31 July, 2018 by katelaity
How to describe a phantome? A thing more absent than present?
Mrs Radcliffe would be proud to say that it very much matched her sort of spectre, being human and ghastly and wavering in the darkness before us. Though I seem to recall that her ghosts were mostly disguises not the real thing and I do really suspect that it would be difficult to pretend to be only half a ghost.
Before us hung the ethereal figure but the lower half wisped away to nothingness, a trailing sort of light that matched the eeriness of the phosphoric glow.
By my dispassionate description you might imagine that we coolly observed this strange phenomenon with a scientific remove. Well, perhaps Chambers managed it. Or he at least was not given to the vapours as I suspected my own reaction to encompass nor to the rapturous delight that Tansy evidenced.
The abbess, unsurprisingly, resorted to prayer and the cross.
Tansy was the first to recover sensibility. My head spun yet. Chambers remained frozen. The abbess murmured soothing sounds.
‘Are you distressed, dear lady?’ Tansy said softly yet her voice jolted me as if she had shouted, so silent was the chamber.
I stared more closely at the ghost. Lady? Why, indeed it was. How had I missed that? In fact, now that I stared at the apparition I could see that it was not only a woman but a lovely one with a look of troubled sorrow that could move any heart not already fluttering in fear. Not that mine was, of course.
The oval face and mild brow suggested a woman of exquisite taste and matchless beauty in the living world. Long hair flowed about her neck and shoulders and though she seemed to be dressed in indistinct diaphanous robes, I was certain that her attire in life must have been richly made. Her delicate hands wrung one another in obvious distress. ‘Poor lady!’
What could have brought her to such sorrow? My heart that had hammered in fear now beat with a kindlier tattoo.
Her quick look of comprehension let us know that she understood our queries but when she opened her lips to give a sound, all that her mouth emitted was the same unsettling moan of pain that had drawn us down the dark path.
‘She cannot speak,’ I said, perhaps needlessly.
‘Can you not allow us to help you?’ Tansy asked, plainly as wrenched by the heartstrings as I.
The spirit wavered before us, as if she might go out like a lamp. After a moment, however, she turned away from us into the blacker darkness. Was this an apparition to last only a moment? But then she turned back. Her features seemed to implore us for our kindness, but what could it mean?
This time she left off wringing her hands and instead beckoned us on. The fair one could not be ignored—at least not by me, for I found her face enchanting and her sorrow most touching.
‘Do we not fear to be led into perdition?’ the abbess said with a grave look.
‘Such a face could not mean us ill,’ I murmured, my eyes upon her sad countenance.
‘The madness of the eyes is the lure of the abyss,’ Tansy said with a sidelong glance at me.
I did not know to what text she referred—Tansy was always one for quoting from books I had not read (especially if they were ones I was supposed to have read and had not, but I blame my overly harsh schoolmasters for depriving me of any love of literature beyond Dickens). ‘I am quite certain such a refined lady of manners and taste will not lead us astray.’
‘Ah yes, refined ladies like those of Llangolen.’ Tansy had the audacity to wink at me, which in the torchlight looked especially sinister.
‘Shall we follow her anyway?’ Chambers put in with some evident impatience at our wrangling. ‘We can always turn back if things appear to be dangerous. And we have the abbess with us.’
The abbess did her best to look like our secret weapon.#