On a rainy day, filled with remorse, Melinda McMillan was laid to rest in a watery grave, the irony escaping no one. Tansy and rosemary leaves were spread all around to ward off danger from the corpse. The Irish Bagpipes played, “The Flowers of the Forest” and Maura Gillian sang a woeful rendition of “Down by the Salley Gardens.” Jack McMillan wept openly.
The railing that Melinda broke through was repaired with good solid timber the day after her burial. However, a shockwave of disbelief ran rampant through the valley, when within twelve hours of the renovation; the boards were broken up and busted through, as if they had not been repaired at all.
The repairs were made again, and for a second time the boards were broken through. When a third restoration was attempted, several men volunteered to stay at the bridge site for twenty-four hours to see if trickery and deception were involved.
The men rarely spoke of their experience, only to say that the bridge itself groaned loudly before the boards broke and exploded into the water below.
James Lilly, a young married man, was one of the volunteers who stayed at the bridge that night. His daughter, Annie, wrote an entry in her diary. “Da comed home from stayin’ on the bridge. Nobody knowed ‘im cause his hair turned pure white.”
People were terrified of the possibility that the bridge was possessed by Melinda’s restless spirit. They stopped using the bridge, opting instead to cross over dangerous wetlands a few miles further downstream.
“Jack, I wisht ye would eat somethin’,” his mother begged. “Yer gitten’ thin,” even though he still weighed 190 pounds and was as strong as a young bull.
“I’m alright, Ma, I don’t want any food right now. I’m goin' to the bridge. I want to try to repair it. Maybe the folks will start to use it again. Why should they be without a bridge?” He said, as he stood to leave. His mother’s worried look followed him.
Jackson rode his gelding through the early evening mist, as crows as dark as ink called overhead. He didn’t hear them, as his thoughts were only of Melinda and her porcelain skin and her mouth as soft and sweet as sugared cream. He tied his horse on a tree branch and walked onto the bridge. There was an absence of sound.
“My sweet darling’ where are ye now?” he whispered, as he gazed down into the creek. “I miss ye and I will forever.” He laid his head on his folded arms that rested on the bridge railing, directly across the span from the un-mended opening.
“Jack, I am here.” Had he heard Melinda’s whispered voice or was he mad.
Jack raised his head slowly and listened. He looked down into the creek and saw the faintest apparition of her, smiling up at him. She was in her wedding gown, holding the bouquet of oxeye daisies, standing on a flat rock in the middle of the creek.
“Melinda, my love. Is that you girl, or a phantom most fine?”
She beckoned to him with up stretched arms.
“Melinda, I cannot come to ye. You are in a place that I cannot go. Not now.”
Jack watched in terror as she rose into the air, stopping in front of him.
“But you have to come Jack. That was the wish I made the day we were last here.”
“No, Melinda – you didn’t make a wish. You fell before ye….”
“It was my dyin’ wish, Jack. Dyin’ wishes always come true,” she said, sweetly.
“No, Melinda…Melinda,” his breath came ragged now.
“But, Jack…My dying wish was that you and I would be together for eternity.”
Jack backed up, as she floated toward him, closer and closer. He was so frightened that he didn’t realize she was steering him right to the spot where she had fallen through, that un-repairable opening. As he started to fall backwards, she caught his hands in hers and pulled him into her, kissing his lips ever so softly, as together, they fell silently into Clay Creek, their spirits forever joined.
Everyone was saddened by the news that Jack had gone mad and "jumped" to his death. People from far and wide were fascinated by the romantic tale of Jack and Melinda McMillan. It was said that he could no longer draw breath in a world that was absent his raven-haired beauty. Ballads were sung and poems penned about the tragic events of the young married lovers. And… to honor Jack in his passionate, although dreadful act - the bridge, which had been known simply as the bridge over Clay Creek, was officially named “Lover’s Leap Bridge.”