Chapter 18a


Yorkshire Dales, England, November 6, 2 PM


Arising early, Jon and his three friends made their way down the road signed A7 to Carlisle, at the west end of Hadrian ’s Wall.  Here they rejoined the line.  Then they went down motorway M6 and turned left on A66.  The road led over the Pennine mountains, high and splendid in autumnal colors while the band looked for the turn toward their destination, the address they had received in Philadelphia.


The Pennine Range, like the Fall Line, provides water power that has given rise to a line of industrial towns.  It is the spine of the northwest part of England.  After a time the group reached one of the grassy valleys of the Yorkshire Dales.  Suddenly the land was more like the rich loess steppes that had nourished mammoths millennia ago and played a part in the northward migration of humans after the last ice age.  By mid afternoon they turned onto a side road and found the stone village mentioned in the directions. 


There was an old coach inn, still in operation and now catering to hikers along the trails of the Pennines.  It was of classical old world style.  You drove in the gate and parked in a courtyard.  There was almost no space between the inn and the road, certainly no place to park in front.  In America it would have been reversed.  The parking lot would have come first.  It was the age old tradeoff between a sense of security and a sense of freedom.  This was a cozy, secure feeling inn. 


They checked in and left again to seek out the address.  The cottage was tucked in a low valley that reached from the river valley into the flanks of the mountains, on a modest farm somehow combining the virtues of a livelihood, a hiding place and a hobby.  It seemed that the owner, like many others, made a small career of being as English as he possibly could.


They were served tea in a stone floored room with great old rafters and a decided draught at this time of year.  The furniture was rustic and serviceable.  Their host, Guy Wayson seemed delighted to have the company, although it must have detracted from a host of farm chores, even at this late season.



They brought greetings from Philadelphia and swore by all that was most holy they would return his greetings to Reverend Beale.


Wayson listened to their tale, hardly batting an eye at the total weirdness of it, and asked what their plans were.  Hapgood said they were thinking about visiting Newton’s birthplace in Woolsthorpe before going on to London and starting home.  Wayson seemed to think that was a good idea, wished them the best possible speed, told them some stories about the inn – haunted of course – and they soon found themselves making their way back to the car and returning to the inn as the early evening dark and dampness closed in. 


They had shepherd’s pie for supper and then stepped into the pub to relax.  The music was tasteful  A couple of farmers had come in for a brew.  Jon said to the landlady, “We heard that the place was haunted.”


“You can hear lots of things.  People say mostly what they think you want to hear.  But there are those have claimed that they saw a gray lady.  She just rustles about and tidies the place.  No harm in her at all.”


Jon persisted, “Any idea where the ghost came from?”  One of the farmers had turned to listen. 


“Well all these stories.  The one I like the best is this young couple stopped at the inn many years ago.  The wife was pregnant and couldn’t travel farther.  See had the child but died a’bearing it.  The father took the infant and went on.  But she still drifts around like she thought she ought to be taking care of something.  I think she’d a been a good mother; quiet like.”


“What does she look like?”


“She’s a ghost, sir, and she looks however you want her to look when you see her.  I mean that’s the story.”


No one seemed to pay more than common attention.  It was as if it had been the weather.  But there must have been some tension in the air that affected Jon, because he had a dream about the ghost that night.  In the dream he was asleep in bed, and a wisp of vapor came under the door.  Presently it assumed the form of a vigorous, matronly woman.  She came over to his bed and rested her hand gently on his forehead.  He could only think that she was so strong, so very strong.  There was no more to it than that, but he awoke with his heart pounding and perspiration on his forehead in spite of the chill of the night.  He lay there long, listening.  The wind coming down off the Pennines was wailing at the corners of the old building and the rafters creaked very mildly.  And he thought he heard other things.  Things like the faintest possible rustling.


The bed was not the same as it had been in the dream, so he dismissed the notion that he had had a vision.  He slept again and awoke early.  The light of the false dawn made the windows identifiable.  He got up and started to stir, but the dim light revealed nothing in the inky darkness except the faint reflection from a sheet of paper lying by the door.  At least the paper explained the rustling he had heard. 


Jon picked up the paper and set it on a table.  Then he turned on the light.  There was a coded message. 



