A Taste Of A Book – The Cragg Witch – Curious for feedback


The witch, walks along the shoreline, her tattered dress hem dragging over the sharp rocks and seaweed. Her bare feet cold and pale finding their way over the jagged stones. With no missteps, she makes her way to the cliff and stares out over the desolate foggy harbour…her sea green eyes hold a secret. She carries inside her a secret that will forever change life in Bolton Cragg and its inhabitants, a secret that will unleash a power on this village that has not been seen upon the earth for some two thousand years…. Aye, the witch holds a secret that will make the evil one flesh.

She tilts her head back, her mist soaked hair falling freely down the back of her damp dress. Her lips part and break into a wide grin. The witch looks skyward, and whispers in a cold maniacal voice, “forgive me father, for I have sinned, and sinned and now I carry the secret of your undoing!”

The witch let forth a cold vengeful laugh, and a bolt of lightning arced across the sky.

“So it begins!”, she whispered, and turned to begin her journey back to Bolton Cragg…..

   RavensCragg house stood tall and dark in Cragg field, Its front facade consisting to three upper dormers painted black, each with a single window staring out like some blind eye over the overgrown field and fence. Two lower windows flanking a large keyhole style door in the center.  No curtains or draperies could be seen through the dirty glass of the windows, and nothing of the exterior gave any feeling of warmth or coziness.  Its flower beds near the house were neglected, overgrown with weeds and vines.  Cold and frigid looking it rose out of the field, with only the heavy dark smoke rising from the flu to give any hint it was even inhabited. Some, who had seen and reported it to me said it looked ominous, and I suppose on that first day as I stood at the gate and looked up I should have agreed.  Agreed, if anyone had been there just then to make such comment.  However, I was alone, and long I stood staring at those dark dormers.  No light from a lamp to be seen in those dark dim glass panes.  No warm face from behind a lace curtain, as curious about I, as I should be about them.  Not a bit of cheer to be emitted whatsoever.
    Was this house to be some forbearance to what life in Bolton Cragg should be like for me.  No cheerfulness, no friendliness, no warmth.  Just cold barren houses, cold barren people?  What if the entire village, of yet I had not seen any, was like this cold bleak house.  RavensCragg, as it was named, is the first cottage, though more house than cottage, on the one road leading into Bolton Cragg, and if it stood as a welcome post to the rest of the village, I guessed that most would run screaming, instead of venturing further.
   It’s owner, one Josiah Cragg, was as I understood from Father Cleary, one of the village leaders.  Owner of the local general store and a fish buyer, it is to him that most in the village look for guidance, and it was to he, that I was to pay my first call upon.  Father Cleary assured me that Mr. Cragg, while very direct and almost harsh in his correspondence, had assured that he would see me settled into the rectory and that necessary provisions would be arranged to last me a few days until I had chance to settle after my journey.  I wondered at some length as I stared at the house, what a man such as Mr. Cragg would deem necessary provisions.  His own home seeming to be in a state of disrepair and ill use.
   Had they perhaps forgot my arrival?  Surely not, the correspondence had been most clear.  I would travel on the Dufferin from Halifax to Sheet Harbor, and from there be brought by horse and wagon by the kindly Mr. Horton and his nag Nellie, where on September 29th, I should be dropped at this gate to be greeted by none other than Josiah Cragg.  All had happened just so, and here I stood at the gate, on September 29th, bag in hand, and no Josiah Cragg to be seen.  Well, thought I, I am after all only the new local clergy come from the college with many fresh new ideas to rescue this small seaside village from its backward ways and bring them and their church to some semblance of Christianity.    Perhaps, my mind continued, some malady had befallen the entire Cragg family, perhaps it was all a jest, some evil prank played by my fellows at school.  Yes, I was trying to invent some reason to not step across into the yard and knock upon that darkly painted door.  Yes, I was suddenly very afraid, and yes….
