A BOX OF OLD UN-MAILED LOVE LETTERS

 

                  

Miss Ellie Bramwell died tonight. She lived one hundred and one years in the house she was born in. An old, Victorian type on the corner of Oak and Adams streets, in a quaint little village on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the shores of Lake Superior.

Rumors had it that there was a fortune hidden somewhere in the house. Simple minded people believed since she had never worked a day in her life, for wages that is, that she had to have a stash somewhere.

She was much to smart for that. The truth of the matter was that she did have a fortune but it was safe in a bank, drawing interest.

Her father, the late Hiram Bramwell made a fortune in copper mining. He owned two mines and when he died, Ellie and her only sibling, a brother named Robert, each inherited one. Unfortunately for Robert, his mine ran out but Ellie’s produced for quite sometime and she invested in certain stocks, which kept the money rolling in. To say she was simply a millionaire would not be accurate.

Now everything will be inherited by her only living relative, a great niece. In fact, it was already legally hers as Ellie called her attorney’s in on her ninety eighth birthday and made arrangements for everything to be changed over to her nieces name at the moment of her death. Except for one hundred thousand dollars that was to go to the housekeeper, Mrs. Moran who had given twenty years of excellent service. She had been a widow at the age of forty, with two teenage children, a boy of sixteen and a girl of thirteen, when she went to work for Ellie. Ellie took a great liking to Mrs. Moran, as she was a good worker and didn’t go around bemoaning her fate.  Ellie paid her a more than fair wage, which enabled her to live a comfortable life and send her children to college. Now, Ellie had made sure Mrs. Moran would remain comfortable.

Ellie’s niece was Mary Eloise Potter. The Eloise was in honor of Ellie. They were very close, as Ellie had doted on the child since her birth. I am not saying she spoiled the child but her parents were not well off financially and Ellie saw that she had all the little extra’s she needed. Like, birthday parties, a new dress and shoes each year for Easter and when Mary showed a natural ear for music, there were piano lessons.

Some people called Ellie a miser. She wasn’t. She merely did not believe in filling her home with expensive trinkets to entice unscrupulous characters.

Then there were some who called her an angel because she did donate to the poor. Each Easter and Christmas she saw that the poor families in town received a basket of food and each year she furnished food, presents and decorations for a huge Christmas gala at the orphanage fifty miles away. Although she preferred to remain anonymous, word leaked out by the people she hired to make the arrangements.

Mary Eloise came to live with Ellie at the age of fifteen when her parents were killed tragically in a boating accident.

Ellie sent Mary to a fine Christian boarding school for young ladies. She came home for summer breaks and holidays and emerged from the school, a refined young lady at the age of nineteen with a degree in music. She planned to pursue a position in teaching but did not seek employment however, as Ellie was now ninety-six years old and wanted Mary to stay at home with her. Not that her health was all that bad, she was in very good shape for someone her age. She merely wanted Mary’s companionship for a few months. Mary felt she had plenty of time to go out in the world and make a life for herself and she wanted to give back some of the love her aunt had showered on her. But the months turned into years.

They were much alike in the things they enjoyed. Ellie had a small cabin on a private, inland lake where they spent most of their summers. They both loved to swim and Ellie was well up in her eighties before giving it up. They also enjoyed picnics on the beach, soaking up the sun and taking yearly trips abroad, touring Europe.

It was not long after Ellie’s ninety-eighth birthday that her health began to deteriorate. She lost her appetite and became very thin and frail. She would not hear of a doctor, saying, “The good Lord would take care of things in His own time.”

By the time Ellie reached her one-hundredth year she seemed to grow weaker by the day and they spent most of their time in front of the fireplace, Ellie in her rocker and wrapped in a shawl. Mary on the floor at her feet, reading novels and poems to her. Ellie dearly loved a good mystery novel. The kind with a twist, so you couldn’t possibly solve it before reading the end.  She also loved to hear Mary play the piano and loved all the beautiful classical tunes, especially those of Chopin. Occasionally, though, she asked Mary to play some of the old hand clapping, foot stomping gospel songs she had sang all her life.

 Tonight, just a few months after Ellie’s one hundredth and one birthday Mary finished a novel and put the book away. Ellie asked if she was tired of reading. Mary said, no, if she would like for her to read something else, she would be glad to.

Ellie took a gold chain that held a golden key, from around her neck and handed it to Mary, saying it was the key to the cedar chest at the foot of her bed. She asked Mary to go unlock it and take two boxes from it. One was tied with a white ribbon; the other was tied with a black ribbon. Mary left the room and returned shortly with the two boxes. She was very curious as to what they contained.

Ellie told her the one with the white ribbon was a box of old un-mailed love letters from her to her fiancé and the one with the black ribbon was a box of love letters from her fiancé to her. The letters were numbered and she would like for Mary to read them to her starting with number one in the box with the black ribbon, then number one in the box with the white ribbon and so on. Then when she finished reading them all, she would like for her to burn them in the fireplace.

Mary asked why she had never mailed her letters.

Ellie told her that she had been engaged to her childhood sweetheart who went to sea, working on a freighter. When he came into a port, he mailed letters to her but never knew where his next port would be so she had no way of knowing where to send hers. But she answered the letters anyway and when he was able to be home for a few days, he read them and asked her to keep them for him until he was able to leave the sea for good and they could be married. That day finally came and he was on his way home. Unfortunately, he was aboard an ill-fated vessel.   It was late October and a severe winter storm blew in early, capsizing the ship. It sank to the bottom of Lake Superior, so close to home. The entire crew was lost. That was the reason she had remained a spinster. Oh, she had plenty of suitors, for she was quite an attractive young lady. Petite with long auburn hair and green eyes but no one ever made her heart pound the way her lost love had.

Mary had to wait until the tears cleared her eyes to read the letters, then she read them, in order, the way Ellie had requested.

After reading several letters she could tell that this was one of the greatest loves possible, between a man and a woman and she felt great compassion for her aunt.

When she read the last letter, Ellie said, “Thank you Mary.” and with a smile on her face, she closed her eyes, never to open them again.

Mary was grief stricken. Not only for the loss of her beloved aunt but also for the fate of two star crossed lovers as well. She hoped that somehow, somewhere, they were together now. She took the letters and in the order she had read them, placed them one by one into the fire.

By Lora Cox ©2000

 

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