Christine stood on the shore watching the white foam tipped waves going back and forth over the sand with fascination. It looked like a storm was coming, so she hurried back home to her mother’s house up the stone stairway carved into the cliffs. She loved the sea and weather storm or calm, it made no difference.
Sam Collingworth hugged his wife Anna goodbye. Time was getting short and as first mate on the M.S. Lady he was expected by the crew to take his place. This time he was particularly sad. His wife was expecting their first baby and the journey was taking him to the other side of the world. They both knew that Sam would never see their firstborn until at least half a year later. Anna was crying and Sam trying to comfort her.
“Please be careful Sam and come back safe to us.”
“Don’t worry Anna” he said “I have always returned and I will this time, even if it will take longer.”
“You are going so far and it could become dangerous. I have heard about ships crossing the Cape of Good Hope and never returning, being caught in a storm.”
and she continued sniffing into her handkerchief which she had embroidered herself.
“I have an idea Anna, Give me your handkerchief as it is. It is full of your tears for me and when I am away on the ship and feel lonely I can take it in my hand and know how much you are waiting for my return.”
“This is a small compensation” thought Sam, but it did the trick and Anna calmed down. She gave it to him and it helped her to think that things would not be so bad. Sam would be away but would have something that belonged to her.
Sam took his bag onto his shoulders packed with his personal belongings and made his way down the cliff to the harbour where the boat was waiting, clasping the handkerchief in his hand. He decided to keep it in his uniform pocket to make sure it was always near.
The ship set sail and apart from a few problems around the Western coast of Africa when they did not have enough wind in the sails, everything went well and the ship made its way to the Cape of Good Hope on the Southern point of the African continent on its way to Australia.
“What do you think Mr. Collingworth” asked Jim the cabin boy and cook’s help “will we see any of those famous storms that the others are always talking about. The horizon doesn’t seem to be very friendly.”
“Don’t worry Jim” said Sam. “We all want to go home again and although the Cape can have a few surprises, we are a good ship and good team.”
“Mr. Collingworth, if anything happens to me, well I wanted to say – you know my mum and dad get so worried when I am away at sea. Can you tell them that I was thinking of them all the time and that I love them very much.”
“You don’t have to be so worried Jim. Look my wife gave me her handkerchief because she was crying so much when I left and I promised to keep it with me. I always have it in my pocket in my jacket. We will make a bargain, if anything happens to us I will bring word to your parents, and you will take this handkerchief and bring it back to my wife.”
“It’s a deal Mr. Collingworth” and Jim was happy. Sam had said it to Jim to calm his nerves as he was only a boy and earning his way up the ladder of the ship’s crew. Sam had also started as cabin boy and today he was first mate.
On Christmas day the brave ship “Lady” made her way into the storm. She had a lot of experience with rough and tempestuous weather so no-one really doubted that anything could happen. The sky slowly turned from grey to black and the waves reached a height which almost covered the ship.
“Mr. Collingworth, I am frightened” shouted Jim above the noise of the storm to Sam.
“Stay by me son” answered Sam, “Hold onto my hand and we will remain together. Don’t forget our promise Jim so take this handkerchief and if anything happens bring it to my wife. She lives on the cottage overlooking the harbour on the cliff top.”
“Will do Mr. Collingworth, but please visit my parents if anything happens to me.”
With those last words a final wave crashed down on them and the ship turned over in the water and broke into pieces. It was the end of the MS Lady.
“Quick over here” Jim heard a voice in the distance. “Here is another one from the ship and he is still breathing”. The rescuers took the cabin boy Jim into their care. Jim was lucky, apart from a rough beating from the waves and a broken arm he was ok.
“Where’s Mr. Collingworth” asked Jim, but he never got an answer. Sam Collingworth became a victim of the Cape of Good Hope.
Some months later Anna had just finished feeding her baby Samuel and there was a knock on the door. She was feeling sad at this moment. She had been given news by the merchant navy of the loss of the MS Lady and that her Sam would never return. She opened the door to find a young man with a sun tan and a sailors bag over his shoulders.
“Are you Mrs. Collingworth?” he asked.
“I am, but who are you.”
My name is Jim and I was the cabin boy on the MS Lady”
“Did you know my husband Sam?” she automatically asked.
“Yes ma’am” he answered. “He was a good man and sailor and the best first mate I had ever served under. He promised to tell my mum and dad if anything happened to me on the ship, and in return I promised to bring this back to you.”
He opened his hand containing the beautifully embroidered handkerchief. Anna took the handkerchief and burst into tears. She knew that Sam had thought of her until the end.
It was Christmas Day and Christine returned home to her mother for the Christmas dinner.
“Has it got wet again” she asked her mother.
“Yes dear, as it always does every Christmas day” was the answer. In a frame on the cabinet was a beautifully embroidered handkerchief. It was very old, at least one hundred years, and had always been in the family being handed down from one generation to another. A mystery surrounded the handkerchief. It was noticed that on Christmas day it sort of wept leaving a damp mark and a salt crust on the cabinet.