She was a dear little lady, with white hair full of loose waves and hardly any wrinkles on a smooth well-cared-for-skin. She had beautiful brown eyes that darted around so as not to miss a thing and a beaming smile, which one couldn’t help but return.
She greeted Eileen at the door of her little stone cottage, which was surrounded by gardens and trees. It was the last house down a quiet lane with only a few other houses dotted here and there.
`Well my dear, how nice of you to call on me, do come in. Could you share a cup of tea with me, that’s if you have time of course? Everyone is in a hurry these days what with their families, work, meetings and all those special things, so I don’t get many visitors. Now do tell me your name?’
After this attractive young woman introduced herself as Eileen Broad, here on holiday for a well-earned break from work, she followed her host into the sitting-room, surprised that Laura didn’t seem to be at all bothered about taking a stranger indoors.
`Make yourself at home. You can sit anywhere you like, except in the rocking chair. It’s Elbert’s. He pops in any old time. I never know when he’ll turn up.’
Eileen settled on a very comfy, old-fashioned Tudor chair.
`It’s lovely to meet you, I am staying with my friend Jocelyn who lives over the other side of this charming little village. I live in the heart of Coventry and I am sick of the crowds and traffic so I thought I would come down for a visit. My two children, Bruce, ten years and Melissa eight are on a holiday at their Auntie’s farm in Warwick.
“Jocelyn has an appointment today so I decided to go for a walk. Heading down this lane, I spied your cottage and gardens. I felt so drawn to them that I just had to come in and ask if I could have a look around. This village, Stow in the Wold, is such a charming spot but I’ve never had the time to explore it before. Yes I know! It’s due to work, family and meetings just as you said.’
`Well now dear, you have a look around while I go and get the tea. We’ll go outside later. By the way my name is Laura Stilton and I’ve lived here for over fifty years, although I’m going to have to shift shortly as I’m blind as a bat. My family seem to think I need looking after! I don’t know why. I’m only eighty-five and very well and fit.’
Eileen was amazed to hear Laura say she was blind. Her eyes seemed to move normally and she was so confident.
`Give me a call when you’re ready and I’ll come and carry the tray for you.’
`There you go, just like the rest of them, I can manage you know.’
`Yes of course you can, sorry, I’ll just enjoy myself here. I can see you don’t need watching over.’
As Eileen wondered around the room she noticed a statue beside the fireplace. It was of a little boy with a puppy and a ball. There were some photos of an olden-day wedding on the mantelpiece. The beautiful bride must have been Laura, and a very handsome bride-groom was at her side.
When she walked away to study some more photos on a shelf, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that the statue was on the other side of the fireplace from where she had just seen it. Oh! I must be imagining things she thought. It can’t move by itself.
The tea arrived at that moment and they enjoyed each others’ company. All of a sudden Eileen noticed the photo of the wedding sliding along the mantelpiece. So, I’m not imagining this. It is really happening!
When Eileen mentioned thesetwo incidents to Laura, she didn’t seem at all bothered.
She merely said, `Now Elbert, you behave yourself. You mustn’t frighten Eileen away. It’s lovely having her here, so unexpected too.’
Soon after this the rocking chair started to gently rock, with a little squeaking sound. Laura smiled and said, `That’s better No more games now!
`I’m sorry about this little display. He’s a bit mischievous sometimes. I’ve told him before not to come when I have visitors. Elbert is my husband, he had a serious illness two years ago and died. I was devastated and couldn’t cope without him. Suddenly he turned up again. I saw him sitting on the end of my bed. He didn’t say anything just smiled in his loveable way and I knew he had come to take care of me. Now then dear where were we?’
`You can’t leave off there, please, tell me more.’
`Alright Elbert bought this beautiful little home. giving it to me for a wedding present. He said he really loved it and was sure I would too, which of course I did, I adored it! We have been so happy all our married lives. I suppose Elbert will also go when I leave here to live with my family. I hopehe follows me and is constant companion until I can join him.’
Eileen. doing some quick thinking, asked if the cottage was on the market.
`Yes,’ said Laura ‘but so far we haven’t seen anyone, I only gave it to the estate-agent the other day.’
`You know I think I could raise funds to buy it. I love it already, even though I haven’t seen upstairs, or the kitchen and garden, or anything really.’ Eileen chuckled. ‘There’s a lovely feeling about it, even with a ghost here. I’m sure my children and I would be very happy. I saw the shops and there’s probably a school not far away. It’s really a delightful neighbourhood and so pretty. What do you think about that idea?’
Laura clapped her hands and said `How marvellous I would love to see you and your family here. And of course I could come visiting you. Did you hear that Elbert. Are you still here? You could even come back here sometimes. I’m sure Eileen wouldn’t mind. I think it’s a wonderful idea.’
The rocking chair rocked. Laura’s delight was very moving to see.
`I’ll show you around the rest of the house and garden, and give you the name of the agent.’
`I’m really excited now’ said Eileen. `I’m one of those people who make decisions quickly.’
It was all go for the next few weeks but eventually both the moves had been accomplished. Everyone was happy and Laura was a constant visitor. There had been no sign of Elbert but it didn’t really matter, Laura was revelling in visits to her former home, and in meeting her new friends.
One night Eileen woke suddenly, to find…it could only be Elbert, sitting on the end of her bed. She grabbed the blankets up then realized he had a lovely smile. She relaxed. `Have you come for a visit or to stay? You are very welcome you know’
He disappeared. With a smile, Eileen snuggled down to a blissful sleep.
In the morning she raced around to Laura and told her about last night’s visitor. Laura seized hold of the rocking chair. `Take this back for him. I’m so thrilled to know he’s there again. Can I come and visit you and my Elbert whenever it suits you? I promise not to be a nuisance.’
The children loved Laura and Elbert. When the rocking-chair moved they were ecstatic. Elbert seemed to play up to them with his little tricks.
A few years later, Laura went to join Elbert. It was a very sad little home for awhile,as they had to get used to life without their best friends.