Dread Ditch Copse

She stumbled blindly along a track of sand and craggy stones, the only vegetation a solitary fir tree leaning precariously in the wind. She hardly noticed the dark, heaped up clouds, so intent was she on her objective. Her mind seemed as blank as the air around her. The wind had risen menacingly now and tugged at her thin coat which she hadn’t bothered to fasten in her hasty flight from the house.

She reached the cliff top at the highest point of Dread Ditch Copse, trudging tiredly now, suddenly hesitant.

“I’ll end it all,” she whispered and walked purposefully towards the edge.

Many feet below the angry sea churned mirroring the thoughts unhinging her mind. How could she have let this happen? How could she have taken him, him of all people, into her confidence, into her world? What had she been thinking of.

Why had he betrayed her, she wondered, why had he spoken so, and why had he dishonoured her by speaking in public of the secret times they had spent together in the hunters’ cabin up on the moors, reading to each other by the light of candles, turning pages for each other, whispering to each other in that flickering light, she telling him of her secret love of the Brontes and of her shameful disdain for Jane Austen?

Near mental and physical exhaustion, she collapsed in a shapeless heap next to the broken cliff top wall. She lay trembling from emotion and cold, her face buried in the dark dank of ancient bog, the rotting reminder of days long deceased. Pressing her ears to the ground she could hear the relentless footfall of ancient armies marching north, south, east and west in search of death and destruction.

High up above under the glooming canopy of the unforgiving sky a murder of crows circled, beaks blooded by the innards of innocent field mice and fledgling birds.

With heaving bosom, and a body rigid with a mix of unnatural anger and a passion more suited to the monstrous apes of Gibraltar, she turned her earth blackened face to the heavens and shouted, “Damn you, Robert Fisher, damn you.” And wept as though the diseased dogs of hell were sweeping across the blasted heath ripping apart all the little children in their path.

Kneeling over her, Amy Gentleheart, her cousin and loyal companion, sighed and threw a warming cloak over her thin shoulders. “Sweet child, dear Catherine, do not speak so. Be calm, be still. Tomorrow you will look back at all this and will have learned, for it is a truth universally acknowledged that throughout this turbulent life we are constantly learning; you will have learned that the fermented juice of the apple in this region has power for which we are unprepared and the taking thereof can disturb both the mind and the soul of the pure and fragrant young ladies of this borough, such as we are. And Robert Fisher, well, he is after all, for all his many gifts, simply an impoverished and humble teacher of divinity, so his opinions, as honest as they may be, will be debased at the very best, and his opinions of your opinions should be of little consequence to a confident student of English literature and the arts, such as you are, someone who, I must remind you, has several times visited the town of Bath and been held in the admiring gaze and minds of many eligible young gentlemen and their mothers. Be strong, sweet Catherine, be strong.

“And it is for you as a respected member of society to take reassurance that it is not as though you have lain together, not as though you have bedded him, nor gifted him your virtue, and that he has subsequently spoken of such while in drink and in the company of men.”

Catherine gave a little moan, “Well, actually … . Oh dear, oh dear, what have I done.”

Amy sat up sharply, fumbled for her cigarettes and lighter, lit up for each of them, “Well, for god’s sake, Catherine, how could you. I hope he doesn’t put anything on Facebook.”

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