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The Haunting of Elora Donnelly” (Chapter Four)


Elora comes each night and plays her soft and simple music.  At 3:10, she begins playing E until the clock changes to 3:11.  What could this mean?  Each morning, I wake and try to remember the tune she’s played, but entering my memory is like trying to enter the same river twice.  It is impossible to entirely recall.  I have the first eight cords memorised, but am lost after that, and it is no use trying to clandestinely record her playing.  I’ve left my phone recording on numerous occasions and all I can hear is a rustling, followed by her incessant E.

I have taken to speaking to her painting.  I know it sounds clichéd, but it is one of those paintings that follow you around the room.  When I was a little girl, my grandmother had an antiques business with a friend of hers.  They made wreaths and kept boxes of dried and silk flowers in the loft room.  There was a painting of an old mariner in that room that had the same eyes as the Elora’s self-portrait.  His eyes used to scare me senseless, but I find an eerie comfort in Elora’s.  I look at her and I can feel her waiting.  There has been a persistence to her presence that has been gradually intensifying.  I knew she is trying to tell me something, but I can’t work out what it means.  “What do you want me to know?”

The postman came today with a letter from Clara Valdene, the lady I had contacted through  I popped the kettle on and read it.

Dear Gretchen,

I am sending you prints of the photos that I have, there aren’t many, I’m afraid.  I’m also enclosing a letter I found in my great-grandfather Emerson Valdene’s belongings.  I have no idea what it could possibly mean, but Elora sent it from England a few years before her death.  Perhaps you can shed some light on the subject?  I would be very grateful if you could!  Do let me know if you find anything. 

Dearest Emerson,

It is often the case, in one’s life, that the important things are noticed too late.  I do not want this to happen to us.  I want to forgive myself, you, everyone, for it is the only way to remain without bitterness and I am old now, bitterness is best left to drain, I’ve held it far too long.  Realising what you hold inside of yourself is like realising a tumour or a disease.  Sometimes, it kills you.  Sometimes, it can be removed and the wound healed.  This is what I would like to happen between us.  I am sorry.  I never wanted you to be involved in his mess, our mess.  I pray you have found a better life for yourself and Liberty in America. 

Forgive me.

Your loving aunt,


What mess – “his mess” – who is he?

I sat down to look at the photographs. There were three.  The first was of Liberty and Emerson standing outside of her millinery.  The second was of Liberty and Emerson at Staten Island.  The third was taken inside a restaurant, or possiblely a pub, at a large table, Elora, Dave, Liberty, Emerson and some other man I did not recognise, hold up wine glasses for the camera.  Under the photograph there is the caption, ‘THE TWO CRAWFORDS MEET IN LONDON!’

So, Dave did travel to England using Crawford Valdene’s name!  And, they all knew one another, so why was my great-great grandmother apologising to Emerson?  And why did she call herself Emerson’s aunt?  Did she have a love affair with Crawford?

I looked closely at the photograph. There was no obvious affection between the two, but, who could tell from a single photo?  Plus, maybe they were not openly affectionate out of respect for Dave.  Although, Dave looked perfectly at ease and happy.  I wonder if there was any way of discovering the location of the restaurant?  I could have the image enhanced and look for some clues, a name on a menu, a door, anything.

My husband had taken the children to the soft play at the leisure center swimming pool.  I knew they would be gone for hours, so I jumped in the car and drove to the printmakers.  While I was there I had a stroke of luck.  I was humming Elora’s melody while I was dropping off the restaurant photograph.

“Please could you enhance this for me?  I would like to know where it was taken,” I said.

The attendent handed me an envelope to fill out.  “A fan of Deubussy eh?”

“What?!? You know this song?”  I am not accustomed to classical music, myself, but it had occurred to me that the song might be recognisable.  I had nobody to ask, except Mrs. Stock, and I didn’t want to arise suspicion.

“Of course, I do, it’s Bruyeres by Deubussy.”

Now, I just need to figure out why it’s relevant to Elora.

The photo should be finished tomorrow.  I can hardly wait to pick it up.

I am going to download the sheet music to Bruyeres tonight and leave it on the piano for Elora to find.  Who knows what will happen?  I feel like I am gradually beginning to unravel her message, though it doesn’t make sense, but maybe Crawford Valdene will be able to shed some light on the subject.

To be continued…

New chapters of “The Haunting of Elora Donnelly” will be released each month.

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