Oct 7 2011 10:00am
In honor of Steampunk Week, we have a short story from Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant’s Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories. Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre’s established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.
“The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor”, by Delia Sherman, is a delightful tale set on the border of Wales. Young Tacy Gof has always wished to see the ghost of Cwmlech Manor, and she may yet get her wish when a new master moves in....
The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor
There was a ghost at Cwmlech Manor.
Everybody knew it, although nobody had seen her, not with their own eyes, for years and years.
“Ghosts have to abide by the rules,” I remember Mrs. Bando the housekeeper explaining as she poured us out a cup of tea at the manor’s great oak kitchen table. She’d been parlor maid at the Manor when Mam was a kitchen maid there. Fast friends they were, and fast friends they’d stayed, even when Mam left domestic service to marry. Mrs. Bando was my godmother, and we went to her most Sunday afternoons.
I was ten or thereabouts, and I was mad for wonders. Da had told me of the new clockwork motor that was going to change everything, from the mining of coal to the herding of sheep. Above all things, I liked to hear about horseless carriages and self-powered mechanicals, but I’d settle for ghosts at a pinch.
So, “How do ghosts know the rules?” I asked. “Is there a ghost school, think you, on the other side?”
Mam laughed and said there was never such a child for asking questions that had no answer. She’d wager I’d ask the same of the ghost myself, if I saw her.
“And so I would, Mam. But first I’d ask her where she’d hid the treasure.”
“And she’d likely disappear on the spot,” Mrs. Bando scolded. “That knowledge is for Cwmlech ears only, look you. Not that it’s needed, may the dear Lord be thanked.”
Sir Owen indeed had treasure of his own, with a big house in London and any number of mechanicals and horseless carriages at his beck and call. It was generally agreed that it was no fault of his that the roof of Cwmlech Manor was all in holes and the beetle had gotten into the library paneling, but only the miserly ways of his factor, who would not part with so much as a farthing bit for the maintenance of a house his master did not care for.
Which made me think very much the less of Sir Owen Cwmlech, for Cwmlech Manor was the most beautiful house on the Welsh Borders. I loved everything about it, from its peaked slate roofs and tiny-paned windows to the peacocks caterwauling in its yew trees. Best of all, I loved the story that went with it — very romantic and a girl as the hero — a rare enough thing in romantic tales, where the young girls always act like ninnies and end up dead of a broken heart, as often as not.
Mistress Angharad Cwmlech of Cwmlech Manor was not a ninny. When she was only seventeen, the Civil War broke out, and her father and brothers, Royalists to a man, left home to join the king’s army, leaving Mistress Cwmlech safe, they thought, at home. But in 1642 the Parliamentarians invaded the Borders, whereupon Mistress Cwmlech hid her jewels, as well as her father’s strongbox and the family plate, dating, some of it, from the days of Edward II and very precious.
The night the Roundheads broke into the manor, they found her on the stairs, clad in her nightdress, armed with her grandfather’s sword. They slew her where she stood, but not a gold coin did they find or a silver spoon, though they turned the house upside down with looking.
It was a sad homecoming her brothers had, I was thinking, to find their sister dead and in her silent grave, with the family wealth safely — and permanently — hidden away.
Her portrait hung in the great hall, over the mantel where her grandfather’s swords had once hung. It must have been painted not long before her death — a portrait of a solemn young woman, her dark hair curling over her temples like a spaniel’s ears and her gown like a flowered silk tea cozy, all trimmed with lace and ribbon-knots. A sapphire sparkled on her bosom, brilliants at her neck and ears, and on her finger, a great square ruby set in gold. There is pity, I always thought, that her ghost must appear barefoot and clad in her night shift instead of in that grand flowered gown.
I would have liked to see her, nightdress and all.
But I did not, and life jogged on between school and Mam’s kitchen, where I learned to cook and bake, and Da’s forge, where I learned the properties of metal and listened to him talk of the wonderful machines he’d invent, did he only have the gold. On Sundays, Mrs. Bando told me stories of the parties and hunting meets of Sir Owen’s youth, with dancing in the Long Gallery and dinners in the Great Hall for fifty or more.
Sometimes I thought I could hear an echo of their feet, but Mrs. Bando said it was only rats.
Still, I felt that Cwmlech Manor slept lightly, biding its time until its master returned and brought it back to life. But he did not come, and he did not come, and then, when I was fifteen, he died.
A bright autumn morning it was, warm as September often is, when Mrs. Bando knocked on the door in her apron, with her round, comfortable face all blubbered with weeping. She’d not drawn a breath before Mam had her by the fire with a cup of milky tea in her hand.
“There, then, Susan Bando,” she said, brisk and kind. “Tell us what’s amiss. You look as if you’ve seen the Cwmlech ghost.”
Mrs. Bando took a gulp of tea. “In a manner of speaking, I have. The House of Cwmlech is laid in the dirt, look you. Sir Owen is dead, and his fortune all gambled away. The house in London is sold to pay his creditors and the manor’s to be shut up and all the staff turned away. And what will I do for employment, at my age?” And she began to weep again while Mam patted her hand.
Me, I ran out of our house, down the lane, and across the stone bridge and spent the afternoon in the formal garden, weeping while the peacocks grieved among the pines for Cwmlech Manor, that was now dying.
As autumn wore on, I wondered more and more why Mistress Cwmlech did not appear and reveal where she’d hidden the treasure. Surely the ruinous state of the place must be as much a grief to her as to me. Was she lingering in the empty house, waiting for someone to come and hear her? Must that someone be a Cwmlech of Cwmlech Manor? Or could it be anyone with a will to see her and the wit to hear her?
Could it be me?
One Sunday after chapel, I collected crowbar, magnet, and candle, determined to settle the question. Within an hour, I stood in the Great Hall with a torn petticoat and a bruised elbow, watching the shadows tremble in the candlelight. It was November, and the house cold and damp as a slate cavern. I slunk from room to room, past sheet-shrouded tables and presses and dressers and chairs, past curtains furry with dust drawn tight across the windows. A perfect haven for ghosts it looked, and filthy to break my heart — and surely Mistress Cwmlech’s as well. But though I stood on the very step where she was slain and called her name three times aloud, she did not appear to me.