   By God!  Was that a face at the center window, surely it was.  I looked ever more closely and stared with all my might into those dark panes.  My eyes returning the proof of reality, dark just as before.  And with that, the door flew open with a crack and a short stubby woman stepped out into the dimming light.
   “You plan to stand out there all day Reverend? Or might you pick up those feet and come into RavensCragg?”
   Her voice grated on my ears, it was one of those voices that makes one cringe like the scrape of chalk on a blackboard.   I immediately lifted my left foot and then the right and began the short walk across the front field toward that ominous doorway and the scary little woman standing just outside it.  She eyed me up and down as I approached.  Her skirt and apron covered in soot, her blouse in an equal state, and a dirty dust cap upon her head.  Her hands were weathered and pudgy, and her face reminded me of the apple dolls my grandmother used to make for my sisters.  Very wrinkled and dark, with an almost varnished look  to the skin. She carped a few more phrases just to ensure that every bit of my skin would be crawling.
   “From the college eh? Not sure what all that book larnin would do ye for religion, but I guesses they do whats they do in them there places….You’re a thin one I’ll give ya that”
   “Madam, my name is Reverend Cartmill, might you tell me…” was I really asking her to speak more?? “if Mr. Cragg is at home? I was to meet him here, I believe”
   “Aye, he’s about, but yer late, and he had business to attend at the wharf.” She turned on her heel and entered the room beyond the door “…leave it to da clergy to expect a body to have nothing to do but stand about waitin for them”
  “I assure you I had no such intentions Madam, I simply meant to ask…”
   “I know I know,” she hissed  “well…you comin in or ain’t ya?”
I stepped through the door, which was quickly pulled shut behind me.  As my eyes adjusted, I looked about to discover that the room in which I stood was more of a hall than a room.  A long wood staircase rose up into the darkness on the right, the wood if not painted black, was as dark a color as I had seen.  The wallpaper, one of those hideous floral prints, that seem all the rage, was cracked, torn and blackened with soot and in many places the plaster showed through.  The hallway reeked of lamp oil, smoke and sweat. To my left two doors both shut to view, gave an odd appearance that I could not put my finger on, and one at the foot of the stair also shut tight, The oil lamp on a side table had a crack in the shade which would once have been a beautiful piece.  As it spit and flickered from the opening and closing of the door it tossed evil looking arcs of light and shadow over the room and across the leering face of Missus Mack.  I felt Missus Mack‘s hand upon my back as she directed me down the hall toward the kitchen at the back of the house.  The air felt warm and tight to my throat and body, and my mind screamed at me to be anyplace in all Christ’s creation except here in this hall with this dreadful, leprechaun of a woman.
   “Step this way preacher…” She barked.
   We made the few steps into the small kitchen, which for want of a better word, was hotter than hellfire, and smelled just as evil.  One small window against the back wall let in what was left of the failing light of the day through a thick layer of grime and soot.  As I had noted from outside this window too bore no curtain, not even a piece of sack cloth.  Bare from top to bottom.  Obviously whatever the leprechaun‘s occupation was it was not that of a housekeeper.  The stove (and I usually love stoves) roared to the side against a large brick flu.  A large iron pot, bubbled and burbled some concoction that I felt certain would be horrendous to the palette.  A kettle of some noted and dented use hissed and spurted, and for the first time since my arrival my body hinted it would be glad of a cup of tea if one could be had.  Though the thoughts of drinking anything brewed here was not overly appealing.   The woman, who still had yet to make a proper acquaintance seemed to catch my thought and selected a chipped china cup from the sideboard and made her way across the room to begin preparing some form of a tea. As her small squat frame lumbered across the floor she nodded to a hard wooden chair and gave it a slight kick with her foot, directing me to have a seat upon it.
   “Thank you Madam,” I mumbled.  Surely, this little creature was without doubt the most hateful being I had encountered in some time, and did not appear to have one saving grace.  I immediately reprimanded myself in silence for being uncharitable and unchristian, but she had made it an easy sport with her manner.
