- 5 . At Bowerly Hall – 05
- 6 . At Bowerly Hall – 06
- 7 . At Bowerly Hall – 07
- 8 . At Bowerly Hall – 08
- 9 . At Bowerly Hall – 09
- 10 . At Bowerly Hall – 10
- 11 . At Bowerly Hall – 11
IT is good for Mary to take walks. Please do not venture too far from the house, however,” Lady Anne said.
Once more my obstinate streak rose up and refused to be silenced.
“I thought she might enjoy gathering shells on the beach,” I said.
Lady Anne shook her head.
“There is no way down to the near beach from the grounds and the next beach is quite some distance to walk. Mary must be content with the meadows where she can pick flowers. Bowerly woods are pleasant, too, for walking.”
I bent my head as if in agreement to her wishes. As I hurried back upstairs to the nursery, my mind spun.
Lady Anne had lied to me. There was a stone staircase down to the beach. Peggy had told me so. And had I not seen the very top of it with my own eyes?
Why, then, should Lady Anne try to divert me away from the truth? I thought again of the pale face watching me from the Hall and shivered.
The rest of the evening passed peacefully and I was glad to take a candle and find my way to bed.
I hoped for a deep slumber and to waken refreshed but it was not to be. I lay awake, staring at the ceiling. I must have finally drifted off because all of a sudden I was startled awake. But by what? My head was fogged with sleep.
I rubbed my eyes and sat up. There was a noise. I waited. There it came again. Was it the faint sound of hooves?
I slid out of bed and went to the window. It was a deep velvet black outside. I pressed my face to the glass and my sight adjusted to the darkness. It was enough to make out an impression of movement.
Who was down there? Why was someone out and about in the middle of the night?
Curiosity burned in me. Without thinking further, I put on my coat and boots and slipped out of my room.
My thoughts floated like strips of ribbon. Was someone ill? Could it be the doctor’s horse I had heard?
Or perhaps a footman sent to fetch him from the village? A visitor late arriving at the house?
I arrived in the empty hallway, convinced that I could help in some way, only to find no-one there. At this point, I should have gone back to bed but I wanted to know what was going on.
The front door was unlocked and I thought how odd that was. If there were thieves about, it would be only too easy for them to gain access to Bowerly.
Yet, strangely, it did not occur to me that I was in any danger. Instead, I found myself energised and eager to go outside. My life was otherwise so calm and without event.
Here was something new.
It was very cold outside as the blackness enveloped me. The air smelled sharp and salty as if it had come straight from the sea.
After a moment I could make out the square of lawn in the moonlight. Ahead of me, the shadows of the wall from the kitchen garden.
I hurried towards it. There was no sound of hooves now. No movement.
I stopped, confused. Had I imagined it all?
There could be no harm in walking a little further to the edge of the meadow, I decided. It was exhilarating being out at such a late hour.
I looked back at the sleeping house. There were no lights in any of the windows.
It struck me that perhaps I was looking in the wrong place. I had heard a horse’s hooves, or so I thought. I should go to the stables.
I wavered between my desire to see the meadow in the moonlight and the logic of visiting the stables first. I knew the stables lay on the far side of Bowerly although I had not yet been inside them.
I was almost through the kitchen garden now. I decided to go just beyond them to see the meadow before retracing my steps.
As I did so, I gasped. There was a flicker of orange light far ahead, just where the meadow met the cliffs. It was so tiny I might have missed it.
The moon was covered by cloud and I could not make out any figures. The single bobbing glow was unnerving. As if a ghost was abroad.
I shook myself angrily. What nonsense. It was perhaps a natural phenomenon such as a will-o’-the-wisp of gas. I knew these to occur in marshes but not on grass.
The alternative was that someone was awake, just like me. Awake and heading for the beach.
I walked swiftly through the dew-laden grasses. A sweet scent of hay and perfumed petals stirred wherever my feet trod. Overhead, an owl hooted and glided past on whispering wings.
I picked up my pace. Whoever it was in front of me had a few minutes’ grace. If I lingered here in this magical place, I might lose them.
Soon I had reached the lip of the cliffs. The moonlight came and went as the clouds sailed by. One minute I saw quite clearly, the next all was cast into gloom.
Luckily, the chalky white stone of the top of the stair was bright enough to see. I stood at the top of the stair and peered down.
The swell of the sea was faintly visible. I heard the suck and pull of waves hitting the beach. Then I saw the oddest thing. The flame I had followed, which I now presumed to be a lantern of some sort, moved up the cliffs.
Again, I thought of ghosts. My heart thudded in my rib cage. Then the light simply disappeared! A few orange flickers and it was gone.
What was happening?