A guest post by Bela Matyas Feher
Sit down, Traveler, and rest your feet a while, for you are weary from the long road, and on nights like this one, ‘tis best that you should be indoors. “Why,” you ask? It is well known in the valley here, that on nights like this, when the mists climb up the embankment of the river and reach out over the road, that strange things have been known to happen, especially to those who are alone on the road.
Such a thing happened once, many years ago, and I can tell you truly that I myself played but a small part in it! Here – let me pour you a sherry, and I will tell you all I know about the sad state of Miss Gertrude Boyle, and the fate that befell her.
I was in the courtyard, about to close the gate for the night when I heard a carriage coming up the road. We had no rain, of late, and the road was hard-pack and dusty. It makes the wheels of carriages rattle loudly, and the sound carries on ahead. It was that rattle I heard, and I went to the road with my lantern in hand, that whomever should be out in the fog would see me and know there was lodging available. This establishment is the last stop this side of the mountain, you see. The carriage that was about that night carried two people – the coachman, of course, and one Miss Gertrude Boyle.
She was a fine young woman. Her hair was soft and silken, well-tended, even for having been on the road, and her skin was pale and soft. She was traveling up from the city to her uncle’s house, where, it was rumored, a country gentleman of marrying age awaited her patiently.
It was not too late when they stopped, you understand, but it was dark already, and the fog was early on that autumn eve. They stopped here to rest the horses and take their supper before continuing on their way. The coachman hoped the fog would lift, as it sometimes does, but it was not to be that night. I remember the air growing colder, unseasonably cold, even, and Miss Boyle insisting they moved on, though the coachman was not for it. I pleased with her to change her mind. I even offered her my own bed, but, alas, she was most insistent.
You must understand that, had I known the fate that would befall her, I would have made most certain they could not have continued! I could have disabled the brake on the carriage, or let the horses go, taken my axe to the wheel, mind you – anything at all would have worked, but why would I do such things to these, my guests? No, I tell you true, that I was the last one to see either the coachman or the young Miss Boyle alive. In fact, I was the last to see them at all.
Yes, yes. They never made it to her uncle’s home. No sign of them was found. No tracks, no damaged carriage, no bodies, even. The inspectors came by several times, looking for anything they could find. They even searched the grounds here from the cellars to the attic-space, for sure, they suspected me as the last person to see the pair!
Finally, after nigh on a year of searching for any clue of the whereabouts of Miss Boyle or the coachman, they concluded – much to the dismay of her family, I might add – she ran off with the coachman. Was she coerced? I cannot say. I know she appeared in full control of her faculties when they were here. No, I do not believe that was the case. I do have my own theories, of course, but, you must be tired of your journey, and so I won’t bother you with them. Oh? It is no bother? Here, have another sherry, then, and I shall tell you what I think happened to them.
To disappear is difficult. Miss Boyle’s uncle is none other than the Magistrate, the Honorable James McGornish. Her family is well bred in the city – there is no chance she could run and not be found out. Where could she hide? Where could she go that they would not find her? She was far too intelligent a woman to try. No, there was indeed some devious actor at work here!
Yes – I had thought of that, too! There was no trace of them! Where could they have gone? I tell you truly, it would not be a difficult thing to vanish in this valley. There are caves, and outcroppings, small pathways off the road, where, if a coach was unhooked and pushed into the river, horses could get away unseen. All it would take was someone cunning enough to find those places. But the inspectors went searching everywhere, so no, I do not think that would work as you suggest. I believe there were worse things that happened.
For example, if I were to have done some awful deed, there are three things to consider: the coach, the horses, and the people themselves. How to dispose of a coach? The river is far too shallow here, and to take a coach to the deeper places would take too long – there would not have been enough time to get there and back before word would spread of the missing duo. No, a person would need a place to hide a coach. A barn, or a secluded grove would do, I suppose, a place no one would know, where no one could happen upon it A cold cellar might work, for example, but one large enough for a coach? Who has such a place?
And what of the horses? They make noise, they hear things – they will be found. Even a quiet horse will still breathe and stamp its foot. A person would need a place to take the horses, there to dispose of them, for it is no simple task to dispatch a horse first and then move it! And you must dispatch the horses, for surely, they will be known. People will recognize a horse as belonging to someone as surely as they would recognize a town’s new minister! No, you could not sell such beasts, nor could you sell them as meat, for surely, no one has two horses dead at the same time!
Then, of course, there are the coachman and Miss Boyle. Surely, they would put up some resistance. They would shout, and try to flee, so if there is anything to be done, you must do it quickly. The coachman was a fairly large fellow, I tell you, and it would be an undertaking to get the better of him. Unless you were to somehow dull his senses, of course, but even this must be done over the course of time, in order to assure it were done correctly. Perhaps it could be accomplished over the course of a meal, I suppose, though an overnight might be all the easier. Still, it would have to be done in such a subtle manner as to abate all suspicion, don’t you think?
To be continued…Come back tomorrow for part two of two.
Bela Matyas Feher, of the Pittsburgh, PA, area, is most at home when he is involved in creative endeavors. He is most known for his creative expressions in wood (www.bellissimocustom.webs.com), but dabbles periodically on the amateur stage, both in acting and writing. He is grateful to his long-time friend, Kim, for giving him the opportunity to share this brief story, and wishes all readers a very Happy (and haunting) Halloween!
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