The history of a family is a collection of individual stories, woven together and passed on to each new generation, sometimes as oral legends and sometimes as memories stored on paper and in photographs. The people of the past come alive in letters, journals, pictures, and mementos. This is one of those stories…
Sara leaned out the second-story window, watching for her father’s carriage, breathing deeply of the salty sea. Her father’s farm was less than a mile from the ocean, and the sea was her love.
Chin in her hands, elbows on the windowsill, Sara let the wind toy with her curly blond hair. She saw tiny swirls of dust on the road that led to Bushmills, the nearest town. She swung her hips so that her skirt brushed her ankles. At fifteen, this was her first long dress, and Sara still reveled in the reality.
As her father’s brown horses pulled up in front of the house, Sara joined her mother on the porch, in time to hear her father introduce a guest.
“Charles Stewart, my wife and daughters, Mary and Sara.”
Sara curtseyed slightly as Charles nodded respectfully. He was handsome and strong, with tan skin, bright blue eyes, and a captivating Scottish accent.
Charles stayed for dinner, keeping them entertained for hours. Before long, Charles Stewart came regularly. Often Sara and Charles took long walks, talking of the sea, his travels, and his hope to sail to America. As he talked, Sara began to share his far-away dreams.
Fifteen-year-old Sara leaned out her bedroom window, feeling for the ladder beneath the sill, and waited for the signal. Mary shifted in their bed, and Sara glanced at the bed.
Days before, Mary had put in motion this chain of events. Unaware that Sara and Charles were walking in the twilight nearby, Mary’s voice had carried across the dusky air.
“That Charles Stewart is certainly paying a good deal of attention to our Sally. It concerns me, Mother, because she’s too young to be married and go to America. She’s only fifteen! We must not let her go so young.”
Charles had chuckled at her words. They had, indeed, discussed that very thing. But if the family was against it, what hope did they have? So they made their plans. Before his ship sailed at the end of the week, they could be secretly married. Then he could go to America, make a place for her, and come back to get her.
Sara spoke softly, “You will be gone a long time.”
“Yes. It might be a year or more. But Sara,” he pulled her close, “I will come back for you.”
Sara was startled from the memory by a low whistle. Charlie’s signal! Leaving the dark house, they were married, and the next morning, Charles sailed for America. Sara remained at home and waited.
Sara leaned on the windowsill. At twenty-one, Sara Stewart was lovely with brown hair curled in the latest style. But though life was pleasant and the sea air washed around her lovingly, Sara was heavy-hearted.
Eight years ago, she’d been married. Eight years ago, Charles Stewart had promised to return. There had been a handful of letters that first year. But then, with America’s embargo forbidding ships to sail for Britain, the letters had stopped. And Charlie didn’t come.
Maybe he had forgotten her in America. Maybe her decision to marry him had indeed been foolhardy, as she’d overheard Mary say to Mother last night. Eight years was a long time. Sara sighed.
A coming carriage stirred the dusty road from Bushmills, her father returning from his weekly trip into town. She watched him come, thinking back to when he had come home, bringing Charlie, eight years ago.
As the carriage neared, Sara saw two dark figures in Father’s carriage instead of only one. Leaning further out her window, she saw the passenger stand and wave. Could it really be?
Sara raced down the stairs to the front porch to see Charlie Stewart jump from his seat, running for the house. She flew into his arms, eight years of longing holding them together.
“My dearest Sara,” Charlie whispered, “I told you I’d come back.”
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