I did not venture inside again, but the softer weather of spring brought me back to sit in the overgrown gardens when I could snatch an hour from my chores. There’s dreams I had boiling in me, beyond the dreams of my friends, who were all for a husband and a little house and babies on the hearth. After many tears, I’d more or less accepted the hard fact that a blacksmith’s daughter with no education beyond the village school could never be an engineer. So I cheered myself with my ability to play any wind instrument put into my hand, though I’d only a recorder to practice on, and it the property of the chapel.
Practice I did that summer, in the gardens of Cwmlech Manor, to set the peacocks screaming, and dreamed of somehow acquiring a mechanical that could play the piano and of performing with it before Queen Victoria herself. Such dreams, however foolish in the village, seemed perfectly reasonable at Cwmlech Manor.
Summer passed, and autumn came on, with cold rain and food to put by for winter; my practicing and my visits to Cwmlech fell away to nothing. Sixteen I was now, with my hair coiled up and skirts down to my boot tops and little time to dream. I’d enough to do getting through my chores, without fretting after what could not be or thinking about an old ghost who could not be bothered to save her own house. Mam said I was growing up. I felt that I was dying.
One bright morning in early spring, a mighty roaring and coughing in the lane shattered the calm like a mirror. Upstairs I was, sweeping, so a clear view I had, looking down from the front bedroom window, of a horseless carriage driving down by the lane.
I’d not have been more astonished to see Queen Victoria herself.
I knew all about horseless carriages, mind. The inventor of the Patent Steam Carriage was a Welshman, and all the best carriages were made in Blaenavon, down in the Valley. But a horseless carriage was costly to buy and costly to keep. Hereabouts, only Mr. Iestyn Thomas, who owned the wool mill, drove a horseless carriage.
And here was a pair of them, black smoke belching from their smokestacks: a traveling coach followed by a closed wain, heading toward Cwmlech Manor.
Without thinking whether it was a good idea or a bad one, I dropped my broom and hotfooted after, ducking through the gap in the hedge just as the traveling coach drove under the stone arch and into the weed-clogged courtyard.
Loud enough to raise the dead it was, with the peacocks screaming and the engines clattering and the wheels of the wain crunching on the gravel drive. I slipped behind the West Wing and peered through the branches of a shaggy yew just in time to see the coach door open and a man climb out.
I was too far to see him clearly, only that he was dressed in a brown tweed suit, with a scarlet muffler wound around his neck and hangingdown behind and before. He looked around the yard, the sun flashing from the lenses that covered his eyes, then raised an instrument to his lips and commenced to play.
There was no tune in it, just notes running fast as water over rocks in spring. It made my ears ache to hear it; I would have run away, except that the back of the wain opened and a ramp rolled out to the ground. And down that ramp, to my joy and delight, trundled a dozen mechanicals.
I recognized them at once from Da’s journals: Porter models, designed to fetch and carry, a polished metal canister with a battery bolted on behind like a knapsack, and a ball at the top fitted with glass oculars. They ran on treads — much better than the wheels of older models, which slid on sand and stuck in the mud. Articulated arms hefted crates and boxes as though they were filled with feathers. Some had been modified with extra arms, and were those legs on that one there?
The notes that were not music fell silent. “Hullo,” said a diffident voice. “May I help you? I am Arthur Cwmlech — Sir Arthur now, I suppose.”
In my fascination I had drifted all the way from the hedge to the yard and was standing not a stone’s throw from the young man with the pipe. Who was, apparently, the new Baronet of Cwmlech. And me in a dusty old apron, my hair raveling down my back, and my boots caked with mud.
If the earth had opened up and swallowed me where I stood, I would have been well content.
I curtsied, blushing hot as fire. “Tacy Gof I am, daughter of William Gof the smith. Be welcome to the home of your fathers, Sir Arthur.”
He blinked. “Thank you,” he said. “It’s not much to look at, is it?”
To my mind, he had no right to complain of the state of the house. Thin as a rake he was, with knobby wrists and sandy hair straggling over the collar of his shirt, which would have been the better for a wash and an iron.
“Closed up too long it is, that’s all,” I said, with knives in, “and no one to look after it. A new roof is all it needs, and the ivy cut back, to be the most beautiful house on the Borders.”
Solemn as a judge, he gave the house a second look, long and considering, then back to me. “I say, do you cook?”
It was my turn to blink. “What?”
“I need a housekeeper,” he said, all business. “But she’d need to cook as well. No mechanical can produce an edible meal, and while I can subsist on sandwiches, I’d rather not.”
I goggled, not knowing if he was in earnest or only teasing, or how I felt about it in either case.
“You’d be perfect,” he went on. “You love the house and you know what it needs to make it fit to live in. Best of all, you’re not afraid of mechanicals. At least, I don’t think you are. Are you?” he ended anxiously.
I put up my chin. “A smith’s daughter, me. I am familiar with mechanicals from my cradle.” Only pictures, but no need to tell him that.
“Well.” He smiled, and I realized he was not so much older than I. “That’s settled, then.”
“It is not,” I protested. “I have not said I will do it, and even if I do, the choice is not mine to make.”
“My da and mam,” I said. “And they will never say yes.”
He thrust his pipe into his pocket, made a dive into the coach, fetched out a bowler hat, and crammed it onto his head. “Lead on.”
“Where?” I asked stupidly.
“Your house, of course. I want to speak to your parents.”
Mam was dead against it. Not a word did she say, but I read her thoughts clear as print in the banging of the kettle and the rattling of the crockery as she scrambled together a tea worthy to set before the new baronet. I was a girl, he was a young, unmarried man, people would talk, and likely they would have something to talk about.
“Seventeen she is, come midsummer,” she said. “And not trained in running a great house. You had better send to Knighton for Mrs. Bando, who was housekeeper for Sir Owen.”
Sir Arthur looked mulish. “I’m sure Mrs. Bando is an excellent housekeeper, Mrs. Gof. But can you answer for her willingness to work in a house staffed chiefl y by mechanicals?”
“Mechanicals?” Mam’s eyes narrowed. “My daughter, alone in that great crumbling house with a green boy and a few machines, is it? Begging your pardon, sir, if I give offense, but that is not a proper household for any woman to work in.”
I was ready to sink with shame. Sir Arthur put up his chin a little. “I’m not a boy, Mrs. Gof,” he said with dignity. “I’m nearly nineteen, with a degree in mechanical engineering from London Polytechnic. Still, I take your point. Tacy will live at home and come in days to cook and to supervise the mechanicals in bringing the house into better repair.” He stood. “Thank you for the tea. The Welsh cakes were excellent. Now, if I may have a word with your husband?”
