The Height of Absurdity: Fool’s Gold 12.6
4 September, 2018 by katelaity
How to describe the horrible sight which met our gaze under the flickering torches? The sheer terror filled me. I heard Chambers gasp and the Abbess quickly recited a prayer.
But Tansy spoke, her voice deep with anger. ‘Who did this?’
Had the man responsible stood within reach, I have no doubt she would have killed him with her bare hands. I had never seen such a look upon that beautiful face before. My friend’s fierce expression terrified me a little but I also felt a soaring pride in her, too.
Alas, our ghost was mute before us as she hovered over the skeleton’s chained together on the floor of the chamber. They made a sort of semi-circle and were surrounded by tools—picks, shovels, baskets—that indicated the work they had been labouring at when they met their demise.
The ghost lay a hand on the skeleton nearest us and I realised that she was indicating her own mortal remains. My shock grew. No fine lady of the manor she, but a miner—even a prisoner? What mystery was this?
‘If only she could speak,’ Tansy said, her voice wistful as she, too, gazed at our spectral guide. ‘What horrid tragedy befell these women?’
‘Were they prisoners, punished perhaps by working in the mines?’ I asked, though it was hard to imagine the lovely countenance having done anything wrong, so wrong to have been punished with harsh physical labour deep in the bowels of the earth.
‘Horrid slavers,’ the abbess said, her voice harsh with emotion, ‘they steal away women and sell them to who knows who.’
Chambers was bent over studying the chains that linked them together. ‘There is something odd about this metal.’ He tapped it with his finger.
The phantom woman turned about, wringing her hands with frustration. She could not communicate her desperate story to us. I admit my curiosity had doubled even though I had been surprised to find her circumstances rather humbler than I had assumed, she seemed a remarkable woman anyway. I know Tansy would twit me for having been a snob, so I was glad not to have spoken my assumptions aloud.
‘Perhaps they were misled,’ I suggested.
‘But by whom? And where? Are they local? Who brought them to this wretched place? And what had it to do with the church?’ Tansy looked to the abbess. I would not say her glance was accusatory but in the light of the flickering torches it may have looked that way. ‘The church has not always been kind to women.’
‘I assure you the church did not traffic in slaves!’ The abbess was adamant.
‘Not in this century, anyway.’ Tansy was hardly conciliatory.
‘Do not wrangle,’ I said with a touch of pleading in my voice. ‘We cannot know for certain what happened and it is best not to fall out over the possibilities, which are nigh on infinite until proved otherwise.’
‘Could be fairies,’ Chambers said though we none of us took that suggestion seriously. The man was obsessed on that point.
‘Unless this lovely lady acquire a voice somehow, we shall never know.’ I looked up at the mournful countenance, which nearly broke my heart. She could have been the heroine in one of Collins’ sensation novels. At least then we should have been able to learn her tale.
The beckoning fair one floated over to Tansy, as if to make a special appeal to her. She put out her hands as of to clasp them with my friend, who did her best to reach out to the insubstantial form. The spirit gave a look of appeal, as if to ask her pity especially—or perhaps something more. Tansy looked intently into the translucent eyes.
What was going on?
Tansy gave a nod and all at once, the ghost disappeared, as if my friend’s fingers had absorbed her somehow.