Clara Kinsington stood at the bottom of the winding staircase, her delicate, nineteen-year-old features set in look of weary resignation. She didn’t want to make the climb, nor did she wish to spend another day with the spyglass to her eye, scanning the choppy waters for signs of a ship making its way into Corbett’s Cove. Still, she lifted her skirts and began the slow ascent to the lighthouse service room to relieve her father of his nightly duties.
Clara took over the daylight watch duties the day her betrothed sailed away to make his fortune. It seemed a grand adventure in those first few months. Her friends often visited the service room, where they helped her add delicate embroidery to the pieces of her trousseau. Always, they talked of the upcoming wedding, and Clara watched the horizon with hopeful eyes.
Months stretched out to form a year, however, and life below the lighthouse went on. There were parties and formal teas, followed by weddings and the births of several babes. The girls of her age no longer had time to visit. She watched their happiness from high above and wondered if she was destined to become an old maid
Clara forced a smile as she joined her father at the watch room railing. “Good morning,” she said. “I left hotcakes in the oven for you. If you hurry, you might get to eat them before they turn cold.”
Father wrapped her in his bear-like embrace. “Sweet Clara, you’re so like you’re mother. She was forever hoping to feed me a hot meal. She’d be proud of the woman you’ve become.”
“I don’t know,” Clara said. “If she knew about my doubts….”
“She’d understand.” Father studied her solemn expression for a long moment before bending to kiss her forehead. “Hold fast, my dear. William will come.”
When she was alone, Clara unfolded the pages of her betrothed’s last letter. Tears clouded her vision as she read the last paragraph.
Wait for me just a little longer, Clara. I have purchased a small trading ship, and will make one more voyage before I return to set up house with my beautiful bride. I promise that our life together will be worth the wait. Until then, keep watch for me. You will know my ship when you see it.
With all my love,
On days like this, when raging seas threatened to extinguish her last glimmer of hope, Clara relied on William’s words of unfailing devotion to bear her through the storm. Fortified by the knowledge of his love, she took up the spy glass and positioned herself at the railing.
She dared not hope too much when she first spotted white sails bobbing above the churning waters. She’d been too often disappointed when great ships passed by their small harbor, so she simply watched through the long morning, her eyes on the vessel that sailed ever closer to Corbett’s Cove. It was not until Father returned at noon that she allowed herself to believe this might be William’s homecoming day.
“There’s a storm rolling in,” Father said. “I’ll light the beacon, so they know to sail carefully around the rocks.”
The afternoon wind was bitter, but Clara remained at the railing, her eyes on the ship that bobbed and dipped far below. Her head hurt from the effort to find some identifying detail through curtains of heavy rain and, later, fat snowflakes. William had promised she would know the ship. How?
The young woman’s heart was in her throat as she watched the captain maneuver the small vessel around the jutting rock formations. Crashing waves threatened to swamp the ship, and then tossed it upward so that the hull nearly cleared the water. In one moment of perfect clarity, she caught sight of the name emblazoned along the side of the ship, and knew that William had indeed returned home.
The Faithful Bride made it safely to harbor, and her captain hurried to the dock to find Clara waiting for him. William and Clara’s wedding feast was a long time in coming, but everyone agreed it was a celebration worth waiting for.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh. Go ye out to meet him. - Matthew 25:6 (KJV)
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