“More than a word it will take,” Mam said, “before Mr. Gof will agree to such foolishness.” But off to the forge we went nevertheless, where Sir Arthur went straight as a magnet to the steam hammer that was Da’s newest invention. In next to no time, they’d taken it apart to admire, talking nineteen to the dozen.
I knew my fate was sealed.
Not that I objected, mind. Being housekeeper to Sir Arthur meant working in Cwmlech Manor, surrounded by mechanicals and horseless carriages, and money of my own — a step up, I thought, from sweeping floors under Mam’s eye. Sir Arthur engaged Da, too, to help to turn the stables into a workshop and build a forge.
Before he left, Sir Arthur laid two golden coins in my palm. “You’ll need to lay in provisions,” he said. “See if you can procure a hen or two. I like a fresh egg for breakfast.”
Next morning, Da and I packed our pony trap full of food and drink. I climbed up beside him and Mam thrust a cackling wicker cage into my hands.
“My two best hens for Sir Arthur’s eggs, and see they’re well housed. There’s work you’ll have and plenty, my little one, settling the kitchen fit to cook in. I’ll just set the bread to rise and come help you.”
Overnight I’d had time to recall the state of the place last time I’d seen it. I was prepared for a shock when I opened the kitchen door. And a shock I got, though not the one I’d looked for. The floor was scrubbed, the table freshly sanded, and a fire crackled merrily on a new-swept hearth. As Da and I stood gaping upon the threshold, a silver-skinned mechanical rolled out of the pantry.
“Oh, you beauty,” Da breathed.
“Isn’t she?” Sir Arthur appeared, with the shadow of a sandy beard on his cheeks, grinning like an urchin. “This is the kitchen maid. I call her Betty.”
There followed a highly technical discussion of Betty’s inward workings and abilities and an exhibition of a clarinet-like instrument studded with silver keys, with the promise of a lesson as soon as he found the time. Then he carried Da off to look at the stable, leaving me with the instrument in my hand, bags and baskets everywhere, the hens cackling irritably, and Betty by the pantry door, still and gleaming.
Fitting the pipe between my lips, I blew softly. A bit like a recorder it was to play, with a nice, bright tone. I tried a scale in C, up and down, and then the fi rst phrase of “The Ash Grove.”
Betty whirred, swiveled her head, waved her arms aimlessly, and jerked forward. I dropped the pipe just as she was on the point of crushing the hens under her treads.
And that is how Mam found us: me with my two hands over my mouth and the pipe on the floor and Betty frozen and the hens squawking fit to cross your eyes.
Mam closed her lips like a seam, picked up the hens, and carried them outside. When she got back, there was a word or two she had to say about responsibility and God’s creatures and rushing into things willy-nilly. But Mam’s scolds never lasted long, and soon we were cooking companionably side by side, just as we did at home.
“And what’s the use,” she asked, “of that great clumsy machine by there?”
“That is the kitchen maid,” I said. “Betty. There is all sorts of things she can do — once I learn how to use that properly.” I cocked my chin at the pipe, which I’d stuck on the mantel.
“Kitchen maid, is it?” Mam spluttered — disgust or laughter, I could not tell — and fetched flour for the crust of a savory pie. When it was mixed and rolled out, she laid down the pin, wiped her hands on her apron, went to the dresser, got out one of Mrs. Bando’s ample blue pinafores and a ruffled white cap. She set the cap on Betty’s polished metal head and tied the pinafore around her body with the strings crossed all tidy, then gave a nod.
“Not so bad,” she said. “With clothes on. But a godless monster nonetheless. A good thing Susan Bando is not here to see such a thing in her kitchen. I hope and pray, Tacy, my little one, that you will not regret this choice.”
“Do you pass me those carrots, Mam,” I said, “and stop your fretting.”
When Da came in and saw Betty, he laughed until I thought he’d choke. Then he pulled a pipe from his own pocket and sent Betty rolling back into her pantry with an uncouth flight of notes.
“This pipe is Sir Arthur’s own invention, look you,” he said, proud as a cock robin. “A great advance on the old box-and-button system it is, all done with sound waves. Not easy to use, look you — all morning I’ve been learning to make them come and go. But clever.”
I wanted a lesson right then and there, but Da said Sir Arthur would be wanting his dinner, and I must find a clean table for him toeat it on. Mam read me a lecture on keeping my eyes lowered and my tongue between my teeth, and then they were off and I was alone, with a savory pie in the oven perfuming the air, ready to begin my life as the housekeeper of Cwmlech Manor.
A ruined manor is beautiful to look at and full of mystery and dreams to wander in. But to make fit for human habitation a house where foxes have denned and mice bred their generations is another pair of shoes.
Had I a notion of being mistress of a fleet of mechanicals, with nothing to do but stand by playing a pipe while they worked, I soon learned better. First, Betty was my only helper. Second, her treads would not climb steps, so ramps must be built and winches set to hoist her from floor to floor. Third, I could not learn to command her to do any task more complicated than scrub a floor or polish a table.
Like speaking Chinese it was, with alphabet and sounds and grammar all against sense, a note for every movement, tied to the keys and not to the ear. Da, who could not tell one note from another, was handier with the pipe than I. It drove me nearly mad, with my ear telling me one thing and Sir Arthur’s diagrams telling me another. And my pride in shreds to think I could not master something that should be so simple. Still, the work had to be done, and if I could not make Betty wash windows, I must do it myself, with Ianto Evans from the village to sweep the chimneys and nail new slates over the holes in the roof and mend the furniture where the damp had rotted the joints.
For the first month, Sir Arthur slept in the stable on a straw mattress. He took his noon meal there too, out of a basket. His dinners he ate in the kitchen, with a cloth on the table and good china and silver cutlery to honor his title and his position. Not that he seemed to care where he ate, nor if the plates were chipped or the forks tin, but ate what I put before him without once lifting his eyes from his book.
Fed up I was to overflowing and ready to quit, except for what Mam would say and the coins I put by each week in a box under my bed. But I stuck to it.
For whatever I might think of the baronet, I loved his house. And as I labored to clean the newest wing of the house and make it fit for human habitation, I felt it come alive again under my busy hands.
