Anna and her two brothers Benjamin and Seth were happy children. They lived in a modest but comfortable house on the English moors with their parents Harry and Annabel Squires. Anna was named after her mother, a hard working soul whose main purpose in life was to be a good wife and mother. Harry had a small farm and ran sheep on it. He also had a mine, which only ever produced a small amount of coal but it was enough to give the family a modest living.
Annabel was a wonderful seamstress and was always in demand to sew gowns for the local ladies. This of course was a big help in supplementing the families income.
Harry and Annabel’s nearest neighbours were Christine and Jacob Rudd. They had two sons and two daughters. The families spent quite a bit of time together, and the children often played in the fields between the two properties. They also enjoyed swimming in the stream and catching small fish.
As the years passed by it was hoped Anna would marry Christine and Jacob’s eldest son Bertie. It was obvious they were close, but was it just because they had grown up together or was it something more?
On Anna’s eighteenth birthday her parents put on a party for her. Anna was now a beautiful young woman and it was time she made her entrance into society. Annabel had spent weeks making a beautiful apricot gown for Anna. She looked stunning, her blonde curly hair was put up and she wore a black velvet bow in it. Bertie gasped when he saw Anna, she looked so elegant and grown up. Bertie’s father gave him a push of encouragement and suggested he should ask Anna to dance before some other young man bet him to it.
Anna blushed a little when Bertie walked over to her and asked her for a dance, bowing and giving her a light kiss on the hand.
They both looked wonderful on the dance floor and for the rest of the evening they didn’t leave each other’s side. Both sets of parents looked on approvingly, as did their siblings.
Two days after the party Bertie called on Anna’s father to ask if he might be allowed to court her. Harry shook Bertie’s hand and gave him a pat of approval on the shoulder.
Soon Anna and Bertie were able to go out together and within six months Bertie asked Anna’s parents if he could marry her.
Both families were happy and preparations were made for a spring wedding. Anna asked Bertie’s sister Maude to be maid of honour while Bertie’s brother Edwin was asked to be groomsman.
The wedding day arrived and there was much excitement in the house, and even the sprinkle of rain did not dampen Anna’s excitement. Anna looked beautiful in her wedding dress, again designed and made by her mother. Maude wore a pale blue dress and had little daisies in her hair.
It was a lovely day; sixty guests were invited and the reception was held at the church vicarage. Some of the guests enjoyed a walk through the beautiful garden while the wedding party had their photos taken.
After the reception Bertie and Anna went to London for a week and upon their return they settled into a quaint little cottage just a few miles up the road from their parents. It had two bedrooms and a cosy lounge. Wisteria grew around the entrance.
A few months after they were married Bertie announced to Anna that he wanted to join the navy; he explained to her that he felt a duty to serve his country. He told Anna he would be away for at least three months before he could get leave to come home. Anna was upset at first, they had been married not quite six months and now he was leaving her. Anna knew in her heart however that she had no choice but to agree to her husband joining up, so she gave him her blessing as long as he promised to stay safe.
Three weeks later Bertie packed his bag and left to join the crew on the ‘Endeavour.’ Anna struggled to keep her emotions under control. Bertie hugged her tight and told her the three months would go fast and he would soon be back with her. Anna watched until the coach disappeared from sight and then ran inside to let the tears flow. The following day Anna’s parents came over to see their daughter and suggested she go home with them for a few days, reluctantly Anna agreed. Her mother tried everything to lift her spirits, including teaching her how to sew.
Over the next few weeks Anna spent part of the time at the cottage and the rest of the time at her parent’s house. After Bertie had been gone two months Anna discovered she was going to have a baby. She was both happy and sad at the same time. This was news she would have wanted to share with Bertie. Annabel tried to encourage her daughter to start making baby gowns; this she thought would help her pass the time.
Slowly but surely Anna began to perk up – she tidied the little cottage up and prettied up her hair, it was now almost three months since Bertie had left. Every day she listened for the sound of a coach arriving. However after three and a half months had passed Anna started to get anxious, Bertie should have been back by now. Anna spoke both to her father and father-in-law and it was decided they should wait a month before contacting the Navy.
The days were long and Anna was struggling. Bertie did not know about the baby and she longed for him to return.
Eventually word arrived at Bertie’s parents’ house. Bertie had been reported as ‘missing, presumed drowned’. It transpired that as the ship was returning to Portsmith it encountered a huge storm. Some of the crew were washed over board and as Bertie was on deck at the time it seemed he had most likely perished.
Bertie’s parents went over to fetch Anna’s parents so they could all tell her together. Anna was hysterical at the news and her mother feared for her unborn baby. In the following days Anna refused to eat or sleep and became increasingly distraught and withdrawn. Eventually her parents persuaded her to move back home and get her strength back up. She had four months to go before the baby was due.
Once back at her parents’ house Anna slowly made progress, although every evening before dinner she would go up onto the moors and look out over the coastline, scanning the ocean. She continued to hang on to hope that just maybe Bertie would still turn up as he had promised her.
The weeks passed by and all Anna could do was live in hope and look forward to the birth of her child. How she wished her husband could be with her at this special time.
Little Julius was ultimately born on a cold winters morning; he had dark hair and looked so like his father. He was a sweet little baby and he brought sunshine back into Anna’s life. Every time Anna looked at him she could see her beloved Bertie, she felt this would give her comfort she needed to raise him on her own.
As Julius grew Bertie’s brother Edwin began to come over to visit them more often. Edwin was a couple of years younger than Anna, he was a nice young man and he cared for both Julius and Anna. He liked to check in on his sister-in-law and make sure she and Julius were managing. His friendship meant a lot to Anna and she grew accustomed to having him in their life.
