It was a grim task but I had volunteered to help my family clear out a distant relation’s home. I hadn’t know Bill Dalton existed until a second cousin of my mum reached out and told her that his uncle had died and he knew my mum was an antique dealer. Did she want to come and do a house clearance?
Bill had been an organised hoarder so the task of going through things wasn’t that hard, just long.
Whilst my mum and her second cousin were inspecting a collection of figurine women dressed in 1800’s ballgowns, I decided to open a corner cupboard that had yet been touched.
The door creaked like it hadn’t been opened in awhile. Inside, stacked on the small shelves were pile and piles of notebooks. There was a range of leather, paper and hardback covers all looked well use and the lined sheets yellowing. The notebooks were all tied together string in small groups. It was a strange sight.
‘What’s all this?’ I called over my shoulder.
My mum and her second cousin came to look.
‘I don’t know….’ he trailed.
‘Pull one out,’ my mum said.
I pulled the smallest stack of notebooks out and undid the string around them. Picking up the top one which was like a hardback diary, I opened it.
‘It looks like a novel…’ I said.
I handed it to the second cousin then passed another one to my mum and gripped a third for myself. We read quietly for a few moments.
‘I didn’t know him well,’ the second cousin broke the silence , guilt and sadness in his voice.
‘It looks like this is a whole novel, handwritten and with corrections at the sides,’ my mum muttered.
‘Are all of these novels? Surely he didn’t write these, maybe he copied them or translated them or something?’ I said.
‘I don’t think they all are. Look at those, they say diary with the years.’ the second cousin pointed out.
I pulled out that stack, untied them and picked up the top one. He was right, it was a diary and each day page was carefully filled in.
‘Do you think there’s anything important in these?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know,’ the second cousin said, ‘do you think you could go through them and find out?’
‘I’ll try,’ I said.
All of the notebooks turned out to either be yearly diaries which Bill had recorded his life in, full novels which Bill himself had written, short stories, ideas and drawings, reflections on things and details of locations and characters.
There was a lot to go through but none of it was important paperwork. I didn’t want Bill’s life to fade and so with the family’s permission and years of work; I finally held one of Bill’s officially published novels in my hands.
I hope he is pleased.