I made an oath to myself that I would do all within my power to ensure we would stay together forever, and never spend a day apart. Our love and desire for each other would remain constant."
A verse from a poem by Sir John Suckling had been written in the margin.
Out upon it, I have loved
Three whole days together;
And am like to love three more,
If it prove fair weather.
Time shall moult away his wings,
Ere he shall discover
In the whole wide world again
Such a constant lover.
Ellie looked up, tears welling in her eyes. Auntie O'Neill was sitting there, just watching and nodding. Tears were in her eyes too. She knew it would not be long till Ellie found her real treasure too.
Antony was born in the small coastal town of Saltburn-by-the-sea, and lived in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire before returning to his native Yorkshire. He has spent his adult life in the north of England working for a UK Bank and two Government Agencies.
Now living in Yorkshire between the Dales and the Moors Antony enjoys writing and taking photographs. He has written and published two ebooks bringing together some of his short stories and humorous anecdotes, and been published in The Yorkshire Dalesman.
His interests include walking, photography, history, travel, reading books and watching cricket.
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© 2011 Antony J Waller