March 22, 2015 05:34PM
There are spirits and spirits, and the difference between them is sometimes not quite understood . One comes in a bottle, and the other….

Chapter one.

The age old prediction of birth and death following each other occurred in Hunsford, when George Jenkins, an eighty four year old widower, passed away the same week as Mrs Jones, a parishioner, gave birth…..

Mr William Collins, as befitting his position as parson of Hunsford by Westerham, was not a drinking man. He would never have his position if he was. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, his patroness, was a strict, church-going disciplinarian in such matters. Outside of the small amount of church wine involved in his communion, he rarely took more than a glass of wine with his evening meal, an odd glass of wine socially and possibly a small tot of brandy on very special occasions. One such occasion was when Mrs Jones, a prominent member of his flock and a leading light in the Hunsford church choir, gave birth to her second child. He called at the Jones home with Charlotte to visit and announced the birth happily from his pulpit on the following Sunday. Later, the child would be baptized at a Christening ceremony. A couple of evenings later Mr Collins had called to see the Jenkins relations and dispense what comfort he could to the family on the demise of their father and grandfather. He stayed some time with the family, taking a glass of home-made wine and dispensing condolences, and dusk was fast approaching as he strolled the short walk home. By the time he reached the edge of his property, darkness had descended.

Charlotte would have some hot broth ready for his supper and he hummed to himself as he strode along. He had to pass the Jones cottage on his way and the tenant was sitting outside the house smoking his pipe. Mr Jones hailed him:
“Good evening Reverend. Lovely mild night, is it not, though I think it may rain later?”
Oh, do you believe so? I was rather hoping not. How are Mrs Jones and the new addition?
“ Absolutely fine Sir. We’re both delighted with young Edmund, for so we shall call him. Would you raise a glass with me in a small toast Mr Collins? . I have some vintage brandy here that my cousin brought back from his last voyage. Just a drop mind as I know you probably wish to get home!” Mr Collins hesitated, but Jones was already disappearing into the cottage and came right back with a brandy bottle and two small glasses. He poured for them both and they clinked glasses. The brandy was rich and potent and Mr Collins nodded appreciatively as the fiery liquid warmed his throat. He wished the family and child well, then once again set off on his way homeward. Deciding to forsake the path and cut across the church graveyard from whence he could see the cheerful glow of his house window, he stepped over the low fence into the hallowed ground.

He could not truly say later whether the wine and brandy affected his judgement, or whether the thought of Mr Jones’s predicted rain made him hurry. Regardless, he completely forgot about the newly-dug grave that awaited George Jenkins on the morrow. With a startled cry he slipped on the mud and disappeared into the gaping hole in a tangle of legs and arms. The sides took the brunt of his fall and, with a resigned sigh and feeling slightly dizzy, he climbed to his feet, relieved to find that apart from being dishevelled and mud-stained he was unhurt. Being quite tall, his head was still below the rim of the grave aperture and he leaned back against the mud wall as he considered his position.

Chapter Two.

Edward Blake, ex mariner, local ne’r do well and frequent patron of the village inn, The Bell and Whistle, had somewhat lost his way home in his befuddled state. He would have to cut across the graveyard and the parsonage grounds to get to his cottage on the other side of both. He mumbled the words of a sea-shanty to himself as he stumbled drunkenly along. Just as Mr Collins had done some moments before, he suddenly found nothingness beneath his feet and crashed headlong into the open grave. Swearing profusely he staggered upright and gazed upwards in disbelief as he realized where he was. Suddenly, a hand tapped him on the shoulder and a voice said “ You’ll never get out alone. Let me help you and…..”

The sound of a man screaming loudly brought Charlotte and Mr Dawkins to the doors of their respective abodes. Dawkins was holding a shotgun in one hand and a lantern in the other. The terrified running figure, jibbering in fright, was past them before either knew what was happening.
A voice called out to them and with some trepidation Dawkins walked forward and held out his lantern just in time to see the dazed-looking head of Mr Collins peering from below ground level. Charlotte let out a startled cry and Dawkins sighed and went off to find a ladder. In minutes the reverend was helped back to terra - firma with thoughts of hot broth and newly baked bread still uppermost in his mind over the rosy glow of all else.

The legend of the Hunsford Phantom was born that night, and from thence, the local graveyard was carefully avoided from the first sign of dusk. Edward Blake got many a free tot from his re-telling of the tale of his meeting, but it was mainly in the daylight hours. He suddenly began to attend church for the first time in many years. Next day, in deference to the true story reaching the ears of Lady Catherine, Dawkins and Charlotte agreed not to even mention it from that time forth. Mr Collins dismissed it from mind as nothing more than just a normality.

End.




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SubjectAuthorPosted

Hunsford Tales. A Spirited Affair.

Jim G.MMarch 22, 2015 05:34PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. A Spirited Affair.

MarthaMarch 24, 2015 05:09AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. A Spirited Affair.

LisaYMarch 23, 2015 01:15PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. A Spirited Affair.

terrycgMarch 23, 2015 03:57AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. A Spirited Affair.

Lucy J.March 23, 2015 03:38AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. A Spirited Affair.

Amy A-NWMarch 22, 2015 09:30PM

Delightful (nfm)

LiliMarch 23, 2015 02:34AM



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