18 September, 2018 by katelaity
‘Tansy, do come down to earth again,’ I pled in vain. She paid not the slightest bit of attention to me. Or perhaps it wasn’t Tansy who was ignoring me, but Eliza Fenning. I suppose one had to forgive a ghost the occasional lapse of politeness. Yet I was annoyed that she had possessed my friend.
‘Do tell us your story,’ the abbess said gently, ignoring our manly hootering about the cavern walls. ‘If that will help your soul to rest, we shall be pleased to listen. Is that not so, gentlemen?’
‘Oh yes,’ Chambers said, memorandum book out and ready to take notes. Plainly he looked on this phantastical event as more fodder for his studies of the odd folklore of the land. I was rather annoyed at his eagerness though I recalled then that our whole purpose of this ill-begotten journey was to settle that bet about absurdity and wondered if we had not brought it all upon ourselves.
‘Where is your tape measure, Tansy, if you can hear me over the ghostly banter?’ I asked, a little waspishly it is true but there were many strange feelings in my breast too numerous to sort and that always made me grumpy as Tansy was quick to remind me.
She must have heard me though, for her hand reached into one of the capacious pockets she always demanded on her dresses and drew forth the estimable device. With due diligence I measured from the ground to her present height as that seemed most germane. ‘Would you mind jotting that down?’ I asked Chambers for Tansy or the ghost was showing signs of impatience with this fol-de-rol.
‘If you are quite finished with that,’ said the voice of Eliza Fenning, ‘I shall begin, though I do not expect those such as yourself to feel much sympathy for our poor souls.’
‘Why ever not, my dear?’ Chambers said with evident feeling.
‘We are not genteel women. Some of us had indeed fallen far from grace. But we were human beings and blessed souls as much as any other.’
‘How did you come to be in this dark cavern?’ the abbess asked, clearly hoping to move away from the point of contention toward more useful information.
‘We were all stolen away by blackguards of a most sinister type.’ The voice that spoke through Tansy took on a new air of melancholy. ‘Going about our lives, mostly terrible, often deprived—but free! And above ground. It is a terrible thing to be brought down below.’
I shuddered. I was already beginning to hate this place. Imagine being imprisoned here!
‘Did they capture you to work the mines? To dig out the phosphorous’ Chambers said as gently as possible for it seemed the spirit wavered, lost in thought.
‘Dangerous work!’ the abbess cried in alarm.
‘Oh, it was worse than that,’ the spirit said. ‘We had been captured by notorious criminals of Hartlepool who put us to work searching for gold and melting down the gold they stole from the good citizens of the town.’
‘What terrible mastermind came up with such a nefarious scheme?’ I asked, insulted by the horrible depths of depravity my fellow men were capable of sinking to.
‘The head of the criminal syndicate was a man called James Sydd.’
I gasped. ‘The Laughing Man himself?’ This was a wild tale indeed!