Ibt     n.-     I'n      -dx    rtd     -O-    csf     ’y-     br-     tju     rr-

tp-     hrw   p-d    oi.     -Hx   -yx    -yk    e-k    esq    -pi     -yk   

e-N   omv  gpn    etd     -gt     mow y/-     Trw   l-k     i,-      ypl    

-eb    sj-     tp-     kmx  w-t    bpl    t-v     hr-     otb    gof    -pi    

-vx    nyp    avv    -;t      w.-    tju     -rt      r;b     edv    -fu     vrw

o[n    emv   .-B    -eb    l;-      ttd     -yx    -hu    t-t      -,u     sdt    

gr-     tp-     ypl     -sv     -Vt    rvt     sdx    nmu  .



He studied it until he heard a loud banging and clattering at the back door.  Evidently the landlady had arrived to cook breakfast.  The noise was part of her routine for waking up the guests.  Jon dressed and went down stairs.


Two field hands and an older couple came in for breakfast.  The landlady took Jon’s order before he asked, “Who works here at night`?”


The room fell silent, and everybody stared.  Jon hadn’t felt so conspicuous since Ivan had mentioned that Edgar Allen Poe was dead.  The landlady said, “No one but guests stay overnight.  Why?”


Jon said, “O nothing, I just thought it must get kind of quite around here, after dark.”  He didn’t like the way his voice sounded.  It sounded far away, and he felt as if he had just revealed enough of some guilty secret to focus suspicion on himself.  “I mean it makes sense.  If things are that quiet,” (lonely) “It makes sense not to have somebody hanging around to get,” (scared) “I mean for it to be too quiet for.” 


Then he fairly babbled, “I mean I didn’t see anything, really.”  That was the wrong thing to say.  Well they would have plenty of fun over the winter deciding what the stranger had seen.


“I never saw anything myself,” said one of the field hands helpfully. 


“Not often we get guests this time of year,” said the landlady reassuringly.  “Maybe that’s why.”


When Jon got back upstairs he found the others dressed and getting ready to travel.  The rooms were open.  Jon produced the paper and said, “I found this slipped under my door, lying on the floor.”


“I thought the ghost was supposed to pick things like that up,” said Ivan.  “She must be asleep at the switch.”


“Must be from Mr. Wayson,” said Hapgood.  “After breakfast we can drive around and ask him what it’s all about.”


They took a back road away from the inn.  It seemed to promise a quicker way to the Wayson farm.  But they found themselves winding among steep slopes and descending into scenic but perilous gorges.  They finally pulled into the farmyard and hit the horn.  Then they piled out and rapped on the door.


There was no answer.  Nobody was home.  The light was completely different from what it had been the night before.   It looked like a completely different yard.  The barn door, which had been ajar before, was now securely locked.  A couple of tools had been put away.  Curtains had been drawn at the windows.


“Must be away for the day,” said Hapgood.


“Looks like it’s closed down for the season,” said Ivan.


“Looks like it closed down last season,” said Tracy.  Indeed, there was not a scent of animal, not a glob of manure and not a fresh tire track in sight except for their own.


After calling and waiting a bit they returned to their rental car.  Ivan pulled himself behind the wheel remarking, “I guess we wore out our welcome here.”


“It makes sense,” said Hapgood.  Mr. Wayson decided he should give us the note, and since he was leaving for a while, he slipped it under your door.”


They pulled out of the yard and made their way along a narrow dirt road between high stone walls.  After they had been riding for some time they crossed a water splash, where a little rivulet had been directed to run over the road. Ivan crossed it slowly and then paused as they arched around the shoulder of a hill.


“I’m lost, way lost, major big time lost, bottled in bond lost,” Ivan said.


“I thought Seminoles never got lost,” Jon taunted.


“This is not my stamping ground,” said Ivan.  “This is sneaking ground.”


Hapgood offered, “Since it isn’t Florida, let’s just try going down hill.  All we need to do is find civilization again before we run out of gas.”


The motor was breathing fumes by the time they turned right onto a major road.


“I thought we turned left into the inn,” said Tracy.


“Did I mention I was lost?” asked Ivan.  After a few more miles, rolling downhill with a dead engine, they pulled off at a petrol station. 

They were back on course, but the protective bubble of their security seemed to have lost its color, as a blown bubble will as it loses thickness to evaporation and starts to look soapy. 


Traveling east with the rivers they reached the A1 road and arrived at Woolsthorpe in the afternoon.  They looked up Isaac Newton’s childhood home.  They inspected a few rooms and an apple tree in the courtyard.  Then they went for a late lunch at a pub.  As they sat, Jon was thinking about his dream.  “‘The king is strong, but a woman is stronger.’  Where have I heard that?”


“But the truth will win in the end,” Hapgood finished for him.  “It’s part of a quotation.  It was written in Latin at Roslin.”


“I don’t know Latin.”


“You were probably able to pick out a few words.”


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