Finally, one rainy June evening when Sir Arthur came in to his dinner, I led him up the kitchen stairs and down a corridor to the morning room.
In silence he took in the oak paneling, all glowing with polish, the table laid with linen and china and silver, and a fire on the hearth to take the damp from the air. I stood behind him, with needles pricking to know what he thought, half angry already with knowing he’d say nothing. And then he turned, with a smile like a lamp and his eyes bright as peacock feathers under his thick lenses.
“It looks like home,” he said. “Thank you, Tacy.”
I blushed and curtsied and pulled out a chair for him to sit on, and then I served his dinner, each course on a tray, all proper as Mam had taught me. Even Sir Arthur seemed to feel the difference. If he read as he ate, he looked up as I fetched in the courses. And when I brought up a currant tart with cream to pour over, he put down his book and smiled at me.
“You’ve done well, Tacy, with only Betty to help you.”
My pride flashed up like dry tinder. “Betty to help me, is it?” I said with heat. “It was Ianto Evans swept the chimney, look you, and I who did the rest. There’s worse than useless, that old pipe is.”
Sir Arthur raised his brows, the picture of astonishment. “Useless?” he said. “How useless?”
I wished my pride had held its tongue, but too late now. His right it was to ask questions, and my duty to answer them. Which I did as meek as Mam could wish, standing with my hands folded under my apron. After a while, he sent me for a pot of coffee, a notebook, and a pencil, and then again for a second cup. Before long, I was sipping at the horrid, bitter stuff, writing out music staffs and scales. Telling him about intervals I was, when he leaped up, grabbed my hand, hauled me down to the kitchen, and thrust my pipe into my hand.
“Summon Betty,” he ordered.
Halting and self-conscious, I did that.
“Play ‘The Ash Grove,’ ” he said. And I did. And Betty spun and lurched and staggered until I could not play for laughing. Sir Arthur laughed, too, and wrung my hand as though he’d pump water from my mouth, then ran off with his notebook and my pipe to the stables.
As soon as Sir Arthur had puzzled out how to make a mechanical dance to a proper tune, he took the Porters apart and set about rewiring them. That time was heaven for me, with Sir Arthur pulling me from the West Wing, where I was evicting spiders and wood pigeons and rats from the corners and walls, to play old tunes to the mechanicals.
And then, at the end of June, a cart arrived at Cwmlech Manor, with a long wooden crate in the back.
Sir Arthur organized the unloading with anxious care, he and Da tootling away unharmoniously while the mechanicals hoisted the crate and carried it into the workshop, like a funeral procession with no corpse. I’d vegetables boiling for a potch, but I pulled the pot off the stove and went to watch the unpacking.
“Go to your work, now, Tacy, my little one,” Da said when he saw me. “This is none of your affair.”
“If that’s a new mechanical,” I said, “I’d dearly love to see it.”
Sir Arthur laughed. “Much better than that, Tacy. This will be the future of mechanicals. And I shall be its father.”
He lifted the lid and pulled back the wood shavings. I took my breath sharp and shallow, for it might have been a dead youth lying there and not a mechanical at all. The head was the shape of a human skull, with neat ears and a slender nose and fine-cut lips and oval lids over the eyes. Face and body were covered, eerily, with close-grained leather, creamy pale as pearl.
“I bought it from a Frenchman,” Sir Arthur said as he rummaged through the shavings. “It’s only a toy now, a kind of supersophisticated doll that can stand and walk. When I make it speak and understand as well, it will be a humanatron, and the science of mechanicals will have entered a new phase.”
Over his head, Da and I exchanged a look of understanding and laughter mixed. It had not taken us long to learn that Sir ArthurCwmlech was like a butterfly, flitting restlessly from idea to idea. Yet in some things, you might set your watch by him. Dinner he ate at six of the clock exactly, and he always had coffee to drink afterward, never tea, and with his sweet, not after.
My seventeenth birthday came and went. Sir Arthur abandoned the Porters half-rewired to read books on sonics and the human auditory system and fill reams of foolscap with drawings and diagrams. He never set foot in the village. He never went to church nor chapel, nor did he call upon his neighbors. Da and old Dai Philips the post excepted, not a mortal man crossed the threshold of Cwmlech Manor from week’s end to week’s end. You may imagine my astonishment, therefore, when I heard one evening, as I carried him his coffee, a woman’s voice in the morning room.
In a rage of fury she was, too, demanding he look at her. Now, a lady might have left them to fi ght it out in private. A servant, however, must deliver the coffee, though she’d better be quick.
When I entered, I saw Sir Arthur reading peacefully over the bones of his chop, as though there were no girl beside him, fists on hips and the insults rolling from her like water from a spout. Near my age she was and wearing nothing but a nightdress with a soft gray bed gown thrown over it. Then I saw the long dark stain under her left breast and my brain caught up with my eyes, and I knew that at last I looked upon the ghostly Mistress Angharad Cwmlech of Cwmlech Manor.
Sir Arthur roused himself from his book. “Ah, coffee!” he said. “And is that gingerbread I smell?”
Mistress Cwmlech fisted her hands in her disheveled hair and fairly howled. I dropped the tray on the table with a clatter.
Sir Arthur peered at me curiously, his spectacles glittering in the candlelight. “What’s wrong? Did you see a rat? I heard them squeaking a moment ago.”
“It was not a rat, Sir Arthur.”
“You relieve my mind. I’ve nothing against rodents in their place, but their place is not my parlor, don’t you agree?”
Mistress Cwmlech made a rude gesture, surprising a snort of laughter from me so that Sir Arthur asked, a little stiffly, what ailed me.
“I beg pardon, sir,” I stammered. “It’s only I’ve remembered I left a pot on the stove —”
And I fled, followed by the ghost’s bright laughter.
A gulf as wide as the Severn there is, between the wanting to see a ghost and the seeing it. But Mam always said there was no shock could not be cushioned by sweet, strong tea. In the kitchen, I poured myself a cup, added plenty of milk and sugar, and sat in Mrs. Bando’s rocking chair to drink it.
Thus fortified, I hardly even started when the ghost appeared on the settle. Her arms were clasped about her knees, which were drawn up with her pointed chin resting upon them, and her dark eyes burned upon me.
“Good evening,” she said.
