Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Great Grandmother's Story

These are her photographs, taken near the same time this story was written. 

This story was written by my Great Grandmother , Esther Evans Wood in 1938. She so loved to write and I feel so lucky to have boxes and boxes of her works and love letters to my great grandfather, Joe. One of my most prized possessions is her diary from 1924 when she lived as a teen in Washington DC. She had just met Joe and they were always going to the movies together and lawn parties where they would dance into the night. She sent out many a story... None of which were ever published so I do hope you will enjoy this one! 

by Esther Evans Wood     1938
A little old lady stared anxiously at the great stone arch that had chiselled on its weather beaten surface “Willow Tree” and at the wooden placard swinging directly below the crown of the arch on which was printed in faded black letters “ Antiquarium.”
Her cheeks were flushed to the delicate pink, as a young bride’s at the alter, her mouth was soft and trembling, as a girl about to surrender her first kiss. The blueness of her eyes and the whiteness of her hair made one think suddenly of a small patch of blue sky peeping through a pile of snowy clouds.
There was a determination in the little black clad figure that displayed itself as she walked with amazing alacrity up the winding gracel drive to the magnificent old Colonial mansion. Only after mounting the steps to the broad veranda did she show any signs of weariness, and these were quickly erased by the eagerness of her expression.
She knocked at the door which was soon opened by a lovely lady, prematurely gray, and with the clean-cut features of a Cameo.
“Pardon me, Madam, but I understand that this was once the home of Colonel John Bythewood,” she said in a silvery voice.
“yes, madam, many years ago, though. Won’t you come in?” She ushered the ancient one into an immense living room which was a profusion of antiques. “you may relax for awhile, “ she offered, noticing the paleness that had overcome her visitor, “and then I will show you some things that might be of interest.”
The old lady sank in the soft cushions of a chair designated and momentarily closed her eyes, and drew a deep breath. Then, opening her eyes suddenly and seeing that they were quite alone, she said, see, he was a very dear friend of mine when I was young.”
“But he’s been dead since sixty-eight,” said the lady, eyeing her visitor curiously.
“Tell me as much as you know bout him,” urged the old lady. She was a little out of breath in her eagerness. “I left here soon afeer the Civil War.” A shadow of apprehension flitted abross her countenance.
“Well, ask you know he had a beautiful daughter, but a foolish one,” began the lady. “Strange, thisColonel Bythewood went all thru the Civil War without receiving a scrath, then died three years later form a broken heart.”
“Broken heart?” her listener echoed. Tears smarted her eyes.
“Yes, my dear lady, a broken heart,” continued her companion. “His daughter, Martha, to whom he was completely devoted after his wife’s untimely death, fell in love with a young man named Joseph Perrine. They had made mud pies together when they were children, and of course, it was quite natureal for them to fall in love when they had outfrown childhood. This pleased Col. Bythewood greatly at first as he was not only extremely fond of Joseph but also bore the highest regard for his faily. However when the Civil War broke out, Joseph , to the amazement of Col. Bythewood and his own family, joined the Union Army. This, to Col. Bythewood, was the unforgivable sin. He demanded that his daughter case the young man out of her heart. Of course, this was easier said than done, but Martha made an attempt to forget him by allowing herself to become temporarily enamored by a young Confederate Officer, Emerson Wood.
Through her father’s encouragement, Martha submitted to a proposal by him to announce their engameent as soon as the war was over.
“So, as it was told to me, on the iven night, the house was decorated as gayly as Col. bythewood’s conscience would allow, and tho every heart was saddened by the blow of defeat, an effor was made by everyone to enjoy the evening. The ladies dressed in the best of the silks they had saved from the ravages of War. And there was music and dancing.
“Martha, warm from the excitement, went out on the lawn to get a vreath of the performed air. Joseph, who had been wattching her from some shrubbery, made good use of this opportunity of being alone with her. He begged her not to go thru with a marriage that could surley bring no happiness All of the old love must have welled up in her heart, for when young Wood came upon them, Martha was in Joesph’s arms. A quarrel between the rivals ensued which ended in a duel, to be fought the next morning. No one could ever understand why Martha did not confess this to her father, as they had be the best of pasls, but it was all done with the greatest of secrecy. In the morning, Martha follwed them to the appointed place, and, after the duel had been enacted, with Joseph the victor, she fled with him, never to return.”
“But her father.... what did he do?” aske dhte old lady eagerly, with lips twitch.
He searched for her everywhere. Of course, you know, in those days it was quite difficult to trace anyone. Some people thought they had escaped to France; otherwise, Joseph would hav ebeen tried for murder. That must have been the reason why Martha never communicated with her father. She probably feard the law would trace Joseph thru her. Anyway, her poor father died three years later... they say, from a broken heart. But before he died, he made out a trust for her, which was to exist for fifty-years, in case she should ever come back. If she didnt return in that time, the money was to be turned over to some worthy enterprise.” She went to the window and looked out. “Col. Bythewood is buried under that great willow tree, beside his wife.”
The old lady’s voice was broken by hidden sobs. “Do you mind if I go to his grave... alone?”
“I understand,” the lady said gently. “I will at least escort you to the path.”
The old lady walked slowly down the flagstone path that suddenly brached off near the foot of the
hill, and let to a winding brook. The air was sweet with honeysuckle and damp grass. The sky was a grofewous blue with great piles of white clouds scattered over it. The willow tree stood like a queen, dipping its lacy leaves in the brook.
She looked at the fields, the sky and back at the house, with eyes that seemed to be drinkin their last drop. She moved over to the emerald monds, with the shining headstones.
Sweet and peaveful! A soft breeze swayed the hyoung grass and multicolored flowers that sprinkled the mounds. A calmness took posession of her as she knelt geside the Colonel’s grave. A calmness she had not known for what seemd to be a hundred years. She was so tired!
She opened her little black bag, and drank the contents of smal vila. She replaced the vial and laid the bag carefully on the swaying grass.
And, as one preparing for a comfortable nap, she laid herself across the grave. Her lips moved slowly, as she said 
“Father, I have come.”
The End

1 comment:

  1. I love this, and even more so is the fact you have these beautifully write letters from your great grandmother. They are such a treasure. In some way, sometime, you may find you are able to do what she could not. Get them published, either on their own or through your own body of work.
    I am so enjoying your blog. New to your work, so just now catching up on your blog. Your corner of the World is Enchanting. I've always lived in two huge Cities, NY and Los Angeles, but my soul is somewhere much more quiet.
    Thank You for the lovely visuals, much appreciated ; )


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