The Grey Lady

I ARISE FROM my bed with a sense of dread.  Something troubles me, but I know not what.  A shaft of silver moonlight crosses the woven mat on my wooden floorboards, giving me enough light to find my shawl, and I walk out the door.  My two little ones are sleeping soundly, and I pass unheard and unseen over the landing.

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My bare feet take me to the narrow wooden stairs and I descend into the oak-beamed hallway.  My way is clear and I feel drawn to the garden door, trying to remember what it is that alarms me.  I sense that there is danger nearby, and go in search of my husband, James, the innkeeper at this place, the Maybush in Newbridge.  I pass through the barred door into an enclosed garden and hear the distant sound of men fighting.  The Roundheads have come to take the bridge.

I am drawn towards the sound.  Clashing of swords, cries and curses assail my ears.  We live in dangerous times, in this year of our lord, 1644.  I hear my husband’s voice.  I must go to him.  I close my eyes and feel the cool night breeze play with my hair, a tickling sensation on my neck.  I curse Cromwell’s thugs, tearing at the heart and soul of merry England, bringing terror to simple God-fearing folk.

A shiver runs through me as I pass through the solid wall and find myself outside on the pathway above the river.  I see my husband on the bridge – he is fighting desperately but is overwhelmed by greater numbers.  He falls, and two men are upon him, cutting and slashing with their swords.  Through his dying eyes he sees me, and a look of sorrow, regret, helplessness is conveyed to me in that briefest of moments.

Then he is still.  I cry out.  The two men are upon me.  I am too terrified to move.  They seize me roughly by the arms and drag me past the blood-soaked body of my dearly beloved, onto the bridge over the river.  One of the villainous Roundheads, stinking of sour ale, tells me: “You and your husband have harboured Cavaliers at your inn and plotted against our leader, Master Cromwell.  Now you will pay with your life – a death to all Papists!”

With that, he drew his knife across my throat and I swooned, feeling my warm blood spill down the front of my nightgown.  “Oh God, dear Jesus, receive me,” I mutter as I fall down, down spinning silently into the dark murky waters of the Thames.

A curse on these lowly wretches who see a chance for self-advancement in chaos!  But my last thought is for my children.  What will happen to my beloved Geoffrey and sweet Annabelle?  I must search for them.  The cold waters envelope me and a silver ribbon lights the way to my watery grave.

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