I could see the tea towels I’d spread on the settle faintly through her skirts. “G-g-g.” I took a gulp of tea to damp my mouth and tried again. “Good evening to you, miss.”
“There,” she said, with triumph. “I knew you could see me. Beginning to feel like a window I was, and me the toast of four counties. In my day . . .” She sighed. “Ah, but it is not my day, is it? Of your kindness, wench — what year is it?”
I pulled myself together. “1861, miss.”
“1861? I had not thought it was so long. Still, I would expect a better welcome from my own descendent, look you.”
Sad she sounded, and perhaps a little frightened. “The Sight is not given to everyone, miss,” I said gently. “Sir Arthur is a good man, though, and very clever.”
“He’s too clever to believe in ghosts,” she said, recovering. “There is pity he’s the one Cwmlech in upward of two hundred years with a need to hear what I have to tell.”
I sat upright. “The Cwmlech Treasure?”
“What know you of the Cwmlech Treasure, girl?”
“Only what legend says,” I admitted. “There’s romantic, miss, to defend your home with your grandfather’s sword.”
Mistress Angharad Cwmlech laughed, with broken glass in it. “Romantic, is it? Well, it was not romantic to live through, I will tell you so much for nothing. Not” — with a rueful glance at her bloodstained skirts — “that I did live through it.”
Shamed I was, and thrown into such confusion, that I offered her a cup of tea along with my apologies. She laughed, a real laugh this time, and said her mama had been a great believer in the healing property of tea. So I told her about Mam, and she said to call her Mistress Angharad, and I was feeling quite easy with her until she demanded to be told about the mechanicals, which she called “those foul and unnatural creatures infesting my stables.”
Recognizing an order, I did my best to obey. I explained about clockwork and sound waves, and then I called Betty out of her pantry. A bad idea, that. For when Betty trundled into the kitchen, Mistress Angharad vanished abruptly, reappearing some minutes later in a pale and tattered state.
“Sorry,” I said, and piped Betty back to her pantry with “The Bishop of Bangor’s Jig.”
“Mark my words,” Mistress Angharad said. “That soulless thing will be the ruin of the House of Cwmlech.”
“If Sir Arthur cannot hear you,” I said shyly. “Do you tell me where the treasure is hid, and I will pass the word on to him.”
“And he would believe you, of course,” she said, her scorn thick as paint. “And drop all his precious experiments and maybe knock holes in the walls besides.”
I bristled. “He might, if I put it to him properly.”
“Maybe,” the ghost said, “and maybe not. In any case, I cannot tell you where I hid the treasure, were I ever so willing. Your ears could not hear the words.”
“Show me, then.”
She shrugged mistily. “There are rules and restrictions upon ghosts as there are upon young ladies of gentle birth. Given my choice, I’d be neither.”
Past eleven it was, and Mam waiting for me to come in before she locked the door. I racked my tired brain. “Can you not invent a riddling rhyme, then? Leave a trail of clues?”
“No and no. Only to Sir Arthur may I reveal the hiding place —”
“And Sir Arthur doesn’t believe in ghosts,” I finished for her. “Or the treasure, come to that.”
“I wish I need not tell him anything,” she said peevishly. “Great blind old fool that he is. But tell him I must. I’ll not know a moment’s peace until the House of Cwmlech is safe and sound.”
So began Mistress Angharad Cwmlech’s ghostly siege upon the doorless tower of Sir Arthur’s indifference.
There is not much a ghost can do to affect the waking world, but what she could, she did. She blew in his ear, ruffled his hair, pinched his arm, spilled his coffee, knocked his food from his plate. The result of her hauntings was no more than a wry remark about drafts or fleas or clumsiness, at which she’d howl and rail and curse like a mad thing. Sometimes it was all I could do not to laugh.
This had been going on for perhaps a month when Sir Arthur told me, after I’d brought up his coffee one chilly evening in July, with the rain coming down outside in knives and forks, that three gentlemen were coming to dine with him on Saturday.
“These gentlemen, sir,” I said, mild as milk. “Will they be staying the night?”
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
Mistress Angharad, hovering by the hearth, giggled.
I put my lips together and sighed. “Perhaps you did not know, sir, there’s no mattress in any bedchamber save your own, nor a whole sheet to make it up with. And while you may be happy to take mutton pie in the morning room, there’s shame to serve no better to your guests, and they come all the way from London.”
“Oh!” he said. “I hadn’t thought. Can’t have Mr. Gotobed sleeping on straw, either — he’d take offense, and that would never do. These guests are important, Tacy. What are we to do?”
I was tempted to take a page from Mistress Angharad’s book just then and tell him what I thought of inviting guests without notice. But, as Mam was always telling me, he was the tenth Baronet Cwmlech and I was Tacy Gof, the smith’s daughter. Friendly we might be, but it was not a friendship to survive plain speaking, however justified. “We must do what we can, Sir Arthur,” I said, dry as sand. “Buy mattresses, for one thing, and cloth for curtains. Bed linen, of course, and wool coverlets that can double as blankets, and —”
“Oh, damn,” Sir Arthur said with feeling. “I hadn’t thought — oh, damn. You must buy what you see fi t, of course, but please remember that I am ruined.”
“Ruined?” I echoed blankly. “But the carriages and the mechanicals. . .”
“Are all my fortune, Tacy. With work and luck all will be restored, and you may bring Cwmlech Manor back to its full glory. But first I must secure a patent on the new pipe and find someone to manufacture it for general use.”
He might have been speaking of flying to the moon, so hopeless did he sound.
“Come, now,” I said. “That should be easy enough for a man clever enough to invent it in the first place. Da will help you, I’m sure. As for your guests, you may leave their entertainment in my hands.”
His smile was clouded with worry, but it warmed me nonetheless. “Thank you, Tacy. I have every confidence in you, at least.”
Which is a heady thing for a girl just past her seventeenth birthday to hear. As I cleaned the kitchen, I chattered of lists and plans to Mistress Angharad until she lost her temper.
“It is dull you are, bleating about roasts and beds like an old ewe. Have you not asked yourself who these gentlemen are and what they’re after, out in the damp wilds of the Borders when the London Season is at its height? Lombard Street to a China orange, they’re up to nothing good.”
“All the more reason to be thinking of roasts and beds,” I said shortly.
Mistress Angharad wailed to curl my toes and disappeared.
