• Stephanie Hammond

A blast from the past ...

Thanks to Tony Smith and Crystal Jordan, my first published story came to light. The story was published on page 34 of the Camp Hill High School Annual. A fun fact: My full name is Stephanie Helen Hammond - back in the day I was known by my middle name: Helen. I'm surprised - from my perspective of age, for a 15-year-old it's a good story! The transcript is below.

“AN OLD MAN’S HAPPINESS” Stealthily he approached the door. Little did he know that the next three weeks of his life would be the happiest he had ever experienced or ever would experience. It all started when his doctor had revealed to him the weakness of his heart, a month ago. His doctor recommended a few months in the backblocks of New Zealand. The air and atmosphere of the country would be good for him. So he had answered an advertisement in a local paper which ran: “A quiet, reserved, sober gentleman is invited to share (the) home of two ladies until such time as he wishes to retire.” It then went on to state the fee and the address. “So,” he reflected, “here I am.” He was gazing up at the tall Elizabethan house. The grounds were spacious, but not, he noticed, very well kept. He had heard rumours in the last town of wild dogs at “the House on the Hill”, as this house was referred to. Slowly he walked up the steps. In response to his timid knock, the large, formidable oaken door was opened by a tiny maid. Having identified himself, he was led into a large room. To his left there was a piano, at which sat a young girl, perhaps not, he guessed, any older than nineteen or twenty. Seated in an old chair by an old-fashioned fireplace, in which a fire was burning brightly, was a little lady, an older edition of the girl at the piano. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face in a long thick plait. If it were not for the peaceful attractiveness of her pale face, he knew the style would not be suited to her. At her feet sat a dog. He shuddered and thought that perhaps it would not be so bad if he weren’t so terribly afraid of dogs, even ones as small as this. So engrossed were they in the music which he identified as Mozart, that neither sensed his presence for a few minutes. He was able to take a good look around the room. Along the walls were immense photographs of men. “Probably their ancestors,” he thought. Suddenly the dog barked, sensing his presence. “Bah, Syril,” said the lady, looking at the man. “Are you Mr. MacCalister, sir? We’re very happy to see you. Would you care for some tea, sir?” Having seen him seated, she pulled a cord near her. A maid entered with the tea. He found her very easy to talk to. He judged her to be about forty or perhaps fifty. As the days wore on, he learned to love his temporary home. Even Syril, the dog, found a home in his heart. He loved gardening, and soon the once neglected gardens were looking very lovely. Jan, the girl, loved to listen to his stories of the war. He found her to be a good listener, and his evenings were spent quietly sitting by the fire. He had only been there a little over two weeks. How he loved this old house and its family. He was aware of a great family hardship, though what it was, he had not a clue. He realised that though they seemed moderately well off, there was something which was not of true happiness in their manner, and one day, Jan said, “Nunky” (that was the name they called him as Mr. MacCalister was too long and complicated to say), “Nunky, I do wish you could stay with us. But it wouldn’t be fair to even ask you, under our circumstances, would it?” “Why, my dear? Is there something the matter?” He was very concerned with her and she was very touched by the concern in his voice. She told him of the heavy mortgage of one thousand pounds on their beautiful grounds. Mary, the maid, she explained, was only here for his benefit. She was one of her old school mates, training to be a maid. This set him thinking. Next day he went to see his lawyer and arranged for the mortgage to be paid in full for them. He also changed his will and his properties and his wealth were left to Jan and her mother. But, unfortunately, one day, in his hurry to see if the post had been, he fell down the steps and broke his back. He called for Jan. “Jan, my dear, you don’t know how happy I am that you let me come to you. You see, I am rather a wealthy man, and I - don't be offended, my dear – I have left you a little something to remember me by. You have made me very happy, my dear Jan, very hap – “ At this he died, a smile on his lips. Jan, tears in her eyes, whispered, “Does he know how happy he made us?” (Stephanie) Helen Hammond IV CI

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