“A strange woman and a rough, but, my sisters, we must not judge her harshly, for she is of a different world to ours, and I fear has met with sorrows there, such as we are protected from by our holy office.”
“Yes,” answered the sister, “but I think also that she has met with the ghost that haunts the chapel, of which there are many records, and that once I saw myself when I was a novice. The Prioress Matilda—I mean the fourth of that name, she who was mixed up with Edward the Lame, the monk, and died suddenly after the——”
“Peace, sister; let us have no scandal about that departed—woman, who left the earth two hundred years ago. Also, if her unquiet spirit still haunts the place, as many say, I know not why it should speak with the voice of a man.”
“Perhaps it was the monk Edward’s voice that Bridget heard,” replied the sister, “for no doubt he still hangs about her skirts as he did in life, if all tales are true. Well, Mistress Emlyn says that she does not mind ghosts, and I can well believe it, for she is a witch’s daughter, and has a strange look in her eyes. Did you ever see such bold eyes, Mother? However it may be, I hate ghosts, and rather would I pass a month on bread and water than be alone in that chapel at or after sundown. My back creeps to think of it, for they say that the unhallowed babe walks too, and gibbers round the font seeking baptism—ugh!” and she shuddered.
“Peace, sister, peace to your goblin talk,” said Mother Matilda again. “Let us think of holier things lest the foul fiend draw near to us.”
That night, about one in the morning, the foul fiend drew very near to Blossholme, and he came in the shape of fire. Suddenly the nuns were aroused from their beds by the sound of bells tolling wildly. Running to the window-places, they saw great sheets of flame leaping from the Abbey roofs. They threw open the casements and stared out terrified. Sister Bridget was sent even to wake the deaf gardener and his wife, who lived in the gateway, and command them to go forth and learn what passed, and the meaning of the shouts they heard, for they feared that Blossholme was attacked by some army.
A long while went by, and Bridget returned with a confused tale, which, as it had been gathered by an imbecile from a deaf gardener, was not easy to understand. Meanwhile the shoutings went on and the fire at the Abbey burnt ever more fiercely, so that the nuns thought that their last hour had come, and knelt down to pray at the casement.
Just then Cicely and Emlyn appeared among them, and stared at the great fire.
Suddenly Cicely turned round, and, fixing her large blue eyes on Emlyn, said, in the hearing of them all—
“The Abbey burns. Why, Nurse, they told me that you said it would be so, yonder amid the ashes of Cranwell Towers. Surely you are foresighted.”
“Fire calls for fire,” answered Emlyn grimly, and the nuns around looked at her with doubtful eyes.