After that, I had far more important things to think about than a sulky spirit. Hercules himself could not have made Cwmlech Manor fit for company in three days’ time, so I went down to Mam’s and begged her help.
If Da’s genius was to beat dead iron into usefulness, Mam’s was to settle a house into order and beauty. She began at Cwmlech by going to Mr. Thomas at the wool mill and Mrs. Wynn the shop and charming goods from them in exchange for a letter of patronage to hang on the wall, saying that Sir Arthur of Cwmlech Manor did business here and no other place. Then she summoned all the good women of Cwmlech village, who tucked up their sleeves and descended on the Manor with mops and brooms and buckets. They worked like bees in a meadow, until the windows were all draped in good Welsh wool, and the bed linen white and fragrant with lavender, and flowers on the chests, and the wood in the dining room all rubbed soft and glowing.
On the Saturday morning, Mam came with me to the Manor to help cook and wait upon the guests.
“There is funny gentlemen they are,” she said when she came from showing them to their chambers. “Rat’s eyes and bull’s necks, no servants, and next to no luggage. No manners, neither — not so much as a smile or thanks, only a sharp warning not to meddle with their things. Were they not Sir Arthur’s guests, I would not willingly give them to eat.”
Which was strong speaking for Mam. It made me think of Mistress Angharad and how I’d missed seeing her these past days, sharp tongue and all, and how I wished to hear her opinion of the men who would sleep at Cwmlech Manor this night.
So you may judge my joy when I carried Mam’s leek soup in to dinner that evening, to see Mistress Angharad hovering at the sideboard, bloody and disheveled as ever.
I smiled at her; she frowned back. “Eyes open and mouth shut, girl,” she ordered. “Here’s mischief abroad.”
Which I might have guessed for myself, so smug were the guests, like cats at a mouse hole, and so fidgety was Sir Arthur, like the mouse they watched. Two of them were large and broad, very thick in their beards and necks and narrow in their eyes; the third was thinner and clean shaven, but no more handsome for that, with his mouth as tight as a letter box and his eyes hard as ball bearings.
“A fine, large workshop, Sir Arthur,” Clean-Cheeks said, picking up his spoon. “A pity nothing useful has come out of it.”
One of the roughs said, “Don’t forget the pipe, Mr. Gotobed.”
Mr. Gotobed smiled thinly. “I do not forget the pipe, Mr. Brown.”
Sir Arthur nudged his cutlery straight. “It’s very nearly ready, Mr. Gotobed. Just a few details about the interface. . . .”
“Interface?” The second rough found this funny. “Them things got no face at all, if you ask me.”
And then the tureen was empty, and I must run downstairs again to fetch the fish course. When I returned with the baked grayling, Mr. Gotobed and his friends had scraped their plates clean, Sir Arthur’s soup was untouched, and Mistress Angharad was scowling blackly.
“I know Cwmlech Manor is haunted,” Mr. Gotobed was saying. “There is a whole chapter on the subject in The Haunted Houses of Great Britain. Your resident ghost is precisely why Mr. Whitney wants to buy it. He has a great affnity for the supernatural, does Mr. Whitney of Pittsburgh, America. By his own account, some of his best friends are ghosts.”
“Then I’m afraid he must be disappointed,” Sir Arthur said. “You will be paid in full.”
Mr. Gotobed smiled. “Yes,” he said. “I will. One way or another. Mr. Whitney is very excited. I believe he intends to install a swimming bath in the Great Hall.”
Mistress Angharad reached for a candlestick. Another time, her look of fury when her hand passed through it might have made me laugh, but I was too furious myself for mirth. Sir Arthur’s hands clenched against the table. “A year’s grace is all I ask, Mr. Gotobed.”
“A year! It will take that long for the patent office to read your application, and another for them to decide upon it. I’m sorry, Sir Arthur. A manor in the hand is worth any number of inventions in, er, the bush. Pay me in full on the first of September or Cwmlech Manor is mine, as per our contract. Excellent fish, by the way. Did you catch it yourself ?”
How I got through the rest of the meal without cracking a plate over Mr. Gotobed’s head, I do not know. Lucky that Mam was busy with her cooking. My face was a children’s ABC to her, and I did not want her knowing that Sir Arthur had pledged Cwmlech Manor. She’d small patience with debtors, and she’d think him no better than his father, when the poor boy was only a lamb adrift in a world of wolves like Mr. Gotobed.
The uncomfortable dinner wore on, with only Mr. Gotobed and his roughs eating Mam’s good food, and Mistress Angharad cursing impotently, and Sir Arthur growing more and more white and pinched about the nose. When I took up the cloth at last and put the decanters on the table, he stood up. “I have some rather pressing business to attend to,” he said. “Enjoy your port, gentlemen.”
And then he went into his bedroom across the landing and shut the door.
I wanted to knock and give him a few words of comfort. But Mam was waiting downstairs with all the cleaning up, and I could think of no comfortable words to say.
Mam and I were to sleep at Cwmlech Manor to be handy to cook the guests’ breakfast in the morning. When the kitchen was tidy, we settled by the fire to drink a cup of tea, too weary to speak. So low was I, I hardly started when Mistress Angharad said, “Tacy! I have news!” right in my ear.
Mam shivered. “There’s a wicked old draft in by here.”
“Worse when you’re tired,” I said. “Go in to bed, Mam. I’ll see to locking up.”
She gaped fit to split her cheeks and went off without argument for once, which was a blessing, since Mistress Angharad was already talking.
“Listening I was, as they drank Sir Arthur’s port. It’s all a trick, look you. The Manor is sold already, to the rich American who likes ghosts and swimming baths. And Tacy, that blackguard will wreck Sir Arthur’s workshop tonight, in case he might sell his machines and pay his debt!”
I clutched my cooling tea, half sick with rage and entirely awake. “Will we tell Sir Arthur?”
“Sir Arthur!” she said with scorn. “Meek as a maiden aunt all through dinner, and off to cower in his bed as soon as the cloth was lifted. No. If anyone is to save Cwmlech Manor, it must be the two of us.”
“Right.” I put down my tea. “To the stable, us. And pray we’re not too late.”
Pausing only to light the lantern, we crept out of the kitchen and across the yard to the stable, the moon sailing high and pale in a rack of cloud above us. Within, all was black, save for the sullen glow of the forge fire. The flickering lantern drew little sparks of light from the dials and gears and polished metal of Sir Arthur’s machines and tools. The air smelled like pitch and coal and machine oil.
