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Chapter 8 Martin’s Lake

(from Martin’s Close)

I was staying with a good friend of mine in the West Country. I arrived on the Friday night and my friend was keen to show me the village on the Saturday morning. ‘I’ll take you around and show you everything. Then I want you to meet a friend of mine, John Hill. He’s about seventy years old and knows all the history of the village. Oh . and make sure you ask him about Martin’s Lake.’

‘Why? Is it a good place for fishing?’ I asked.

He laughed. ‘Well. no. There’s no water in it now . . . but let old John tell you the story. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it,’ said my friend,

The next day, after a tour of the village, we went to old John Hill’s house for tea. We persuaded the old man to tell us the story of the lake:

‘It was the Christmas of 1683 and a young gentleman, George Martin, returned from Cambridge University to the village. He was a popular young man and used to ride his horse long distances to visit his friends in the neighbourhood. One night it was snowing hard, so, instead of riding all the way to his house outside the village, he decided to stay at the small hotel here. As it was Christmas, there was music and dancing in the hotel and all the young men and women were dancing together, except one. Her name was Ann Clark, and she worked at the hotel. She was an innocent young girl, not very intelligent. In fact, people used to laugh at her behind her back and. of course, none of the young men wanted to dance with her. But George Martin, the young gentleman, took pity on her and asked her to dance. The band were playing an old song called ‘Lady, will you walk, will you talk with me?’ Everyone saw how happy the poor girl was to have someone to dance with. Her face lit up with a smile.

After that night, the young gentleman came to the hotel every week. When he arrived on his horse, he used to sing that song and Ann Clark used to rush out to meet him as soon as she heard it. The two often went for walks together by the lake and some people say they saw them kiss.

This went on for a few months until George Martin’s parents found a wife for him. She was a beautiful, rich young woman, and from a very good family. Everyone said how lucky George Martin was, but then it all went wrong. The young woman heard about Ann Clark and was angry that a gentleman like him went about with an ordinary country girl. She refused to marry him.

He, of course, regretted ever meeting Ann and was very angry to lose such a beautiful young wife. People say that the next time he saw Ann, they argued and he hit her. A week later, they were seen together again. He said a few words to her and then rode off. They say she looked very happy all that day but. not long after, she disappeared completely. No one could find her anywhere.

Some weeks later, George Martin came into the hotel again, went into the bar and asked for a drink. A young woman called Sarah, a friend of Ann Clark’s, served him. ‘Are you looking for Ann. sir?’ she asked. ‘Because no one has seen her for weeks.’

He answered angrily that, no, he was not looking for her and he sat alone, drinking his beer. Sarah started to wash some glasses and, without thinking, began to sing the song, ‘Lady, will you walk, will you talk with me?’ The young gentleman’s face turned pale and he told her to stop singing immediately.

She stopped immediately, of course, but then suddenly, she heard Ann’s voice outside the door, continuing the song. ‘It’s Ann! She’s back!’ Sarah cried and ran towards the door.

‘Stop!’ shouted George Martin, but it was too late. The door opened and a strong, cold wind blew out all the lamps, leaving the room completely dark. Sarah heard someone walk across the floor, and the door of the big cupboard opened and shut. When she lit the lamps again, she saw something that looked like the bottom of a woman’s dress caught under the cupboard door.

Sarah was frightened and asked one of the men in the bar to open the cupboard. As the man pulled open the cupboard door, George Martin screamed and ran out of the bar into the street.

Out of the cupboard came a small human shape, dressed in clothes that looked wet. No o n e saw its face, but everyone felt a freezing wind as it passed through the bar and into the darkness outside.

The next person to see George Martin was a young boy, w h o was coming home from fishing at the lake. He said he saw the young gentleman running towards the water, looking very frightened. He broke a branch off a tree and started to feel around in the water with it. After some minutes, the branch hit something and a strange sound like a scream came from deep in the lake. George Martin covered his cars with his hands and started to scream also. As he did, the boy saw a human shape come out of the water and chase the young gentleman away into the trees.

The boy ran and called the police. They found the body of Ann Clark at the bottom of the lake and under a tree was George Martin’s knife, covered in blood. He was guilty of murder, of course, and they hanged him five weeks later. After that, everyone knew it as Martin’s Lake, although it’s dry now. And, do you know,’ said old John Hill, ‘that even now no one will sing that song in this village. People say it’s unlucky.

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