Ghosts (Tony Greenfield)

by Tony Greenfield

The hall was old, very old, and it was near the even older abbey.

Bump ….bump, bump.

My bed was bumping.

I put out my hand to steady it. My hand was wet.

The bed was bumping because it was floating.

Rain thrashed on the canvas.

John’s mother had warned us. “It looks like rain,” she had said. “If it rains, you boys must come in.”

But, even during the war, we wanted our adventure, as 11-year-old boys did. So we had pitched our tent on the lawn.

The lawn was hard, because it grew on clay, so we had airbeds that we had blown up… part of the adventure.

And that is why the rain didn’t run away but grew into a lake and our beds floated. Small boys aren’t heavy enough to weigh down a floating bed to keep it on the ground. Our floating beds were bouncing and bumping.

The rain kept thrashing the canvas. The beds kept bumping. We surrendered, and ran for the kitchen door.

John’s mother wasn’t surprised. “Dry pyjamas, “she said. “And bed.”

The bedroom was ancient and panelled. A small electric bulb, yellowing with age, was our only light. There were several single bunks for adventuring groups of boys.

Clink ….clink, clink.

The clinking disturbed my drift into sleep. I lay as still as I could, and listened.

The clinking was in the corridor, the far side of a heavy oak door.

I held my breath and listened.

What was it?

I was brave. After all, I was 11.

I opened the door … but just a smidgeon … just enough to see down the corridor. It was very dark but there was a little light from somewhere… It caught a sparkle of shining metal… a tiny flash that moved, with the clinking, along the corridor, away from me.

I closed the door and woke John.

My story didn’t trouble him. “Just the king’s soldier,” he said. “He’s often there, searching for monks. Get back to bed and go to sleep.”

“What king?” I insisted. “What monks?”

“King Henry. He sent his soldiers to clear out the monks. But the soldiers won’t find the monks. They’re too well hidden. I know where they are.”

“Where? What monks?”

“Go to sleep. I’ll tell you in the morning. And don’t worry. He’s not after you. He doesn’t even know you exist. You don’t yet, because he’s a long time ago. Shut up and go to sleep.”

I did go to sleep, eventually.

John wouldn’t tell me the story until after breakfast.

The stone-floored cellar was big… and it was cold. It extended the full width and length of the hall. There were at least a dozen thick stone-walled rooms. John lifted aside a large stone flag in a dark corner. A tunnel! John’s torch lit the way. About 20 yards in, he said, “Have you seen one of these before?”

A skeleton!

“Remains of a monk. He’d been there for 400 years and nobody knew until we found him last year when we were clearing out the cellar. There are more, further along. They were hiding from the soldiers who raided the abbey. Nobody ever found them and they died from cold and hunger.

“Nobody’s seen any ghosts of the monks but that soldier keeps searching.

“The university says they’ll have a look when they have time after the war.”

(More about Tony)


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