   “Preacher, I ain’t no madam!”, she said after some moments.  “I’m just plain ol Missus Mack, same as I always been.  Every soul livin and all whats dead and buried in the fields of Bolton Cragg calls me dat, and I don’t see no reason here…or up there..” she nodded with a roll of the eyes to the ceiling, “to call me nuthin else”
   “Missus Mack, then,” I said trying to sound apologetic, and sounding far more sarcastic than I’d like.  “Might I ask how long Mr. Cragg might be at the wharf, I should like very much to reach the rectory before it is too dark to see to proper arrangements for the night”
   “Rectory? What Rectory Preacher?”, she said with a half laugh and half disgusted snort.  “Ain’t no rectory or any other preacher house in these parts.  This here to be where you stay as I knows it!”
   “But surely you jest?” I looked about this vile dirty kitchen thinking there surely could be no way humanly possible that this would be my accommodation for the next 18 months.   The woman was clearly impaired of the mind in some way, perhaps Mr. Horton, had accidentally dropped me at the wrong house, and maybe just maybe Bolton Cragg has its own mental asylum.
   “Jest not!”, she retorted with a snort “but if’n you can’t abide Mr. Cragg’s hospitality, the Crouse cottage just up the lane has a pig sty you could make use of, if you don’t mind sharing with Tilley”, she gave me a sarcastic wicked look and let forth a peal of laughter as she added “if the pig don’t mind a preacher, I don’t see why the preacher should mind the pig”
   “Then this is Cragg house?”, I questioned, not wanting to believe all what she was sharing with me.
   “Lawd preacher, you do go on…”, she said as she sat the tea-cup, down hard on the table.  No saucer, spoon or napkin was I handed, and as far as I could see, no sugar bowl or creamer.  The cup was as I had thought chipped and cracked, and gulping hard, I noticed it was not altogether clean as a greasy finger print streaked the side.  My want of a cupper subsided quickly, and I left it set upon the table.
   “Missus Mack,” I continued, “My understanding from Father Cleary was that a rectory house was to be provided for me to live, as well as proper provisions.  Are you saying this is not the case, and that the expectation is that I will reside here?  For I must say that such would not abide me well for handling church affairs”
   “You best speak with Mr. Cragg then preacher and see to it that if Cragg house does not meet your fancy needs, that you surely find another door to be behind before dark.”
   “Why before dark?”
   “I just telling you preacher…” she glowered at me “Bolton Cragg is not a place you want to find yourself outside after that sun sets.”
   As I stared at her, my mind trying to decide if she was trying to scare me, or if it was a warning, I heard a creaking of the floor behind me.  Turning quickly and nearly spilling the tea, I came face to face with an elderly man, who tho he startled me was a welcome relief.
   “Reverend Cartmill I presume” his voice boomed at me. He extended his large hand and continued “I am Josiah Cragg, and I welcome you to RavensCragg”
   “A fine pleasure Mr. Cragg, and a thank you from Father Cleary I’m to extend for all your assistance in preparing my journey here.”
The man withdrew his hand from mine and stepped more fully in the light.  I let forth a slight gasp as I took in his features.  A high forehead, and well weathered, was disfigured by a nasty looking scar running from the hairline just to the bridge of his nose.  Two steely grey eyes peered out at me from under bushy grey brows and while his nose was long and narrow, it seemed out of place with his small thin mouth and then dipping into a long chin.  Fortunately his face was the worst of his look, for he stood tall and broad and his clothes, while clearly well-worn from use, were clean and in good repair.  Perhaps Missus Leprechaun was not completely useless about the house.
   I hope you find the house suitable Reverend?” he asked with a smile revealing yellow sharp teeth that showed a fair bit of decay.
