Tue, 5 May 2009
History is uncovered.
It was a few days after the incident that Betsy Brompton came home from the hospital. The village was buzzing with rumors that she had lost her mind, or that she had made up the whole story. Anyone who knew Betsy didn't believe either. Nevertheless, homes, shops, and businesses were full of conversation about the church bell mystery. Reverend Holtworth and a regional Bishop paid Betsy a friendly visit shortly after her return. Again, the gossip shot around the village. The word "curse" was adding color to everybody's imagination, and since Betsy had uttered that word, the village had not been the same. In the pubs, stories of battles, tragedies, and romances that had taken place in the village flowed like the beer, and the more the beer flowed, the more dramatic and ridiculous the stories. But everyone wanted to believe them, of course. Nothing this interesting had happened in the village since the daughter of a wealthy, local land owner had run off with a clown from a traveling circus.
Since the vicar's visit, Betsy had told whoever asked her that she had not felt well that day, and so had imagined that the bells were ringing themselves. As for the word "curse", well, she didn't remember saying it at all. She told everybody the same thing, and, though her story was consistent, nobody chose to believe her. It would be a disappointment to believe her story now. This mystery was far to juicy to give up. Perhaps Reverend Holtworth had had words with her about not stirring up panic or superstition in the village. Perhaps he had advised her to believe her new story. Either way, church was full the following Sunday. There wasn't an empty pew, and villagers were even standing at the back. The Rev. was delighted and surprised. The attendance had never been so good. His sermon was about God's order and how it should be reflected in our lives, how reason should control imagination.
By the end of the second Sunday, the church bell mystery seemed to have faded to simply an interesting episode. Mrs Brompton had gone back to work at the church, and though she looked over her shoulder more often, life seemed to be back to normal. But then he came to town. A stranger, who stopped in at Cranshaw's cafe on his way up north, upon hearing about the bells, told a story of the bell tower that took place exactly one hundred years ago. The few people in the cafe were silent as they listened. No one chewed, no one swallowed, no one even blinked. He said that a poor, shy bell ringer by the name of Peter Witcome fell desperately in love with a local beauty who promised to marry him. But she did so as a joke. When he discovered her cruelty, he rang the bells wildly and with such strength that the largest of them fell on him and squashed him as flat as a pancake. His family moved away, vowing that their son would be avenged, even if it took a hundred years. Silence hung in the cafe for several minutes after the stranger left. What would the village make of it all now?