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
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,
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
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
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
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,
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