   “Ahhh, umm well Mr. Cragg,” I stammered not wanting to offend. “Missus Lep…Mack what just explaining to me that I am to stay here at Ravenscragg, and that has left me somewhat confused.  Father Cleary at the college.” What I wouldn’t give to be at the college right now… “seemed to understand that there was a rectory house of some form or other here, and that you would set it up to live at least short-term”
   Josiah Cragg glared at me with a harsh look upon his face.  I felt the coldness of him and Missus Mack upon me, and I blinked uncontrollably as I waited for him to give some  account of an answer.
   “As I said Reverend,” he replied most matter of fact.  “I hope you will find the house suitable.  Missus Mack will show you to your room.”
   He brushed past me with this and took a seat at the other end of the table and began to read through some papers that were scattered about the table.  I had never been so dismissed before, and I stood there mouth hanging open, trying to find words that I could bring to my lips, but none seemed to come.  Could he possibly think that I would not post a letter to Father Cleary asking for some resolution to this most deplorable situation?  What manner of person just dismisses clergy in such a miserable way.  Further, if he and this troll of a housekeeper thought for one moment that I would remain one night under this roof, then they were both sorely mistaken.
   “Come along then preacher!” the harpy chirped.  “Let’s get ye settled to your room, shall we”
   I stared in disbelief as Mr. Cragg continued to read over his papers with not so much as a glance towards me.  No inquiries as to how my journey was, no concern if I might be hungry, though the smell of the pot upon the stove was enough to whisk away any need for food I might currently have otherwise had.  Most appalling of all, a complete disregard for the confusion regarding my accommodation in Bolton Cragg.  In my mind, I felt the battle had for this evening been lost.  But still I had to make one final plea for my case.
   “Mr. Cragg,” I began as boldly as I might.  “ I shall wish to discuss this confusion over the rectory in the morning as it is convenient for you.”
   He didn’t look up, and had we not spoke words at his arrival in the kitchen I would have thought the man complete mute.  Frustrated and with no word from him to further the discussion, I turned on my heel to follow the woman back into the hall.  As I reached the door, his voice boomed from behind me.
   “Reverend, a small word to you, before you retire to your room.”
   I turned to see his eyes drilling in to me.
   “You will do well in Bolton Cragg and more importantly within this household, to settle yourself quickly and with little fuss to the way things are here.  I have little time for uppity ways of the clergy, and having opened my home to you, and this village…well..I expect a reasonable amount of respect and peacefulness from you.  On that I am afraid I must insist, and encourage you to resign yourself to your place before you rise tomorrow.”
   I was outraged, and with my face burning red, I opened my mouth to speak, however was immediately cut off by his dismissive response…
   “Good night Reverend!” he practically screamed at me.
   Before I knew, or could gather my thoughts, the leprechaun was literally pushing me and my belongings up the dark staircase to the second floor.  Down the short dark hall she flew, and almost ripped the door at the end from the hinges as she flung it open.  I was bustled into a small dark room and while dark, it seemed much cooler than the rooms below.  With the strike of a match the lamp was lit and I could see my surrounds.
    “Reverend,” She carped, “This is to  be your room, the bed has been fresh changed, and you may use this writing desk and chair as needs be. There is hooks here for your clothes, and a chamber pot under the bed if needs be for that.  But mind ye empties yer own.  This stand holds your ewer and wash basin.  You carry ye own water from the well too.”, with that said she went out and slammed the door.
   I peered about the room trying to take in the events of the past few moments.  Small room, fresh made bed, and a chipped desk and chair with a lamp.  No pictures upon the wall and no drapes upon the window.  Cold like everything else here.  Could they, had they really shipped me off like a child to this room with no semblance of an evening meal, no offer of even some tea and cake.  Nothing.  Surely she would return in a few minutes with a tray perhaps.  She did not.
   I was left for the remainder of that long evening to sit and pace about the room.  I did not unpack and would not, for first thing in the daylight, I should be making other arrangements or more accurately, making my plans to leave this hellish place.