“The dragon’s lair,” Mistress Angharad said, full of bravado. “Is that the virgin sacrifice?”
I followed the faint glow of her pointing finger to a table set like a bier under a bank of lights, and the figure upon it draped with an old linen sheet.
“That,” I said, “is Sir Arthur’s expensive French automaton. Will you look?” I picked my way carefully through the chaos of strange machines and gear-strewn tables and reached for the sheet. “Only an old mechanical it is, see?”
In truth, it looked eerie enough, bald and still and deathly pale. Mistress Angharad stroked its cheek with a misty fi nger. “There’s beautiful it is,” she said, with wonder.
I touched the key in its neck. “Still, only a mechanical doll, simpler than the simplest automaton.” Without thought, almost without my will, my fingers turned the key, feeling the spring coil tight as I wound.
Mistress Angharad turned her head. “Douse the lantern,” she hissed.
Heart beating like one of Da’s hammers, I blew out the candle and ducked down behind the table. The door flew open with a crack of splintering wood, and Mr. Gotobed and his two thugs rushed in, waving crowbars.
I cursed my tired brain, drew my pipe from my apron pocket, and played the first tune that came to mind, which was “Rali Twm Sion” — a good rousing tune to instruct the mechanicals to break down walls.
Someone shouted — I think it was Mr. Brown. Then the air was filled with whirring gears and thumping treads and grunts and bad language and the clang and screech of metal against metal.
“Sons of pigs!” Mistress Anghard screeched. “Break their bones like matchsticks I would, could I only touch them!”
From the corner of my eye, I saw her hovering, cloudlike, over the automaton. Then she said, “I am going to break a great rule. If it means the end of me, then I will at least have tried. Good-bye, Tacy. You have been a good friend to Cwmlech and a friend to me as well.” And then she disappeared.
Though tears pricked my eyes, I went on playing “Rali Twn Sion” as though my life depended on it — until the French automaton twitched and thrashed and sat up on the table, when the pipe dropped from my hands, grown suddenly nerveless.
The mechanicals froze, of course. The French automaton, however, swung off the table and staggered toward the noise of iron crunching against polished metal. Not to be outdone by a toy, I snatched up the first heavy tool I laid my hand on and ran, yelling to tear my throat, toward a shadowy figure whose shaven cheeks showed ghostly in the gloom.
Swinging my makeshift weapon high, I hit him on the arm — as much by luck as design. He swore and dropped the bar. I was about to hit him again when Sir Arthur’s lights flared into blinding life overhead, and Sir Arthur’s pipe brought the mechanicals to purposeful life.
Quick as thinking, they seized Mr. Gotobed and Mr. Brown and held them while the automaton who was Mistress Angharad picked up the third thug and slammed him bodily against the wall.
Sir Arthur came running up to me, his eyes wild behind his spectacles. “Tacy! What the devil is going on here? Are you hurt?”
I hefted my weapon — a hammer it was. “Not a bit of it. But I think I may have broken Mr. Gotobed’s arm. Earned it he has twice over, the mess he’s made of things.”
Side by side, we surveyed the workshop then. Like a battlefield it was, with oil stains in the place of blood. Not a mechanical but was dented, and more than one stood armless or headless and dull eyed, its motive force gone. Not a machine but bore smashed dials and broken levers. Most pathetic, the French automaton lay sprawled like a puppet whose strings have been cut, one arm at a strange angle and the leather torn over its shoulder to show the metal underneath.
Sir Arthur pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s ruined,” he said, a mourner at a wake. “They’re all ruined. And there’s no money left — not enough to repair them, anyway. I’ll have to sell it all as scrap, and that won’t bring enough to keep Cwmlech Manor on.”
It hurt my heart to hear him say so. “What about the treasure?”
He shook his head. “That’s a legend, Tacy, like the ghost — just a local variant of a common folktale. No. I am my father’s son, a gambler and a wastrel. Mr. Whitney will have Cwmlech Manor after all.”
“Do not lose hope, Sir Arthur, my little one,” I said. “Do you lock those bad men into the tack room while I make a pot of tea. And then we will talk about what to do.”
When I returned with the tea tray, Mr. Gotobed and his rogues were nowhere to be seen. Two chairs had been set by the forge fire, which was blazing brightly, and the automaton back upon its table, with Sir Arthur beside it, nibbling on his thumbnail.
I poured two cups with sugar and milk, took one for myself and carried the other to him. He thanked me absently and set down his cup untasted. I breathed in the fragrant steam but found no comfort in it. Abandoning my tea, I set myself to search grimly among the tools and glass and pieces of metal on the floor. Like looking for a needle in a haystack it was, but I persisted and turned up Mistress Angharad’s key at last under one of the broken machines.
“Here,” I said, thrusting it into Sir Arthur’s hand. “Maybe it’s just run-down she is, and not ruined at all. Do you wind her and we’ll find out.”
Muttering something about putting a sticking plaster on a mortal wound, he inserted the key, turned it until it would turn no more, and then withdrew it.
The eyelids opened slowly and the head turned stiffly toward us. Sir Arthur whooped with joy, but my heart sank, for the eyes were only brown glass, bright and expressionless. Mistress Angharad was gone.
And then the finely carved mouth quirked up at the corners and one brown eye winked at me.
“A legend, am I?” said Mistress Angharad Cwmlech of Cwmlech Manor. “There’s a fine thing to say to your great-aunt, boy, when she is on the point of pulling your chestnuts from the fire.”
It would be pleasant to write that Sir Arthur took Mistress Angharad’s haunting of the French automaton in his stride, or that Mistress Angharad led Sir Arthur to the treasure without delay. But that would not be truthful.
Truthfully, then. Sir Arthur was convinced that the shock of losing Cwmlech Manor had driven him mad, and Mistress Angharad had a thing or two to say about people who were too clever to believe their own eyes. I was ready to shut them up in the workshop to debate their separate philosophies until one or the other of them ran down.
“Whist, the both of you,” I said at last. “Sir Arthur, there’s no harm in hearing what Mistress Angharad has to say, do you believe in ghosts or not. It can be no more a waste of time than arguing about it all night.”
“I’ll speak,” Lady Angharad said. “If he’ll listen.”
