فصل 03

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فصل 03

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Chapter three

The Funeral of Mrs Drablow

The next morning was bright and sunny. I had a good breakfast. Then I walked round the little town of Crythin Gifford. It was market-day. The little town was busy. Farmers were buying and selling animals in the market-square.

The streets of Crythin Gifford were completely flat. The countryside all round the town was flat too. There were no hills at all. To the east of the town were the marshes - and on the marshes was Eel Marsh House.

I walked back to the inn and got ready for the funeral. I put on a dark suit and went downstairs again.

Mr Jerome was waiting for me downstairs. Mr Jerome was Mrs Drablow’s agent - he looked after her house and land. Mr Jerome was a small man dressed in black. He smiled politely and we left the inn. As we walked through the square, people stared at us. They stopped talking. No one smiled.

The church stood in an old graveyard. There were old gravestones on either side of a long path.

It was very cold inside the church. Mr Jerome and I were the only people at the funeral. Poor Mrs Drablow, I thought. Didn’t she have any friends at all? Then I heard a sound behind me.

I turned. A Young woman was standing at the back of the church. She was dressed in old-fashioned black clothes - clothes of sixty years ago. A large, old-fashioned bonnet covered her face. She raised her head and looked at me. The young woman’s face was white and very thin. How ill she looked!

When we left the church I looked far the woman. But I did not see her. Then in the graveyard, I saw her again. In the sunshine her face was whiter and thinner.

I closed my eyes to pray. When I opened them, the woman had gone. Beyond the graveyard I saw the estuary. And beyond the estuary was the open sea.

The funeral was over. I followed Mr Jerome from the churchyard. Who was that young woman?’ I asked him. Mr Jerome stopped and looked at me. ‘Young woman?’ he said.

‘Yes, a young woman. She was dressed in black and she looked very ill.’

Mr Jerome’s face went white.

‘I did not see a young woman,’ he said.

I looked behind me. The young woman was standing beside Mrs Drablow’s grave. ‘Look, there she is!’ I said.

Mr Jerome made a strange sound. He did not turn round to look at the woman. He held my arm tightly. He began to shake.

‘Mr Jerome!’ I cried. ‘Are you ill? Let go of my arm and I’ll bring a car for you.’ ‘No, no, he cried. ‘No, sir. Stay with me!’ After a few moments, Mr Jerome spoke again.

‘I’m very sorry, sir,’ he said quietly. ‘I felt ill for a moment. I can go on now.’ We walked slowly back to the Gifford Arms. ‘Are you taking me to Eel Marsh House, Mr Jerome?’ I said politely. The little man shook his head.

‘No, not me,’ he said. ‘Keckwick will take you. You have to go across a causeway to get to Eel Marsh House. When the tide is in, the sea covers the causeway. You can’t get across. You can only cross the causeway when the tide is out. That will be after one o’clock.’

‘There may be a lot of papers to look at,’ I said. ‘I may stay in Eel Marsh House tonight.’

‘You will find the inn more comfortable,’ Mr Jerome said quietly.

‘Perhaps you are right,’ I said.

The lunch at the Gifford Arms was a good one and I ate well.

At half past one, I was waiting outside the inn. The key to Eel Marsh House was in my pocket. I listened for the sound of Keckwick’s car.

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