   I have slept the sleep of terrified.  Morning came early to my room, and for that I am thankful.  I write now in the early morning light at the writing desk into my leather-bound journal that was a gift from Martin my first year at the college.  My  pen dipping into the ink pot rapidly as  I try to get the words down in some semblance of sanity, of what I experienced of the past night-time hours…
    After Missus Mack left the room and closed the door, I paced about for the better part of an hour.  I cannot be certain for my pocket watch has stopped working and no amount of winding or tapping seems to make it want to start back up.  The light had gone completely from the horizon, as I grew more irritated that neither of the occupants of Ravenscragg appeared to be paying any attention to my stomping about.  As time wore on, I felt a new light upon me and as I turned to the grimy window the moon was breaking over the horizon, full and orange; it cast an eerie glow, and from my vantage point I could see something I had not noticed before.  The steeple of the church loomed up from the darkness, its spire reaching skyward. This is a sight that usually would calm me and bring me back to my normal peace which had been so sourly interrupted.  Tonight however, the spire rising in the light of this orange moon gave me further cause to panic.  As my eyes traveled down the spire a second light caught my eye.  Flickering near what must be the foundation of the church a small glow of a torch or campfire…yes definitely a fire….I squinted and could in the flickering of the flames see several people moving about the fire.  Surely my eyes deceive, are they dancing? I questioned.  I grabbed the handles of the window sash in an attempt to lift it, in part to call out to see what the matter was, and in part that I hoped the glass was somehow deceiving what my mind told me should not be.  The sash however would not give.
   I stood and watched the flames continue to flicker and the bodies moving about, mere shadows from my vantage point.  Suddenly the flames erupted a bit, and the movement stopped.  I felt. as I could not see, eyes staring up at me in the dark.  A cold finger-like shiver traced its way down my spine, and I wished to be rid of this place.  Racing from the window I leaped onto the bed, there I stayed wide-eyed. I listened for any sound and could not pry my eyes from the darkness of the window.  The house too was exceptionally quiet, and I realized that I had not heard a sound since being shut up in here.  No one going to bed, no dishes rattling, doors, stairs, none of the normal sounds one hears in a wood frame house. For a moment I debated opening the door, just to survey the hall and lower floor below.
   What harm, thought I could come from stepping into the hallway.  No one had warned me that I must remain in this room, and it was at that moment I recalled Miss Mack’s warning about not being out and about after dark.  The hair stood upright and I turned slowly to face back toward the window.  I let forth a small panicked yelp as a crazed face stared back at me, the moment before I realized my own reflection in the glass.  Shaking, I tried to bring myself  to some level of calm, surely I have let my imagination run amiss here.  What really had happened, I had arrived at an unusual house, with strange occupants, and quite likely not the finest of folks.  And yes, the fire by the church did seem a bit unnerving, but for all it may only have been some of the local young people.  I made mind that I should quite simply crawl beneath what appear to be reasonably clean and well-kept sheets and quilts and sleep.
   I stepped across the room and taking a night-shirt from my bag I began to undress.  Once out of the clothes, I stood for a moment in the moonlight, still shivering, now more from cold than from fear, and peered again toward the window.  A look, just a quick glance could surely not unnerve me; I stepped toward the window and looked out.  The flames had been extinguished and nothing could be seen in the dark shadow of the church in the moonlight.  Whatever, or whomever had been there were gone, if they were ever there at all.  Breathing a sigh of relief, and half laughing at my fear, I returned to the bed, and pulled back the bedding and crawled between the sheets.  As I nestled down, I caught a lingering odor, that for a moment or two caused me to try to recall it.  Knowing the scent, I could not place it, and then it came to me….garlic.  Odd that I should smell garlic in a bedroom, a guest room no less.  I shall have to investigate more in the morning I thought….
   A loud knock comes to the door, and I lose grip of the pen leaving a large blot on the page.
   Dammit!” I mutter loudly to myself.
