“Although the night was mild, the place exuding a musty, earthly smell, seemed as cold as death. Grieves uttered a fatuous laugh, muttered something to himself and was about to return to his companions when a sudden draught of ice-cold air extinguished his candle. He took a step forward, his toe caught in something, and he stumbled and fell. After several vain attempts to rise and much incoherent expostulation, in snuggled in close to the cold, dusty stone wall and fell asleep. Then he dreamed…”
The old belfry stood apart from the church. An octagon-shaped building terminating in a squat, ungainly spire, it contained only two rooms. The room which occupied the whole of the ground floor was used as a lumber-room; the room above was known as the rope-room; a similar winding stair ran from the ground floor to a vault-like chamber below.
The older generation of bell-ringers had firmly believed the belfry to be haunted. No one had actually claimed to have seen the ghost, but when the subject was mentioned to one of them, he would look wise and shake his head with an expression that was meant to convey an idea that he knew something but would not tell. One man who, so it was said, could have told something definite if he wished, had recently taken leave of his senses and was no longer active in their circle.
None of the old bell-ringers would have ventured alone into the building after dark. Not one of them had ventured down the winding stairs that led to the vault below. Some of them may have been curious to know what it contained, or whether it contained anything, but their superstition overcame their curiosity. The younger men who had supplanted the older generation of bell-ringers laughed at the superstition of their predecessors. Still, not one of them displayed any curiosity to explore the recesses of the old building. They spent most of their time in the rope-room, and were apparently quite oblivious of the chamber underneath the building.
The belfry was an eerie, dismal old place even in the daytime. To those who understood such things, it was an ideal place for a ghost’s habitation. The exterior presented age-stained, weather-scarred walls; the interior was cheerless, barren and uninviting. There were long, narrow, stained-glass windows on the ground floor, and in the rope-room; but the glass was covered with dust, and the sunrays that succeeded in filtering through the dust-covered figures of saints, hardly dispersed the gloom of the place. Continue reading