I would like to return again to my horror novel ‘The Cornwall Ghost story’ which is set on the English coast. In this latest instalment from the book Fiona Noble is provided with evidence that she had been right in her theory that George Avine’s safety had not be secured when he swam ashore from his sinking ship. He had landed in French waters and with this being in the year 1806 Britain is in the middle of its war with France. Fiona realises as she becomes party to a vision from this time that George was captured by the French and imprisoned, She comes by way of this discovery on a family trip to an ancient monastery which dates back to the 12th century:
Fiona found herself being irresistibly drawn to a section of the ruin which had probably been the resting place for one of the monks. It looked like it would have been a small room, probably only big enough to house one of its inhabitants. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something about this spot which transfixed her.
Alan’s earlier reference to an atmosphere came back to her at this moment quite forcibly. ‘Yes,’ she thought. ‘That’s what I’m feeling. It’s like my whole reason for coming to this monastery was so that I could confine myself to this one specific area. But why? What’s so special about this part of the monastery as opposed to the rest of it?’
No sooner had this thought arisen in her mind than the familiar sensation of giddiness returned to her. She found herself swimming from side to side as if she was being rocked by a ship on a rough sea. This at once set her on her guard. ‘But why am I swaying like this?’ she asked herself in confusion. ‘There’s no sign of any ship. I’m very much on terra firma, so why do I suddenly have my sea legs on again?’
No, Fiona was not on the sea, and the scene which slowly unfolded in front of her was taking place very much on dry land. But as she blinked away the haziness which had swept over her so unexpectedly, she could understand why she had imagined she was on a seafaring voyage.
‘It’s him,’ she mused as excitement swept over her. ‘It’s George. I’m seeing what happened to him after he climbed out of the sea and made his strenuous way up that hill.
‘So, it’s true, then. I was right to fear for him. He has ended up in a French prison cell. And from the looks of things it’s not much better than a rabbit hole. Imagine being cooped up in such a confined space. At least he has a bed to sleep in, but it looks a pretty ram-shackled effort. It can’t be very comfortable for him. But he’s not sitting on the bed: he’s lying on the floor with his back next to the wall, just below a window with bars to it. What is it he’s doing? Looks like he’s got a pencil in his hand and a sheet of paper. What in the world could he be writing at a time like this? Maybe I can take a closer look.’
As Fiona approached George, an eerie sensation came over her. She was standing so close to him she could have reached down and touched him. She didn’t, though, instead she read what he had written so far which was enough to bring tears to her eyes. They coursed down her face in rivulets. Noticing this, she tried to wipe them away only for further tears to replace them. It was like her eyes had become a waterfall, a fountain of sadness seemed to rest there and she could do nothing to halt her emotions from breaking out.
‘No wonder I’m feeling so sad. This letter he’s writing just goes to show how much he loves Esmeralda. It’s like his heart is breaking at the thought of never seeing her again, never being able to take her in his arms again and kiss her. It’s overwhelming to see him in this state and to gain a sense of what he must have been going through at this time.’
Fiona silently read the following stretch of emotive musings which George had set down for Esmeralda’s benefit: ‘I do not know whether I will ever set eyes on you again, my love. But please be assured that you are always in my thoughts. You are on my mind every waking hour I spend in this rotten place and when it turns to night you are all I can dream of. When I sleep I picture you in our cottage and you smile warmly at me in that sweet and alluring way which always touched my heart. It touches me even more now when I am so far away from you. I can only hope some miracle will be effected and we will be reunited. But as time goes by this seems to me a more and more futile wish on my part. Please be assured, then, that if I never set eyes on you again I will forever retain in my heart and in my soul the tender moments we shared as a married couple. If that is all I can hold on to now then that is how it must be. If I die without ever being able to hold you in my arms again then I will have to content myself with the memory of how strong our love was even if it was never properly fulfilled.’
Once again the tears were swimming around under Fiona’s eyelashes as she saw George closing off his letter with a fond term of endearment to his faraway wife.
As Fiona watched as George sank down into a dishevelled heap on the floor she wondered if Esmeralda ever received the letter she had read. She very much doubted it. Why would the French allow a prisoner of war to send a letter home? The postmark would surely draw the British Navy’s attention to his whereabouts and they might send a convoy on a rescue mission. On the other hand, would they go to all this trouble for a single sailor, even if he was an officer? Fiona was unconvinced about this, but she still didn’t think the letter would have found its way to Esmeralda.
‘She never knew what happened to George after she read that other letter, the one with the navy’s seal on it telling her he had been lost at sea. So how could she have received this new letter from her husband? No, there is no way it found its way to her.’
Slowly the scene in front of Fiona changed. The pathetic figure of George lying prone on the floor of his prison cell disappeared and in its stead was an expanse of bare stone surrounded by decaying walls interspersed with moss and loose leaves.
She shook her head as if she was awaking from a dream. But she knew she had not been sleeping. What she had just been a witness to had happened, even if it had taken place the best part of two hundred years in the past.