The Height of Absurdity: Hilda’s Abbey 11.8
12 June, 2018 by katelaity
‘I don’t see anything,’ I said with what struck even me as a petulant air. I must say the air that belched forth from the stone grave was less foul than I had expected.
Tansy held the lamp lower. ‘Do you not see the stair?’
All at once, I could see it indeed. A moment later I gasped. ‘You don’t propose to go down there!’ Knowing Tansy all too well, I could only conclude that she did.
‘Of course,’ she confirmed with a grin that struck me as far too excitable indeed. ‘With the abbess’ permission, of course.’
‘Oh, just try to hinder me!’ the abbess said with a feverish sort of thrill in her tones. I did not expect women of the church to be so eager for adventures or absurdity. ‘But we need torches. That lantern is not enough. In no time at all she had bustled to get them from some unknown location or perhaps it was only the cellarer who had them.
‘How very exciting,’ Chambers said as he lit his torch from the lantern.
‘My only wish is that we do not end up in another land again,’ I grumbled, lighting my own torch with the resignation of a man who knows he faces an indomitable foe. I only hoped our little ‘light brigade’ would fare somewhat better than history suggested likely.
‘Audaces fortuna iuvat,’ Tansy murmured to me with a wink.
‘I do not feel particularly favoured by fortune or by fate,’ I said with a sigh, but followed as we all made our way down the steep stone steps into the darkness. I did my best to feel for each downward step, fearing the stone would be clammy and precarious but the crypt seemed arid enough despite our proximity to the North Sea.
When at last we reached the bottom of the stair, our little group paused to look around us in the gloom. It was not a propitious sight as far as I was concerned for it looked to be innumerable like coffins of stone and chambers of the same heading off in every direction. Plainly no one had disturbed the place for many a year because spiders had made a playground for themselves there. Silken threads crisscrossed the corners of the room and a layer of thick dust attested to the neglected state of the place.
‘Mrs Radcliffe would love this place,’ Tansy said with a big grin that glittered in the murky room.
‘Mrs Radcliffe can have it,’ I said, sneezing for dust was the primary quality of the air down here.
‘Listen,’ Chambers said, head cocked on the side as if to aid in that act. We all followed suit. I did not immediately hear anything unusual but our shuffling feet, our breathing and the rustle of the abbess’ robes. Then all at once it was clear.
Water! I did not like the sound of that as our adventures in the Other Lands was too present in my mind.
‘Let us explore,’ Tansy said. ‘Perhaps we can find the source.’
Reluctant though I was, I followed the others as we stepped into the next chamber where the sound seemed to originate. It, too, was filled with a variety of stone coffins, none with any remarkable features. I was accustomed to the more ornate sort of thing one might find in Winchester or whatnot, kings and queens and such. I suppose being monks or abbots they were unconcerned with the flounces of style.
‘Look here,’ Tansy said on the far side of the chamber. We gathered to see the little canal or whatever one might call it that ran along the wall. I was mostly relieved to see it was too small to allow us to pass along it.
‘Perhaps they used it to wash their hands after burials,’ I said, looking askance at my own mitts which had become unconscionably dirty. I decided I could do worse than follow that mode and leaned over to accomplish the needed task.
‘Wait!’ Tansy said, staying my hand. ‘Do you not see this legend carved on the wall?’