Fiona Noble is the main character of my novel ‘The Cornwall Ghost Story.’ She proves herself to be a resourceful woman throughout the book which is just as well as she has a lot on her plate. This is not what she expected when she and her family made the trip to Cornwall for their two-week summer vacation by the seaside. But this proves to be anything but a restful sojourn along the English coastline. No, circumstances beyond Fiona’s control ensure she is going to be faced with a mountain of worries, none of which are her own making.
How does one go about helping out a ghost in need? A ghost, furthermore, of a young woman who has had the misfortune to lose her husband. Not lost in a normal way, either. Esmeralda was not having to recover from the death of her husband George but rather from the news that he had been lost at sea with his body having not been recovered. She had thus to exist in a state of suspended animation for a protracted period.
This had all happened all the way back in 1805. But when Fiona started reading Esmeralda’s journal, after discovering it hidden away in a dressing table drawer, she was drawn into her story. Soon after, she made contact with the young woman’s ghost who then enlisted her help in finding out what happened to George. She had gone to her death not knowing whether he had survived the capsizing of his ship. She wanted Fiona to piece together his story and report back to her with her findings. But how was she supposed to do this? Esmeralda had been able to get in touch with her but who was to say George would be able to do likewise?
It soon becomes apparent that there will be a means by which Fiona can touch base with George. Or at least she can uncover what did, in fact, happen to the naval officer. This occurs through a series of visions she experiences which lets her know that he did indeed survive the shipwreck. But not all is as it seems. The admiralty in their letter to Esmeralda had insisted the ship had capsized off the Spanish coastline. But this is not what really transpired. Instead, the ship sank further down the coastline, in French waters. This meant Fiona was dealing with a completely different kettle of fish.
Fiona soon realises that the year 1805 brought extra significance to the story than she had previously been aware of. After all, Britain had been at war with France around this time. So if George swam to the nearest coastline he would find himself in French territory. This could land him in deep waters. Indeed, he might even come to wish he had drowned rather than being placed in French hands.
As Fiona looked on to the vision which explained all of this to her, she noted there were other members of the crew who had been able to hold on to some driftwood which had once been part of the ship and had been helped along by the current so they would have gone further up the coastline. George had not been so lucky. Not only was he heading towards an unfriendly landing spot, but he had to do so under his own strength. No driftwood for him: he had to swim to shore. Fiona marvelled at the man’s endurance as he swam through rough waters with a storm still raging. She saw him collapse into some rocks, before dragging himself up the cliff and the safety of dry land. But, of course, he would not be safe for long.
This soon becomes apparent to Fiona as she is then provided with a vision of George in a French prison cell. This saddens her greatly. It is so awful to see the poor man caged like an animal after having gone through such an ordeal where his life was barely spared. Now he had to face up to captivity at the hands of an unrelenting enemy who would hand him no favours. It was a bleak picture and not one she was looking forward to telling Esmeralda about but she knew she had to.
As the story progresses, Fiona goes through some severe emotions. She becomes very attached to George. Indeed, at one point she wonders what her husband would think if she knew just how attached she was becoming. Not in a romantic sense. No, it was just that her admiration for this naval officer from the best part of two centuries before knew no bounds.
At first, she only looks onto George from afar. She can see what he is doing, but he is not aware of her. At least this is how it appears on the surface. But before long it turns out he has been given the impression that someone is watching over him. He cannot account for this feeling at first but then he starts to see this woman. She appears to him much like an angel, as if she is coming through the clouds. Eventually they strike up a conversation.
Fiona warms to him even more when they start talking as he becomes fond of labelling her ‘my dear lady.’ Every time he says this Fiona receives a tingle inside her. Even though she knows this is wrong she can’t help herself. George makes her feel like a giddy teenager again and she can fully understand how Esmeralda could have fallen so hopelessly in love with him to the point where she pretty much lived her own life through him. He reminded Fiona of what life used to be like for her. Most specifically this related to when she and her husband were courting. Before their marriage and in the early days of it there was a romantic feeling between them which she then recalled to her mind. She recalled how foolish she must have sounded at times back then when the first flowering of love had come over her. But after that and as the years went by things changed between herself and Alan. It was not like they had grown out of love, far from that. They still loved each other dearly, but as I put it in the book once that first flowering of love had been passed there was a tendency in any relationship to take the other person for granted. A married couple, the further they went into their marriage, became used to each other and a large part of the initial excitement which made their relations so wonderful was lost. It was not something to be saddened by, Fiona realised: it was just part and parcel of living.
It made Fiona even sadder to know that the ‘first flowering’ of the love shared between Esmeralda and George had been cruelly cut short. This makes her want to search for the truth behind George’s appearance even more. She wants to let Esmeralda know what really became of her husband. As she continues to unravel the mystery Fiona finds herself becoming almost taken over by the story which is played out in front of her. She has told her husband about what is going on. She had thought initially he would pour scorn over her insistence that she had come into contact with a ghost. However, he surprises her by taking it at face value. She provides constant updates to him as to where her visions are taking her.
At times during this family holiday Alan worries over his wife’s welfare. He thinks she is becoming too engrossed in what she is discovering. He also believes she is doing so whilst forgetting about the needs of her family. They are supposed to be enjoying themselves on their vacation and yet at times it seems like Fiona is somewhere else entirely, that she is there in body but that her mind is elsewhere. Fiona understands her husband’s concerns and tries to give her family more of her time but she finds it a difficult balance to master. She so much wants to help Esmeralda and to provide some sort of closure to her for the loss of her husband.
As if this isn’t enough ghostly experience to be going on with Fiona then becomes enmeshed in another historical romance which took place two centuries before Esmeralda and George. This spiritual communication occurs when the Nobles go on a day trip to a series of caves, one of which is called the sweetheart’s cave. This is where Emily and James first become known to Fiona. I have gone into this part of the story in my main blog on The Cornwall Ghost Story which can be found through the My Books menu item. Fiona soon finds herself becoming just as drawn to this side of the story as the one involving Esmeralda and George.
As time goes on Fiona feels her head is spinning as she moves between one historical couple to the next. However, she cannot help but be fascinated by all she finds out about the two couples. They are different in some ways but very similar in others. It is not until the end of the novel that she is able to draw a line under these historical perspectives. It takes to the end of the family’s holiday before all the loose ends are tied up.
She had worried at one point that the two historical sagas would not be complete by the time her family returned home. This made her feel that these ghosts would follow her wherever she went and that her visions would never come to an end. As exciting as some of these experiences had been for her she did not like the idea of being haunted by them for ever more. So it comes as something of a relief to her when everything is sorted out before she sets off for home. However, even then there is still a surprise in store for her. Esmeralda comes to her one last time with a final request. Fiona is take aback by this at first thinking ‘how can she ask for something more when I have done so much already?’ However, when she is informed of the request itself she happily agrees. It seems to be the perfect end to the story.
Mark, I read it with interest. What inspired this story to you?
Thanks a lot, Sergey. Well, I have always been fascinated by the idea of someone discovering an old journal hidden away in a drawer sparking off a ghostly experience. This and the fact that one of my favourite holidays from my childhood was staying in a cottage in Cornwall with my family brought this novel together.