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A Village in Cornwall

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Competition Entry: Spooky Tales

I have a strange tale for you, a very strange tale indeed. I almost don’t know where to start. I suppose the beginning may be a good idea. Firstly, I’m a writer. I write crime novels, perhaps you’ve read some of them. My name is Rambles, Verity Rambles. Oh dear, I’ve only just started and already I’m sounding like James Bond. Sadly I’m not; I’m just a writer. I’m a big fan of the nineteen-twenties. Most, if not all of my murder mysteries are set in that era.

This story, however, is today, now. It all started with my divorce. Marry in haste, repent in leisure. I’m sure we’ve all heard that one. How many of us took it seriously though? I know I didn’t. I think I just got married for the sake of marrying; all my friends were doing it. I just got caught up in the moment. One minute I was single, the next I was married. Harry, my ex, wasn’t a bad man. Apart from being unfaithful, that is. I suppose in a way I don’t blame him. It does after all take two to tango.

His secretary was younger than me, and I was too busy working on my latest novel. I suppose it was inevitable in a way. Whatever the reason, we got a divorce. To be honest, I never did like living in London. I only moved there because of his work. Working from home, I could work anywhere. So we sold our townhouse in Chelsea and I moved near the seaside. I wanted somewhere quiet and chose Cornwall. Selling a house in Chelsea meant I could move pretty much anywhere I wanted.

Morth village in Cornwall seemed like the ideal place, peaceful and quiet. I would be lying if I said it was all I’d hoped for, it wasn’t. For the first year or so, very few people spoke to me. Yes, they would be polite and say good morning. But that was about it. I was an outsider, and they don’t easily take to outsiders. Don’t get me wrong, they were pleasant enough. I just never really felt like a part of the village. Mind you, living in London was no better. If anything it was worse. At least they said hello down here.

I shan’t dwell too much on the good and bad of Cornish village life. Suffice to say, most people here have never left the village. They are very much set in their ways. Nevertheless, one person did stand out, Miss Wilkins. She was the first person to visit me in my cottage. She was a kindly old lady who was born and raised in the village. Her first name was Molly, but she liked to be referred to as Miss Wilkins. I didn’t mind, and she always called me Mrs Rambles. I supposed it was just her way.

She would pop in once a week or so. We’d have a cup of tea and a piece of home baked cake that she always brought along. It was just nice to get away from my typewriter once in a while. Besides, apart from phone calls with my publisher, she was the only person I had any real conversation with. Having said that, she mostly listened, she was a good listener. I told her all about my divorce and why I moved to Cornwall. I told her all about my writing, despite the fact she had never read any of my books. Still, as I said, it was just nice to talk to someone.

Just like one of my novels, things took a sudden twist. It was late September. Miss Wilkins was paying her usual visit. She started to open up a little and tell me about the village, moreover, village history. Apparently, Morth was once known for its association with witchcraft. The story goes that several hundred years ago, a so-called witch lived in this very village. Several children were struck with fever, two cows had their milk soured and one farmer had his crops fail. At the time, the only plausible explanation was witchcraft.

The unlucky recipient of the villager’s angst was a kindly old lady recluse. Evidently, she was not a churchgoer, owned several cats and was big on home healing. This was enough; the good people of Morth decided she was a witch. They were simple times and the only way to get rid of a witch was burning at the stake. And so her fate was sealed, after a hasty trial, she was found guilty. Miss Wilkins said that she was taken to the village green and placed on a pile of wood.

As the fire was lit, the old lady placed a curse on the villagers. She swore that one day she would return and burn the children of the children who wrongly accused her. I must admit. The way she told her story sent shivers up my spine. To think that that poor woman was put to the flame so near my cottage was really quite chilling. I didn’t sleep well that night I can tell you. The following day proved even more disturbing.

During the night, the local bakers burned to the ground. The baker, his wife, and all three children had perished in the blaze. The cause of the fire was a mystery. I went into The Farmers Arms for a shot of brandy; such was my distress at the awful news. As you can imagine, the whole village was in shock. Unusually, the bartender engaged in conversation with me. It was only when I mentioned having a chat with Miss Wilkins that everything went quiet. It was like one of those old black and white westerns when the gunslinger walked into the saloon.

Suddenly, all eyes were on me. The local vicar, who was standing at the bar, looked at me and said, “Did you say you spoke to Miss Wilkins?” I told him about her weekly visits, and how she had relayed the story of the old witch. He went as white as a ghost. The witch’s story was well known in the village, her name was Molly Wilkins. The baker was an ancestor of the son, of a son who was the first of the villagers to light the fire. The vicar, the bartender and most of the villagers were also living relatives of the witch killer. Call it a coincidence if you like, but I soon moved away. Especially when I found out, I had been living in the cottage once owned by Miss Molly Wilkins.


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