After a few minutes, a pony and trap came into the square. It stopped beside me.
`Mr Kipps?' the driver said.
`Are you Keckwick?' I asked. I was surprised that Keckwick did not come in a car.
The man nodded his head.
I got into the trap. The pony started off at once.
We drove quickly through the quiet little town. We passed the churchyard and were soon in open country.
The country around the town was completely flat. There was a beautiful, grey sky above us.
After a time, we reached the marshes. The marshes were strange and beautiful. No trees grew in the marshes. There was water everywhere. There were no people and no houses. There was silence. The only sound was the noise made by the hooves of the pony and the wheels of the trap.
We drove along the path until we came to the causeway. The long causeway went across the estuary. The sandy causeway was not much higher than the water on each side.
This is Nine Lives Causeway, I thought. At high tide the water will completely cover it.
The bright winter sun shone in my eyes. I shut them for a moment.
When I opened my eyes, we were near the end of the causeway. In front of us was a tall, grey house. It stood alone looking over the marshes and the water of the estuary.
The lonely house was on a little island. This was Eel Marsh House!
The trap stopped in front of the house. For a few moments I did not move. What a strange, lonely place! But the place was so beautiful that I did not feel afraid.
I got out of the trap.
`When will the water cover the causeway again?'
`In two hours,' Keckwick answered.
I did not want to leave so soon. I wanted more time in this beautiful place.
`Two hours won't be enough time for me to do my work here,' I said. `I'll come back here again tomorrow. I'll bring food and drink with me and stay for a day or two. But now that I'm here, I'll have a look round the house. What are you going to do? Will you wait here or come back for me later?'
Keckwick did not answer. He turned the pony and trap round and drove off. I watched the trap going back across the causeway. I was alone.
I stood there without moving. The key to the house was in my hand. A sea-bird flew by. It gave a cry. Then there was silence again.
What a place to live! I thought. Perhaps, one day, Stella and I will stay here. I wanted to be with her in this beautiful place.
There was a field behind the house. It went from the house to the water. The setting sun made the water red. The wind from the sea was getting colder.
At the end of the field, I saw a little church. It looked very old. It had no roof and its walls were broken. Some old gravestones stood round the old building.
It was beginning to grow dark. It was time to go inside the house.
And then I saw the young woman again. She was standing beside one of the gravestones. It was the woman in black. She was wearing the same old-fashioned clothes. She looked pale and ill. Her eyes were dark in her pale face.
Those eyes! How can I describe them? Her eyes were evil. They stared at me with a terrible hate. There was something the woman wanted from me - something she had lost. What was it?
I began to shake with fear. I felt very cold. My heart beat faster and faster. I wanted to run. But I was not able to move. What was wrong with me?
The woman stepped behind the gravestone. She had gone. My fear left me.
I ran down into the graveyard. I looked for the young woman everywhere. But she had disappeared.
There were the marshes. And there was the shining causeway. I was able to see for miles. But there were no houses. There was no place to hide. I did not understand it.
Suddenly my fear returned. I ran back to the house. I did not look back. I was too frightened to look back!
I reached the house and tried to open the door. My hand was shaking. At last the key was in the lock.
I opened the door and stepped inside. The door shut with a bang. The sound went through the empty house.
What had happened to me? Who was the woman in black? I did not believe in ghosts. But I had seen one. A ghost that was evil and terrible.
But I was inside the house now. I was safe. I smiled. I did not believe in ghosts. I had work to do. And I wanted to do it well. I must forget the woman in black.
I looked around. I was standing in a dark hallway. In front of me was a wide staircase. On one side was a passage.
Perhaps it led to the kitchen. There were several doors, all of them closed.
It was getting darker. I switched on a light in the hall. I went to the nearest door and opened it. I then opened one door after another. One door was locked.
There was old furniture in every room. It was a11 large and heavy. There were old pictures on all the walls. Every room had desks and cupboards. And my job was to look through all of them!
There was a damp smell in the house. Some of the rooms had not been used far many years. The whole house was dark and shadowy. Mrs Drablow had lived here alone, I thought. I was not surprised that people said she was strange!
I pulled up the blinds at every window. From each window I was able to see the marshes and the estuary. It was a beautiful place. But silent and lonely!
I used the keys to open some desks and cupboards. All of them were full of papers. I was sure that some of these papers were important. I had to look at all of them. This job will take a long time, I thought.
It was too late to start work that afternoon. I looked at my watch. Keckwick was not coming back for another hour.
I decided to walk back along the causeway. I was able to see the path from the window. It went straight ahead. It was not possible for me to lose my way. I was sure to meet Keckwick on the way.
I went back into every room. I pulled down the blinds. I turned off all the lights. I locked the front door behind me.