Sir Arthur shrugged wearily. “I’ll listen.”
The Cwmlech Treasure was hidden in a priest’s hole, tucked all cozy into the side of the chimney in the Long Gallery. In the reign of Harry VIII, masons had known their business, for the door fit so neatly into the stonework that we could not see it, even when Mistress Angharad traced its outline. Nor could all our prodding and pushing on the secret latch stir it so much as a hairsbreadth.
“It’s rusted shut,” Sir Arthur said, rubbing a stubbed fi nger. “The wall will have to be knocked down, I expect.”
Mistress Angharad put fists on her hips. Very odd it was to see her familiar gestures performed by a doll, especially one clad in an old sheet. It had been worse, though, without the sheet. Mute and inert, an automaton is simply unclothed. When it speaks to you in a friend’s voice, however, it is suddenly naked and must be covered.
“Heaven send me patience,” she said now. “Here is nothing that a man with an oilcan and a chisel and a grain of sense cannot sort out.”
“I’ll fetch Da, then,” I said. “But first, breakfast and coffee, or we’ll be asleep where we stand. And Mam must be wondering what’s become of me.”
Indeed, Mam was in the kitchen, steeling herself to go upstairs and see whether Sir Arthur had been murdered in his bed and I stolen by Mr. Gotobed for immoral purposes. The truth, strange as it was, set her mind at ease, though she had a word to say about Mistress Angharad’s bedsheet. Automaton or not, she was the daughter of a baronet, Mam said. She must come down by our house to be decently clothed — and explain things to Da while she was about it.
High morning it was before we gathered in the Long Gallery, Da with his tools, Mam with the tea tray, and Mistress Angharad in my best Sunday costume, with the triple row of braiding on the skirt, and my Sunday bonnet covering her bald head.
Da chipped and pried and oiled and coaxed the door open at last, amid a great cloud of dust that set us all coughing like geese. When it settled, we were confronted with a low opening into a darkness like the nethermost pits of Hell, which breathed forth a dank odor of ancient drains and wet stone.
Da looked at Sir Arthur, who bit his lip and looked at me.
“God’s bones!” Mistress Angharad cried, and snatching up the lantern, set her foot on the steep stone stair that plunged down behind the chimney.
Sir Arthur, shamefaced, followed after, with me and Da behind him, feeling our way along the slick stone wall, taking our breath short in the musty air.
It could not have been far, but the dark made the stair lengthen until we might have been in the bowels of the earth. It ended in a stone room furnished with a narrow bed and three banded boxes, all spotted with mold and rust. Da’s crowbar made short work of the locks. He lifted the lids one by one, and then we looked upon the fabled Treasure of Cwmlech.
A great deal of it there was, to be sure, but not beautiful nor rich to the eye. There were chargers and candlesticks and ewers and bowls, all gone black with tarnish. Even the gold coins in their strongbox and Mistress Angharad’s jewels were dull and plain with time and dirt.
Mistress Angharad picked a ring out of the muddle and rubbed it on the skirt of my Sunday costume, revealing a flat-cut stone that winked and glowed like fire in the lantern light.
“What think you of your variant folktale now?” she asked Sir Arthur.
He laughed, free and frank. “I see I shall have to speak better of folktales in the future.”
All I recall of the rest of that day was the steady stream of police and masons and men from the village come to deal with the consequences of the night’s adventures. When Sir Arthur sat down to dinner in his parlor at last, Mr. Gotobed and his thugs were locked up tight as you please in the magistrate’s coal cellar, and the treasure had been carried piecemeal from the priest’s hole and put in the old tack room with Ianto Evans and two others to guard it. Mam cooked the dinner, and served it, too, for I was in my bed at home, asleep until old Mrs. Philips’s rooster woke me next morning to walk to the Manor in the soft dawn as usual, as if my world had not been turned upside down.
First thing I saw when I came in the kitchen was Mistress Angharad, sitting on the settle in my Sunday costume.
“Good morning, Tacy,” she said.
A weight dropped from me I had not known I carried. I whooped joyfully and threw my arms around her. Like hugging a dress form it was, but I did not mind.
“This is a greeting after a long parting, Tacy, my little one,” she said, laughing. “Only yesterday it was you saw me.”
“And did not think to see you again. Is it not a rule of ghosts, to disappear when their task on earth is done?”
The automaton’s face was not expressive, and yet I would swear Mistress Angharad looked sly. “Yet here I am.”
I sat back on my heels. “Is it giving eternity the slip you are, then? The truth now.”
“The truth?” She shrugged sti|y. “I am as surprised as you. Perhaps there’s no eternal rule about a ghost that haunts a machine. Perhaps I am outside all rules now and can make my own for a change. Perhaps” — she rose from the settle and began her favorite pacing — “I can wear what I like and go where I will. Would you like to be trained as a mechanic, Tacy, and be my lady’s maid, to keep me wound and oiled?”
“If you are no longer a lady,” I said, with a chill that surprised even me, “you will not need a lady’s maid. I would prefer to train as an engineer, but if I must be a servant, I’d rather be a housekeeper with a great house to run than a mechanic, which is only a scullery maid with an oilcan.”
A man’s laugh startled us both. “Well said, Tacy,” said Sir Arthur from the kitchen door, where he’d been listening. “Only I have in mind to make your mother housekeeper, if she will do it, with a gaggle of housemaids under her to keep the place tidy. You I need to design a voice for my humanatron. You will learn engineering. Which means I must command tutors and books from London. And new tools and a new automaton from France, of course. Perhaps more than one. I suppose I must write my lawyers first and finish work on the pipe. And the foundation needs work, the masons say.” He sighed. “There’s so much to do, I do not know where to begin.”
“Breakfast first,” I said. “And then we’ll talk about the rest.”
There is a ghost in Cwmlech Manor.
She may be seen by anyone who writes a letter that interests her. Mr. Whitney came all the way from Pittsburgh to talk to her. He stayed a month, and Sir Arthur persuaded him to invest in the humanatron.
She travels often, accompanied by her mechanic and sometimes by me, when I can spare the time from my engineering studies and my experiments. Last summer, we went to London, and Sir Arthur presented us to Queen Victoria, who shook our hands and said she had never spoken to a ghost before, or a female engineer, and that she was delightfully amused.
The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor © Delia Sherman 2011