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The Cry of a Child

Outside the house, everything was quiet I looked back once, but I did not see the woman in black.

The causeway was dry. But the tide was coming in. The water on either side of the causeway was higher now. As I walked on, I felt very alone. The path over the causeway seemed longer too. I walked faster.

The sky and the water were beautiful in the grey light. Then I saw the sea-mist The sea-mist was moving quickly over the marshes. In a few moments, the sea-mist covered everything.

It was a damp, white mist. It was very different from the yellow fog of London. The mist moved about in front of my eyes. Soon my hair and clothes were wet.

Now I saw only a short way in front of me. I looked back. I was not able to see Eel Marsh House. It had completely disappeared in the mist.

I walked on, very slowly. Then I stopped. If I went on, I might walk off the causeway into the deep mud. I decided to go back.

But going back was difficult too. The mist was moving all round me. Where was the house? Was I going the right way? I felt very afraid.

And then I heard the pony and trap. Thank God! Keckwick was coming back for me. I stopped and waited. But now the sounds of the pony and trap were going away from me. Now the sound was coming from somewhere on the marshes. What was wrong? Had Keckwick gone off the path?

I stood very still. For a moment, there was complete silence.

Suddenly a pony shrieked with fear. Then I heard a sound I shall never forget. The terrible cry of a child. A child in fear of death.

And now the trap was sinking. There was a strange sucking sound. The trap was going down under the mud. And still the child cried out.

There was nothing I could do! I shouted. But no one answered. How could I find the trap in that terrible mist? It was impossible.

I had to get back to the house. If I turned on all the lights, someone might see them. Someone might help.

It was dark now. The mist was thicker too. I heard the sea-water moving nearer.

At last I was standing on hard ground in front of the house. I found the front door and opened it Behind me the marshes were silent.

I sat down on the nearest chair. I began to shake. Oh, the horror of that terrible cry! That poor child dying in the marshes. I began crying and was not able to stop.

After a time, I made myself stand up. I walked into every room and turned on the lights.

I found some brandy in a cupboard. I drank some and my fear turned to anger. Why had Mr Bentley sent me here? Why had I left London?

I walked in and out of the rooms. I wanted only one thing. I wanted to get away from this terrible place.

I walked slowly along a passage on the second floor. The door at the end was locked. I kicked the door angrily. But it did not open. I turned away and walked back.

As I went, I looked through every window. The white sea-mist was all around the house. I could see nothing.

I drank some more brandy. The brandy helped me to forget To forget that terrible sound of the child crying. At last I fell asleep.

A bell was ringing. It rang again and again. I opened my eyes slowly. I looked through the window. The moon shone white in the black sky.

How long had I been asleep? I did not know. The bell rang again.

Then I remembered with horror the sound I had heard. I remembered the screams of the child. I remembered the shrieks of the pony. I remembered the noise of the trap as it sank down in the mud.

Had I heard those noises? Had I dreamt them? I did not know.

The bell rang again. Someone was at the door. Who was there? All the lights in the house were on. People had seen the lights and come to help me.

I got up slowly and walked to the door. There was only one man at the door. It was Keckwick. And behind him was his pony and trap. They were real and they were not harmed at all.

`I had to wait till the mist cleared,' said Keckwick. `And when the mist cleared, the tide was in. I had to wait until the tide went out and the water left the cause­way.'

Then I looked at my watch and saw the time. It was two o'clock in the morning.

`It's very good of you to come here for me at this time,' I said.

`I would not have left you to stay here all night,' Keckwick said. `No, no. I would not have left you here all night'

`How did you get out of the mud ...?' I began to say. Then I knew. It had not been Keckwick. It had been someone else. But who? Who had been driving on the marshes on a dark November evening? Who?

Keckwick looked at me strangely.

`You'd better get in the trap,' he said. `I'll drive you back.'

Keckwick knew that something strange had happened to me. But he was not going to ask me about it. And he did not want to hear about it I got into the trap and we drove off.

I sat in the trap in a dream. A dream of horror and fear. I now knew the truth. But I did not want to believe it.

The woman in black was a ghost. And the child was a ghost too. I had seen the woman. I had heard the child. They had died long ago. But they did not rest in peace.

The innkeeper of the Gifford Arms had not gone to bed. He was waiting up for me. He let me in without a word. It was after three o'clock in the morning when I got to bed. I slept. But in my dreams, I heard the cry of a child. I stood once more in the white sea-mist. And always, near me, was the woman in black.


Date: 2015-02-03; view: 904

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