My neighbour, Joyce Campbell, told me this story.
Her grandmother, a woman who went by the name Amanda Buckley, had reason to spend the night in Lavenham, a market town to the north of here.
She took a room in an inn, and from her window she could see the town square – which today is a car park but then was a bustling market during the day, and a meeting place in the evening.
As night fell, a mist began to settle, and soon there was a fog so thick Amanda couldn’t even see the lamps burning around the perimeter of the square. This cloud soon filled her room, mixing with the smoke from her hearth, and eventually the whole room fell into darkness.
Although she knew she was alone in her room, she soon felt as if she was accompanied by another, and soon enough her fears were confirmed when a hand placed itself upon her shoulder, and as she looked down she saw the fingers were as grey as candles. Then a voice, as grating as the sound of a shovel in dirt, whispered quietly in her ear.
Amanda Buckley, so Joyce Campbell said, would never repeat the words this voice spoke to her. But ever after she let it be known that although nearby Dedham – located half one side of the river and half the other, with one foot in Suffolk and the other in Essex – was the town which was supposed to straddle the line that separates the realms of the living and the dead, it was only in Lavenham that she had ever heard the dreams and the desires of the dead.
And, she said, she knew them as intimately if they were her own.
Nine months later she gave birth to a girl, her skin as soft as fog, her hair like wisps of smoke. Who the father was, Amanda would not say. But to claim it was a ghost was as good an excuse as any, I suppose.
1. Written in July 2019