Jason’s memory of seeing the little house with the swing remained vividly in his mind. He was six years old and it was the first time he was allowed to visit his grandmother alone. She did not live far away and he had often been there with his mother. Their apple tree had been generous with its fruit and Jason’s mother gave him some to take to his grandmother. He walked carefully along the path, making sure that he did not drop any of the precious fruit and arrived at the house with the swing, wondering if she was there. He had often walked past and there was a girl that would be sitting on the swing, dressed in the plain working clothes of the day moving to and fro. He would watch her and she would watch him, but his mother would call to hurry and there was never time to get to know her. Today was different and he so hoped that the girl would be there. He had his brothers and sisters to play with, but they were all so much younger, and he wanted to play with someone his own age.
As he approached the house he saw her outside. He carefully placed the sack of apples on the ground and stood still, waiting for a signal that he was welcome.
She looked in his direction.
“Where’s your mother” she asked
“At home” was his answer, not really knowing what to say next.
“Then come over and push me on the swing.”
Jason needed no second invitation and so he pushed the girl higher and higher and her laugh was like the water running over the stones in the near bye brook which ran parallel to the path.
“My name is Emily” she said, “but everyone calls me Emmy. I have seen you often with your mother. Are you on your own today?”
“Yes I am taking the apples to my grandmother, she lives just down the path.”
“I know her, the lady with the kind blue eyes that lives at the mill. She always gives me some bread and butter when I see her. That’s your grandmother? Would you like to sit on the swing? She asked and Jason said “Yes” just waiting for the invitation.
After a while Jason said goodbye to Emmy and took the apples to his grandmother. When he got home he told his mother of his new friend and she gave him permission to see Emily during the day. The house was not far. Jason was now growing up and it was time for him to find his own way around.
This meeting was the first of many between Emily and Jason. They both started school together and Jason would often carry Emily’s schoolbooks. At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was only the wealthy that could afford a school bag and the books were usually tied together with string. Emily became Jason’s best friend and Jason was Emily’s. They spent many hours together and although Emily was old enough to make the swing go higher herself, she was often heard to say to Jason “Push me higher” and he would.
Time passed and both Emily and Jason left school. Emily worked in the big house on the hill as a servant, and Jason worked at the local farm as a labourer, as his father before him. They were not rich people but they had each other. Then came the day when his country was at war. It was the year 1914 and Jason served his country as many other patriotic men. He said a long goodbye to Emily, promising that on his return they would always be together.
Jason was sure that he was doing the right thing by fighting for his country. He had visions of brave attacks where his officers would be proud of him and returning to England glad to have fought for his country. What he saw on the battlefields was not what he expected. He had to dig trenches, if it rained, they were full of mud. When the enemy attacked he was deep in the trench and he fought back. He saw many brave men fall, saw many maimed for life, and when they advanced from their positions he passed the trenches on the other side where there were soldiers from another country, but also soldiers that would never see their home or families again. Towards the end of the war Jason was involved in a gas attack where mustard gas was used, the result being that he had lost his sight.
It was a sad sight to see how his parents met him from the train at their local station in the English countryside. His eyes were covered and although he had a stick to help him find the way, he had to rely on help from others. He had been told that after some time he may regain his sight again.
His one thought when he arrived home was to find Emily again. His parents told him to wait until he felt better and could find his way, but Jason was determined and so one day when his parents were busy, he sneaked out of the house and walked along the path once again. The noise of the water babbling over the stones of the brook helped him to find the way. He soon heard the noise of the swing creaking and knew he was there.
“Emmy, Emmy, I am back – are you there.”
“Yes Jason here I am, I have been waiting so long. Come and push me higher on the swing.” And he felt her hand take his and lead him to the swing. He could smell her and he felt he clothes, remembering the long dress that was her favourite, tied at the waist with a large yellow satin band. He was happy and was home again.
“What happened to your eyes Jason? Was it the war?”
“Yes Emmy, but they told me it was only for a time and I would be able to see again.”
Jason was happy; his parents were worried when he told them he had been to see Emmy. They said nothing; they were happy when Jason was happy and were hoping that his sight would return.
One morning after a few weeks, Jason awoke and his eyes were hurting, but the pain was a welcome pain. The sun was shining through the window and he could feel the rays on his face and even see the light through his eyes. He saw no details, but could tell the difference between light and dark. His parents were so happy.
“I must tell Emmy” he said.
“No wait son” said his father. “It would be more of a surprise when your complete sight returns”. His mother and father looked at each other with an unanswered question in their eyes.
Jason still felt quite weak and so he decided to follow his parent’s advice and stayed at home. Each day his sight became stronger and by the end of the week he could see his parents and brothers and sisters again. He even dared to look in a mirror. It was not a pretty site that met him, the war had left its scars, but he was sure that time would heal all wounds. He was now ready to see Emmy.
“No, son, just wait, we have to tell you something” said his father.
“Dad, I have waited so long, and now I must go to Emmy. I love her so much and want to ask her if she will be my wife.” He sprang out of the door and made his way.
“Mother, we cannot let him go” said his father and his mother answered “No, we must go with him” and they both made their way along the path to the neighbour’s cottage. Jason was walking so fast that they could not reach him in time.
Jason stopped in his tracks as he saw the cottage again. The windows were broken, the door hung open on its hinges and the garden was no longer a neat vegetable garden, but overgrown with weeds. And the swing; the swing where he had met his Emmy the first time; it was only hanging on one rope, the other hanging loosely with a frayed end.
“Emmy” he called and again “Emmy”, but the only answer was the wind rustling in the trees and the old house.
His parents arrived at the scene.
“Mum, Dad, tell me what has happened. Where is my Emmy.”
His mother had tears in her eyes and even his father could hardly look his son in the eyes.
“Jason, we tried to tell you, but you were so happy to be at home again. Please listen son. It was the scarlet fever. It carried the complete family away. First of all Emmy’s mother and father had it and then Emmy caught it. They all had a quick death and are buried together in one grave in the village graveyard.”
Jason was so sure he felt Emmy, smelt her, touched her, just a week before. Perhaps he did.
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