The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 69… Rebecca’s Spell (Part Three)… The Woods

Memories of a lifestyle in Bayswater had fled from Esme’s mind, as if being mystically replaced by surroundings she now found herself in. She could not imagine any other existent lifestyle. This was where she belonged. This felt very natural to her. Here were her friends and here she was. There was simply nothing else.

After twenty minutes they came to a hilltop clearing that overlooked some disused and overgrown workings, long thought by the many locals of Mill Hill to be the ancient diggings of charcoal burners.

‘Disturbances of the ground would have created this vale,’ remarked Charles coldly. ‘They would be digging out trees, large ones.’

‘I don’t like this place,’ added Celia. ‘Please lets move on.’

The boys had introduced themselves firstly as friends of Charles and then gave their names as Barney and Toby. For a strange moment Esme felt they were familiar to her, at least in name only. Then the moment was gone and she shook away any recollection. Slowly, they moved away from their hilltop view and re-joined the pathway that led deeper into the woods. Overhead a strong sun began peer down, making its way through the tangled tops of trees and touching the mossy ground underfoot.

‘I think it smells of damp,’ remarked Celia looking rather glum.

‘Of course it does, silly.’ Bridget glanced at Celia. ‘That’s what woods do.’

The boys grinned.

‘Does this trail lead to the Convent, anyone know?’ asked Esme.

‘No, we have to find a sign and a path off in another direction,’ forwarded Bridget, who it seemed had badgered Miss Dyson for information before their departure.

After a further ten minutes walking they came across an old hand painted wooden sign that was nailed to a large oak. Celia brushed it gently to reveal the faded words: Sisters of Heaven. A path ran off to its left.

Celia’s eyes became fixed. ‘Well, I guess this is the way we go,’ she said cautiously.

The path was narrow, forcing them to walk in single file between knee high undergrowth, some of it wet with sticky dew that clung to the girls stocking legs and the boys shoes. Soon they arrived on a grassy plateau devoid of trees that slopped down to a rather old stone bricked building with an archway for its entrance and a low wall that appeared to surround it. Rising from the centre of this structure was a tall tower.

‘I bet that’s a bell tower,’ observed Charles, squinting up his eyes and wishing he had thought to bring along binoculars.

Beyond the archway they could just make out a large wooden door, the entrance to the convent presumably, a thought shared by everyone.

At that moment the door opened and a large man stretched himself in the cool morning air. The six of them slumped to the damp ground to avoid detection. The man yawned loudly as if he had just woken. It made Celia jump for a moment. He then spat at the ground, turned and walked back through the open door.

‘He looks a bit of brute,’ remarked Celia, who was never impressed with the masculine side of the human race.

‘Could he be a Gardener or Cook, observed Bridget. Although, he seems an unlikely person to have in a Convent. Perhaps he carries out the human sacrifices.’

‘Oh, do shut up,’ cried Celia.

‘Shush you two,’ Esme looked directly at Bridget. She was a dear friend who sometimes could be infuriating.

‘I say we go down there and have a poke around,’ prompted Barney.

‘What on earth for?’ Charles stared at him apprehensively.

Well, if Bridget thinks they are up to no good, it’s our duty to look into it.’

‘Our duty…It’s our duty to mind our own business!’

Suddenly Esme could see an assertive side to Charles. A side that she liked and respected. Am I failing in love she asked herself.

About Patrick

a photographer, writer and blogger, a studio and press photographer since the mid 1960's, first published writings in 1974
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