All Souls Day

Entry by: percypop

4th November 2015

Outside the bedroom window, early morning mist clouded the

trees. I climbed out of bed and wiped the crust of ice from the

inside of the casement. Pulling on jacket and trousers over my

nightclothes, I slipped my feet into rough boots. It was time to light

the fires and wake the other servants. I skimped my firelighting

and kicked the bootboy awake, then skipped downstairs before he

could catch me.

The night before, the vicar said “Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day

I shall want to be up before six o’clock to set out for Marlock.

Harness Bess and get the pony cart ready in good time.”

It was a command as usual. Why would he ask anything of the

workhouse child lodged in his garret?

Bess looked at me in surprise when I opened the stable door.

Her soft brown eyes held more affection for me than any human

I knew. As soon as I had the harness fitted, we trotted round to the

front door and waited. I was proud of my skill with animals and

looked forward to a journey into Marlock. It was the nearest town

to our village and an adventure for me.

The vicar was a tall man with a long face. I never saw him smile.

His angular jaw and heavy brow gave him a grim look and when

he spoke you felt you must have done some wrong even if you had

done nothing. He came down the front steps and pulled himself up

into the cart.

“Walk on” he said as if I was the pony and we set off briskly into

the frosty air. The road to Marlock took us through the woods and

as we made our way it seemed we were passing through an arcade

of crystal pillars. On both sides the trees were a pattern of frosty

branches almost meeting over our heads. Occasional showers of

soft snow drifted down and settled on the pony’s back.

“Wake up! Keep to the middle of the road or you’ll have us over...”

In a second, the wonder of the morning vanished and I was again

the undeserving orphan who could do nothing right. I took up the

reins with a firmer hand so that Bess moved on obediently along

the centre of the road. My hands were inside the sleeves of my coat

but the frost was reaching them and my fingers stiffened as the

cold crept up my sleeves.

The priest huddled down inside his lined great coat and pulled his

black hat down tightly over his ears. He sat immobile as a block of

marble wrapped in a cover of canvas and fur, not watching the

road ahead but slouched with his eyes shut.

I did my best to keep Bess in a straight line but the road was rough

and occasional sheets of ice made her slither for a few steps as she

regained her footing.

“Keep her steady, you little dullard or you’ll have us over.”

He grabbed the reins from my hands and pushed me out of the way.

The pony gibed at the unexpected jolt and pulled on the bit so that

we set off at a mad pace bouncing off the verges and skewing

across the road out of control. We raced along with the vicar

heaving at the reins until Bess tripped on a fallen tree trunk and

went down.

The rig bounced high in the air spilling me into the brushwood at

the side of the road. The parson catapulted out of the cart into the

road with a thud and a crack you could have heard back home.

Bess dragged the upturned cart to a stop about fifty yards away.

She looked back with an insolent eye and then began to nibble at

the frosty grass.

It took me some time to gather my wits and find that I was bruised

but not broken. The vicar lay inert his face down on the icy surface

of the road, his arms spread out as if embracing the cold hard

stones. I stumbled over to him and knelt beside him. His hooded

eyes seemed to look at me with reproach but they never blinked.

A trickle of blood oozed from his ear and when I stooped to listen to

his heart I heard nothing but the wind across his face and not a

sound from his body.

I remembered that at church on Sunday, Parson told us that All

Souls’ Day was the day when souls of the departed went to heaven

if we prayed for them.

So I prayed that his soul had gone to Heaven then I pulled his

wallet out of his coat, his gloves off his stiff hands and set off

cheerily for Marlock with Bess.