The Mystery Of Anna Grace – Episode 43

“It was Ghillie the cat who found it,” Charlie explained and everyone laughed. “Katarina realised the cat had got shut in the attic one day, so she went to let him out.

“She found him behind a tea chest and there, wrapped in an old pillowcase, where it had probably been since a guest borrowed it some time before the war, was a missing volume of her diary.”

“It was Charlie’s idea to introduce an amnesty of lost things, so that folk who had stayed at Anna Grace over the years could return things they had borrowed and not feel guilty,” Robin said. “So we expected we’d just get a few forks and towels. Whereas, we got all sorts of treasures: missing books, cutlery . . .”

“A set of golf clubs!” Harriet added.

“And more importantly some letters between an adult Lottie, Anna’s eldest daughter, and her brother, John, telling the rest of the story,” Robin explained.

“So Anna didn’t die?” Harriet asked.

“The entries stop for quite a while,” Charlie told her. “Anna then refers to a period of convalescence by the sea on doctor’s orders and how frustrated she felt that she couldn’t do everything she used to.”

“But what happened to her?” Mrs Leahem asked.

“By the sound of the diary, her fourth child was a difficult birth. The baby was premature and Anna refers to how marvellous her housekeeper, Mrs Fanshawe, was with little William.

“Anna may well have also had post-natal depression, which can often be brought on by a difficult birth.”

“So what happened to the baby?” Harriet asked.

“Once I had his full name, I was able to Google him, and he became a minister in a parish some miles off. He married and produced a whole brood of children,” Charlie said.

“Another very healthy branch of the Anna Grace tree!” Mrs Cecilia exclaimed.

“So why isn’t Anna buried in the churchyard?” one of the art students asked.

“Because Anna died by the seaside,” Charlie said, feeling her voice catch a little.

It was strange how connected she had felt to Anna Graystone, the more she found out about her life. She took a sip of water.

It was Mrs Cecilia, sitting to her right, who put a comforting hand over hers.

“Go on, Charlie. You’re nearly there,” Mrs Cecilia said quietly.

“The letters that the couple dropped off the other week filled in the gaps. There is a letter from a grown-up Lottie, writing to her mother shortly after her own wedding. It seems that, though Anna’s health never fully recovered, she lived long enough to see her eldest daughter get married.

“We finally found a reference to her death in a rather moving letter between Lottie and her brother John,” she went on. “John would inherit the estate some years later when his father died.”

“And Anna’s husband remarried?” someone else asked.

“Yes,” Charlie replied. “Men such as Jacob Graystone would have been viewed as eligible in those days, but I haven’t found out much about the second Mrs Graystone.

“Lottie didn’t seem to like her very much, as there is a scathing reference to her in another letter between John and her.

“So although Anna seems to have died in her late forties, I was so glad that she lived to see her children grow up and her beloved home thrive. That was enough for me.”

“So Anna Graystone had a difficult birth with William,” Harriet clarified. “Of course William wouldn’t have been buried at Anna Grace – as a clergyman he would likely have been buried with his parish – but the myth was perpetuated down the years that Anna died in childbirth because there was no evidence to the contrary.”

“Don’t forget that there was a huge scandal in the generation after,” Mrs Cecilia reminded her. “Remember John, the little boy who didn’t want to sleep in the nursery? He was a bit of a rogue when it came to the ladies, so his mother’s story was possibly overshadowed by all John’s shenanigans. Go on, Charlie, tell us the rest.”

Charlie shrugged.

“Well, the diaries are more haphazard after that. Would you like me to read you some?”

“Yes, please,” Mrs Cecilia replied.

So Charlie read out an account from Anna’s diary of her daughter Lottie’s wedding, detailing who was there and how well the bride looked.

Anna had also added how much she liked her new son-in-law and how convenient a street their new home was located in.

However, there was also a longing to get back to the house, to see to its management, to waken up in the morning and see the sunlight glittering off the lake.

Charlie scrolled to the last diary entry, the last words that Anna had ever written.

This old house makes my heart sing with joy, the entry ended.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.