Faith stepped down from the small buggie, feeling grateful that the Rector had offered it and his valet for her short trip home. Originally, she had been perfectly happy to walk home, but then the rain had started and the Rector had said he simply could not allow his guest to walk in such bad weather.
As the valet urged the chestnut horse on and the animal broke into a trot, Faith opened her front gate and walked up the path to her cottage. The night wrapped around her like a heavy wet blanket. The rain dripping off her hat and ruining her hair. She unlocked and opened the door, pitch darkness met her.
Stepping inside, Faith search for the candle and matches she knew Mary had left for her. She had dismissed the maid before she had gone for dinner and no doubt Mary had rushed home to her ill mother and five younger siblings, who Mary was now the soul provider of. Faith had taken the maid with the house, only because it had saved her the trouble of finding a new one.
Faith lit the candle and straight away the shadows thinned. She shut the door, making sure it was locked then went up the stairs. In her bedroom, she touched the flickering flame to the other candles and banished most of the darkness. She undressed, put on a night gown, then sat at her small dressing table and brushed out her hair.
The sound of boot steps echoed along the hallway.
Faith paused, brush stuck in her hair. She turned and looked at her bedroom door. The latch was lifting slowly upwards. The breathe caught in her throat and desperately she wanted to cry out, but she couldn’t force the words through her lips. A tiny click, which seemed earth shattering loud, came from the door and it eased open.
‘Who is it? What do you want?’ Faith suddenly shouted.
The door swung fully opened to reveal the empty hallway. Faith thought she saw a flicker of the shadows then she heard the man’s boots going downstairs. Each step sounded like a doom bell ringing out.
Somehow coming back to her senses, Faith placed her hairbrush down, grab a candle and hurried out of the room. She shone the flame about the hallway and the stairs, but there was no one to be seen.
‘I am not afraid of you!’ she cried, ‘this is some school boy trick is it? Well, it is not funny and I shall catch you, mark my words. There is no such thing as ghosts!’
Faith stormed back in her room and slammed the door shut. She locked it and got into bed, her hair only half brushed and still wet. Arranging the bed clothes and the candle, Faith picked up her Bible and began reading from it. The rain rattled against the windows and the sound calmed her nerves.
Soon, sleep came for her and Faith gladly went to it. She rested fitfully and as the grandmother clocked chimed two, she awoke. Turning over, she listened to the chimes fading then the boot steps sounded in the hallway. Frowning and muttering to herself. She got up as quietly as possible, snatched one of the bed sheets up and without a candle went to the bedroom door.
Opening it slowly, she ventured out and down the stairs. At the bottom she waited and listened to the footsteps made their way to the front door. Then holding the sheet out, she jumped around the corner and threw the sheet in the direction of the sound. Her arms followed and she wrapped them around a small wiggling body.
‘I have you!’ she cried.
‘Quick! run!’ a young boy’s voice cried.
Faith heard the sound of laughter and running footsteps from the kitchen. The back door shut with a bang. Left to struggle with the one she had captured, Faith shoved him into the parlour and fumbled with the second candle by the front door. On lighting it, she re-opened the door and saw standing there the Rector’s youngest son, who she had meet that evening.
‘James? What are you doing here?’ she asked.
The boy looked down and Faith followed his gaze. Huge army boots were strapped to his feet and he looked ridicules in them.
‘That explains all the noise, but why?’ Faith asked.
The boy shrugged and Faith noticed how wet his clothes and hair were.
‘How did you get in?’ she pressed.
The boy shook his head.
‘Well, you’ll have to stay here for the rest of the night. It is too wet and dark to be going back to your father now. What will he say about all of this?’ Faith spoke.
‘Oh! Miss please do not tell him! We only meant to scare you a little! Please, Miss!’ the boy cried, he fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around her legs. He started to cry into her nightdress.
‘Now, please young man, get up. Tell me, why did you want to scare me?’
He turned his tear stained face up to her’s and said, ‘it was just a game.’
Faith sighed, ‘let’s get you out of these wet things. You shall catch a cold.’
‘I know how to lit a fire, Miss,’ the boy piped up.
He went over to the fireplace and though it had not been used in awhile, the coal, kindling and paper were stacked to one side. Faith watch the child building then lighting the fire. A soft, warm glow cast it’s way over the room.
‘I suppose, we should stay up and wait for dawn. Then I shall take you home,’ Faith said.
James nodded, ‘but what will you tell father?’
‘I shall think about it,’ Faith said, ‘in the meantime we shall read the Bible together.’
As soon as dawn broke, Faith and James went out. The boy had fallen asleep and Faith had had to wake him. It was a slow walk up through the village to the church and by the time they got there the Rector’s house was awake and searching for the missing child all ready.
Whilst he was whisked away by the nanny, Faith had a quiet word with his father. Upon leaving, she prayed the other children were not to troublesome. She walked back home and headed into the parlour, where she found a pair of man’s boots abandoned by the fire place.