The Ghost Keeper of York

Anne Pierson Part two

Part 2 The very next morning, the Squire instructed his cook to make up some porridge with cinnamon. “I shall take it to my daughter myself”, he told her. The Cook was a little puzzled by this but complied nontheless, remembering that the girl had spent much time lately sulking in her room, due the argument with her father over the Ploughswain. Little did his daughter know that, between the kitchen and the bedroom, her breakfast had been laced with the Amber Liquid. She consumed it all.

Similarly, at supper, he ordered a flagon of warm milk - also with cinnamon - for his daughter, which again he took to her room and left for her to drink. However, upon his return, this time he noticed that she had not taken the drink but instead had left it by her bed, untouched. She explained that she felt a little unwell. “Then, all the more reason to have the milk”, he lied, “It will make you feel better”. “Look”, he said, “It is the very same flagon that you always admired as a child. See, the merry little animals around the side!”. Indeed, they were pretty and cute, almost all them had colourful glass jewels for their eyes. She reluctantly drank some but refused the rest. Realising that the spell might not work properly unless the whole lot were consumed, he became agitated. He told her not to be so silly and eventually bullied her into taking the remainder, leaving her in tears. by At dawn the next day, the Squire was woken, not by the usual cockerel but by a strange wailing sound. Still in his nightshirt, he stepped out onto the landing to see where it was coming from. It was his daughter’s room. By the time he reached her, the Cook and a maid were already there. His daughter was crying out in shock. “My legs! My arms! I.. I cannot move!” she cried. Immediately, the blood drained from his face. Could this be the effects of the potion? Surely it couldn’t be a coincidence? He tried to form words but he was so distressed that he could not utter a sound.

“Why what is wrong with you, poor child?” said the Cook, hurriedly examining her mouth and her body. She then caught her breath. “Behold! See, her skin has turned a strange colour. ‘Tis the colour of.. Amber!”. Her eyes widened into an expression of horror as she turned to look at the others in the room. “I believe she has been poisoned!”.

“Er.. no.. surely not”, said the Squire, “Why, who would even.. do such a thing?”. “It is probably just a passing illness. No doubt it will clear in.. in a few hours”.

But it did not clear. Not after a few hours, nor a few days. There had been no mention of this in the Witch’s instructions! He had held off calling for a doctor for fear of being found out but by now, he had no choice. Early one morning, he rode off in his horse and carriage to fetch the nearest good physician from York. By the time they had returned, the Nobleman was horrified to discover that his daughter was being visited by the despised Ploughswain himself, who was comforting her at the bedside, along with the Cook and the Maid. As he, the Physician and the Butler entered the room, he heard the boy gently saying: “Do not worry my love. We shall still be married”.

The Squire was incensed. “Get that peasant out of here now! Out of my house!”. “Come on lad”, said the Butler and both he and a groom reluctantly wrestled him down the stairs. Yet, as he was thrown out of the door, the Ploughswain could be heard pledging: “I shall always love thee, no matter what! I shall look after thee and cherish thee forever! FOREVER!”.

“She is only a little better”, said the Cook as the Physician began to examine the poorly girl. After a long while, he scratched his head and said: “I must confess that whatever ails this child is beyond me. I can treat her but cannot be certain that there will be any improvement”.

But this was all wrong! This was not supposed to happen. The Witch’s potion was simply meant to cure her of this foolish fancy and bring her to her senses - not to make her desperately ill!

At this point, all eyes in the room turned towards the Nobleman. Their faces shocked and dumbfounded. It was then that the Squire realised that he had been.. thinking out loud - they had all heard every word about the Witch and the potion. The Physician’s face was the first to turn to anger. “Witchcraft? You have been using a witch? You wicked man - may Satan take you for your sinful actions! I’ll accept no payment for any of this - I can do nothing here, nothing at all!”, and with that, he stood, packed away his leech jar and quickly left. The room fell silent and, as the Squire made an effort to explain, he merely succeeded in blubbering uncontrollably. He could no longer stand the looks of condemnation and ran from the house, riding off into the night.. toward the woods.