   A cackle from the other side of the door, and I hear the grating voice of Missus Mack.  “Preacher has a forked tongue after all”, she says more to the house than to me.  Then just as snide she calls through the door, “There’s a breakfast if you’re a mind Preacher, but be quick, I don’t hold up table all morning. “
   I glance back down at my journal and consider staying to write the events of last night.  The ink blot staring up at me, annoying me.  The hunger in my stomach outweighs my desire to write, and I set journal and pen aside and begin to quickly dress.  With no water to wash, as none was retrieved prior to my being shut in here last night, I do my best to make toilet and look appropriate.  Looking around the room, I notice for the first time that there is not a mirror to be found, and I had not the foresight to get a shaving mirror prior to leaving on my journey.
   Peculiar” I mutter as I finish dressing and start toward the door.  At that moment I remember it is now daylight, and I race back to the window to investigate the church in the light of day.
Nothing!  No fire remnants near the base of the church, no tramped down look to the grass around the base of the steeple, nothing to give any indication of what I had experienced the night before.   As unusual as that is, my eyes widen as I take in St. Davids, the large ell shaped church, with the steeple nestled in the elbow of the structure.  Large stained glass windows on the opposite ends, and while the building itself could do with some upkeep, its sheer mass and the charming elegance of the windows made me pleased to know that this was to be the spiritual home of my new flock.  Slightly weathered and rough-looking, I marveled for a moment how this church could be in a place such as Bolton Cragg.

   Aye, I thought, this is 1888 and people have been here in this province since the mid 1700’s, however along this rocky coast only since the early 1800’s.  Father Cleary’s letter had explained most of the history of Bolton Cragg, a history I should like to discuss with the villagers to get a first hand account.
    The first settlers to this community were three families, the Bolton’s, the Crouse family (Missus Mack had mentioned the Crouse family), and the Hemsworth family settled here in 1802, it was with Hemsworth money and ingenuity that the church was raised in 1806.  The stained glass windows, had been made and brought in pieces from Halifax when they settled and had stayed in Mr. Hemsworth’s barn the long six years until the building was ready to display them.  What I would have given to have been here to watch these three families working together to raise this church from the ground up, working as a community to make a home for their God, where they could come and worship together in fellowship with one another.
   Within ten years Hemsworth Cove as it was originally called, had grown to eight family names, and the village had a general store, a dock and people were travelling out of the Cove to work in the mills along the St. Mary’s River, and things seemed to be going well for the people.  The number of souls in the Cove were 56 and growing daily.  All was well until the year 1819.
   In 1819, the Cragg family arrived in Hemsworth Cove, and built Ravenscragg along the road leading into the village.  The head of the family Sebastian Cragg, came from Scotland, or so it was believed with his wife Anna Rose, and his sisters Caroline and Ailsa.  Church reports which were forwarded to Diocese said the villagers felt a discomfort toward these newcomers and hinted in hushed tones that something was amiss with Sebastian and his trio of auburn haired women.   The four would not attend services and no amount of pleading by Father Tobias Rhude could convince them to set foot on into the churchyard.  Life went on as such for nearly a year, when on All Hallows eve, a fire erupted within the village and with the wind coming from the northwest, the Hemsworth home and barn were both burned to the ground, taking with it all of the Hemsworth family.
    People living and there that night told Father Tobias, that the screams of the Hemsworth children as the house burned could be heard all over the cove, and no amount of heroics on those fighting the flames could rescue even one.  The fire had started near the barn and burned swiftly across the dry field to the house.  The house lit like a tinderbox and was gone in less than a half hour.  One account from Jonas Crouse read as follows;
   ” The house was ablaze when we got there, and the children were already screaming from the small window in the peak on the second floor.  We were shocked that Joseph and Margaret seemed to not be making a sound and that none were able to escape before the flames had gotten so bad.  I never saw such a fire, the flames were reaching heavenward, and for every bucket of water thrown and shovel full of dirt thrown, they seemed to only increase. Every man, woman and child old enough to carry a bucket were working to put out the flames, though as the screams quieted from the window, we knew the battle had been lost.  We worked through the night, and by  morning, it was out, and gone was the house and barn, every man, woman, child, animal, chick and tool were now ash upon the ground.  As we stood there staring at the desolation and destruction, a strong wind come up and began to scatter the smoldering ash to the four compass points.”
