The Carpenter's Wife
This story needs little introduction except to say that it is an old English Tale that portrays a beautiful "Love Story". As we are just entering the season of Autumn, when the veil is thinnest between ourselves and the departed, I thought it appropriate.
There was once a maiden who was courted by a carpenter and a sailor. Both men were handsome, youthful, and in all ways worthy, but it was the sailor whom she loved, and at length they were betrothed. The sailor was poor, however, and he begged her to wait to be married until he returned from one last voyage, which was certain to make his fortune. The maiden agreed, and he set sail, off into the setting sun.
A year went by and the sailor's ship did not return. The young woman anxiously asked after her love, but no one had any news of the sailor or his ship: they had simply vanished. As the years went by, the maiden gradually gave up hope, and grieved for her lost love as for the dead. Five years after their parting, she put aside grief and married her other suitor, the carpenter.
One night, five years after the marriage, the carpenter's wife heard a knocking at the door. Rising from the cradle where her youngest babe slept, she went to answer it.
"Why did you not wait for me?" said the man who stood there. He was older, his face brown and weathered, but even with these changes, and even by the faint and flickering light of the candle she held, the carpenter's wife recognized her former love.
For a time she could not speak. Then she whispered, "I tried to wait. but you were gone so long, and there was no word of you from anyone. I thought that you were dead, or that you had forgotten me."
"How could you believe that I would forget you, or that I would not return to you?" he said, sounding more sorrowful than angry at her words. "My ship was caught in a storm and blown off course. We wandered strange seas - no one knows how long - until at last we came to a marvelous land that no one from our country has ever seen: a land where lilies bloom all year. We were taken in and healed of our hurts, and at last I asked if I might return here to find you. Will you come away with me, to the land where the lilies bloom?"
"I cannot," said the carpenter's wife. "I have a husband now and young children. What would they do without me? It has been too long; I cannot leave my life here."
"Do you still love me?" asked the sailor.
The carpenter's wife tried to say no, but she could not, and tears ran down her face, for she did still love him.
"Then come away with me," he said. "My ship sets sail tomorrow night, at moonrise. If you are not there, I will know you no longer love me. I will sail away alone, and never return. Think well before you make your choice." And he turned and walked away into the night.
All the next day the carpenter's wife agonized over her decision. But though it was her duty to stay with her husband and children, and no good wife should run off at the word of another man, in her heart she knew that she still loved the sailor, and the thought of him sailing away forever was more than she could bear. So that night, when her husband was away at a tavern, she packed a bag, kissed her sleeping children farewell, and slipped out of the house.
At the dock, the ship was waiting, and when the carpenter's wife climbed aboard, the sailor caught her in his arms. Together they set sail under the rising moon, to the land where the lilies bloom.
But as the ship drew out of the harbor and into the open sea, it vanished, for it was but the ghost of ship and sailor that had returned to claim the carpenter's wife. And so the two lovers were reunited in the land beyond death, and neither the ship nor anyone aboard was ever heard from again.
I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did.