As Julius turned two years old, Edwin summoned up the courage to ask Anna to marry him. After some thought Anna agreed, she appreciated Julius needed a father figure. Edwin was a kind and gentle man, and Anna knew her life with him would be secure. He was doing well and had a small law firm in town.
The wedding was at the local church with an afternoon tea at Annabel and Henry’s home. Both families were delighted to see Anna happy again.
It was decided that Anna and Edwin move into the larger cottage on his parents estate. This would give them a fresh start.
Anna and Edwin appeared outwardly happy, but Edwin sensed his wife was still missing his brother. He hoped in time she would learn to love him in the same way, and that Bertie would just be a lovely memory.
Often in an evening Edwin would find his wife up on the moors looking out at the ocean. He would let her be, as he knew how much Anna loved his brother and only time would make it easier for her to let go.
The years gradually went by and the couple settled down into married life. They had a little daughter named Sarah, whose arrival helped to bring the couple closer together. Though Bertie was not talked about often Anna still continued to carry his photo in a locket around her neck. As soon as Julius was old enough Anna explained to him that his Daddy had died before he was born.
Even though Anna was happy with her life with Edwin, she continued her nightly vigil to the moors, it was something Edwin lived with and accepted. Often Edwin would ask his wife if she would like him to go with her but she always insisted on going alone.
When the children got older they would occasionally go with their mother on her nightly walks. Anna tried to explain to Julius that his father went away as soldier on a ship. As Bertie had no grave it was difficult for the family to grieve properly. On her father-in-law’s suggestion a memorial tree was planted on the moors, this gave them somewhere special to remember Bertie. The tree would also give Julius a place to go to as he grew up.
For years Anna kept going up to the moors and would look longingly out at the sea. This was the place where she felt closest to Bertie and where she would talk to him about her life and what a fine young boy his son was growing into.
As Anna entered into her fiftieth year, Edwin became seriously ill with consumption. Anna never left his bedside. The children would come and sit with him also. He was a wonderful father and they were beside themselves to see their beloved father so ill. As he lay dying he put out his hand to Anna and she took his hand in hers. Edwin told her she had been a good wife and she had made him happy. He told her he had no regrets marrying her, even though he knew in his heart she missed Bertie terribly he understood, and all he wanted to do was to love and protect her and the children. Anna cried and told Edwin she did care for him deeply and that she had been happy with him. With a little squeeze of her hand he shut his eyes and passed peacefully away.
Once again Anna’s world came tumbling down. Her parents were now elderly and her mother-in-law was very ill. Anna sought solace in her children, whom were now grown up and who would both soon be getting married.
After Edwin’s funeral Anna took a walk up to the moors to tell Bertie what had happened. Tears streamed down her face, but through her tears she could see the shape of a figure on the foreshore. In her wariness she felt she must be imagining what she saw. Anna watched the figure for a while and then decided to make her way back home.
Early the next morning before the sun was hardly up, there was a loud knock at the door. It was her father-in-law. Anna was quickly told she must sit down. Anna felt panic, thinking her mother-in-law must have passed on. Jacob held Anna’s hand and spoke gently to her. What he told Anna shocked her so much she almost fainted.
It appeared Bertie had been lost over board on the Endeavour in a massive storm off South America, as they had been told. However he had in fact made it to land by hanging on to some drift wood. He was taken ashore and looked after by a local family. His health was bad for many years and Bertie had completely lost his memory from before the storm. He had no idea who he was or where he came from. Eventually over the years he became stronger, and he was able to take a light job in the village where he was taken in. This gave him enough money to support himself and find lodgings in a local boarding house.
As Bertie’s health improved his memory started to return and he recalled he had a family in England and a young wife. With years of saving money he eventually was able to take a boat back to England, though he did not know who or what would be waiting for him.
Anna told her father-in-law that she had seen a figure on the beach a few days earlier, which did indeed turn out to be Bertie. He had been trying to work out where his family home was, and the little cottage he shared with Anna.
Bertie decided he wanted to wait a few days to see her. He needed to sort everything out in his mind first before rushing over to her.
Anna also didn’t know what to think or feel. She was filled with joy, but so much time had passed since they had parted and she worried he would not be the same man.
The next two days seemed to drag by. On the Sunday there was a light knock at the door. It was Bertie with his father. He looked tired, old and careworn. He picked up Anna’s hand and kissed it lightly, just as he had done all those years ago at the party.
The men came in and sat down and Anna made them tea. After they had taken tea Bertie’s father made his leave and said he would return later. He knew the couple had much to talk about.
Anna told Bertie about their son Julius. Tears welled in Bertie’s eyes. He said he was sorry he had not been here for her and explained what had happened. Anna assured him it was all long ago and it was not his fault. She was overjoyed to see the man she had loved for all these years still alive. She in turn told Bertie she had never stopped loving him and about her nightly visits to the moors.
Over the next few weeks Bertie visited Anna as often as he could, even though it was obvious he did not have a lot of strength. Anna eventually decided to ask Bertie to move back into their little cottage where they had first lived in together. Julius was living there now, but he would move into the house she lived in with Edwin. Bertie agreed, and you could tell he was happy to have returned to his family.
Over the next few years Bertie got to know his son and spent a lot of time with him. He also got to know his step daughter. Both of the children married and Bertie and Anna spent their remaining years together. Life had come full circle for Anna and was now complete.
By Kay Rayner. Read more here.