We just want to write, and sometimes it becomes an adventure.
|The Drummond House had been a landmark in North Harbor, Maine, for over a century. Built on a small hill near the center of the town, the large Victorian home had once been part of the estate of Simeon Drummond. In 1884, Mr. Drummond had been a central figure in State politics. Wealth, which had been accumulated by generations of shipping magnates, was now being used to shape the political landscape. One day in the summer of 1884 Simeon Drummond, his wife Mary, and their twin daughters had suddenly disappeared. The housekeeper had come to work one morning and found the house unexpectedly empty. Nothing was missing or out of place. The family was never seen again. The heirs donated the home to the city to be maintained in memory of Simeon.
Local legends of haunting, ghosts, and bizarre happenings have swirled around the building for decades. Some say that Simeon and his family are still trapped there, trying to get out.
Our local writers group, The Pencil Farm, had been trying without success for years to get permission to hold a retreat at the old house. This past December, the talented author Paula Wendell joined our little group as a sponsor and mentor. A novelist who has had three books on the bestsellers list, she opened doors for us in several areas. One of which was securing a three-day retreat at the Drummond House.
We arrived at noon on the first Friday of June. The weather was perfect. The damp chill of spring had dissolved into the warmth that foretold the summer that awaited. We met up in the sitting room, and then Mrs. Trask, the curator, gave us a tour of the house. It took her over an hour, and she pointed out all of the period furniture, unique architecture, and the many personal artifacts left behind by the Drummond family. Afterwards, we took our bags to our rooms, and then met downstairs for an afternoon discussing the history of the house, its former occupants, and some techniques to use to tell their story.
My friend Alvin Carr and I had been assigned to a room together. After the meeting, we had an hour until our dinner meal, and we headed back to the room to put away our notes, and unpack our bags.
I was hanging up one of my shirts when I lost my balance and stumbled a bit. I lurched to my right a little, and moved my foot closer to the wall to steady myself. The wooden floor by the wall seemed to give a little, and for a moment, I felt that my foot would break through the floor. Curious, I tentatively pushed my foot down on that spot again. As the floor gave under the pressure, I could see the faint lines of a rectangular area which seemed to have been cut in the wood. It was about ten by fifteen inches. I know I should have just left it alone, but with time to kill before dinner, I felt that I could indulge my curiosity.
"Hey Al" I called to my roommate, "Check this out".
Al walked over and looked down. "What ya got?" he asked, "Loose floorboard?"
"I don't know" I told him, "Maybe a trapdoor".
I knelt down, opening my pocket knife. I put the blade into the faint seam, and worked it back and forth. Al reached down and helped me try to lift the wooden insert. After some coaxing, we were able to remove the piece of flooring.
I gazed into the black space that we had opened.
"What do ya see?" Al asked anxiously.
"I can't see anything" I told him, "It looks empty".
"Here", Al handed me his cellphone, lit up by the flashlight app.
The hole did, indeed, appear empty. There were some cobwebs around the edges, and I could see the dusty boards below. Disappointed, I was ready to give it up, when I glimpsed something off to one side. Reaching in, I found a book tucked in under the floorboards. It was an old book with a dried, leather cover. The pages were yellowed and somewhat brittle. Gently lifting the cover we could see the name "Simeon Drummond" in flowing script. Opening a random page, we could see that it appeared to be a journal.
"No way!" exclaimed the always eloquent Alvin.
I looked to the back of the book. The last entry, unread for over a century, was crystal clear:
7th August, 1884
Now that Faith and Hope have joined their mother in Heaven, I can proceed. I have the property deeds and the bearer bonds. If Harry is right, there is a new fortune to be made in the Yukon. Starting over will be my new adventure. Paul Ward will never be trapped in the abyss of politics or the shackles of marital servitude! Tonight I leave Simeon in this grave, and begin the life of Paul!
I looked at Al. "I don't need this" I told him. "Betty and I have plans for our lives, and they don't include news interviews, reporters and police".
"Police?" Al asked. He did not have a warm relationship with the local law enforcement, primarily due to his penchant for smoking non-tobacco products. "What should we do, just put it back?"
I thought for a moment, and suddenly it hit me. I picked up Al's phone, still sitting next to me, and punched in a number I knew well.
"Paula? Can come up to our room? I have your next bestseller!"