A Woman of Consequence by Anne Dean

By Anne Dean

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A likely home for a ghost, thought Dido as she set off through the mud towards the ruins. And there had been a ghost at the abbey for as long as anyone in Madderstone or Badleigh could remember. Everyone could tell a story of the Grey Nun – though, as is generally the case with apparitions, she had usually been seen by a relative – or a friend – or the relative of a friend – rather than by the speaker himself. And Dido could not admire the originality of her story, for it was one which had probably been told of every ruined abbey since Henry VIII turned the nation to the Protestant faith.

Miss Kent, I think you had better wait here,’ he said earnestly. ’ He bowed and was gone, running down the steps, through the fallen stones and out into the cloister. Dido, who had a rather better opinion of her own nerves than Captain Laurence, felt equal to any surprise which the pool might supply and began, almost immediately, to make her way towards the men. The captain was perhaps fifty yards ahead of her. Mr Coulson had now left the side of the pool and was hurrying past the fallen trees and through the lengthening shadows towards him.

But she continued up the night stair, clinging with one hand to the ivy on the wall, and came into the deeper dusk of the gallery, which smelt of moss and damp stone – and which seemed, at first, to be entirely deserted. She stared along it, her eyes gradually accustoming themselves to the poor light. Parts of the roof had long since fallen away and the walls were dank and fringed with moss; tiny ferns grew in the gaps between stones. Beneath the holes in the roof, the floor was worn into hollows by rain which had fallen in upon it for centuries: in one particularly deep hollow water glinted darkly.

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