   Crouse had gone on to say in a hushed voice to Tobias, “Two things father, that I shall never forget from that night… That fire never left the Hemsworth land, even though the wind was up and should have carried it through the whole village. I walked that field the next day, and found fence posts burned off and blackened, but not a blade of grass or weed beyond that fence was even scorched, some growing right against the blackened posts.  And Father,” he had added, “I will never forget the looks on the faces of those three Cragg women as the house burned with the screaming children calling out for salvation.  They stood back from the rest, and while its unchristian of me to speak such evil, I tell you Father the God’s own truth,  I believe they were chanting and smiling as the flames consumed the voice of those little angels”
   Father Tobias had added that Jonas’ account while incredible, did match to probably five to six others he had heard.  He also felt that Jonas had spoken only what he believed to be the truth, and had never known the man to be one for fanciful tales.
   With the Hemsworth family gone, so too was the money for church operations.  The Cragg family had money however expressed no desire to participate in its upkeep and within the year Father Tobias was reassigned to another Parish.  Not much further information was known save for that, in 1825 the village was renamed Bolton Cragg, and the reason given was that the villagers wished to move past the tragedy of the Hemsworth family.  The church had no further involvement with Bolton Cragg, and it was believed that those who required marriages, baptisms and the like traveled to neighboring communities for those things, though Father Cleary could provide no information as to who may have done so.
   Shaking myself back to the present moment I turned from the window and my recollections, to come face to face with Missus Mack.  I half screamed as the woman gave me a dark glare.
   “I said I don’t hold table all morning Preacher”, she turned heel and walked out of the room.

I stepped awkwardly out of the room and into the hallway, half backwards. I was brought up short as I bumped the railing around the stair opening and nearly toppled over. Getting my balance after some moments I had a moment to take in the upper hallway which raced by me in a flash last night at the hands of Missus Mack in her rush to see me to my room. The narrow stairwell rose in what seemed to be the center of the house. A window opposite me faced the top of the staircase and as all the other windows bore no drapery. To my left two cross and bible doors were shut and behind me the door to the small front room where I spent the night, to my right at the end of the narrow hallway, one more cross and bible door. I started to make my way to the top of the stairs when I stopped and stared blank face at the doors.

I could feel the blood drain slowly from my face, and a coldness pass through me as I stared slack jaw at the doors. What could it mean, who would do this, was it an error? Surely, I cannot be seeing these things…All four doors hung upside down, so that the cross hangs toward the floor. I gripped the handrail tightly, my knuckles turning white and began my descent down to the main floor.

   Down, to the first floor I went with Missus Mack and into that hot unbearable kitchen.  This morning however, the hell fires had abated a bit and the kitchen while still just as grubby and dirty smelled this morning of fresh warm bread, eggs, back bacon and the comforting aroma of coffee brewed.  The large pot from yesterday was gone from the stove even the kettle looked a bit more spit and polish.  The table had been set for one with the same chipped and worn china, and the mass of papers had been removed from the end where I had last seen Mr. Cragg.
   Missus Mack directed me to the vacant chair, and I set and immediately reached for the bread and jam, glad for some food into my hungered body.  She poured me a cup of coffee and set down a heavy laden plate of eggs and back bacon, a hot cake on the side of the plate smelled sumptuous and I enjoyed every morsel I shoveled into my mouth.  My stomach glad to learn that my throat had not been cut, filled nicely.
   Surprisingly, my little harpy managed to keep her serpent tongue in her mouth, and I rather enjoyed the hearty breakfast.  As I finished the last few bites, I was feeling much more at ease and began in my mind to tease myself for my harried behavior over the past few hours.  As I sat in my thoughts, I heard a voice behind me, and turned to see that Josiah had entered the room.  I gave a start, as again I had heard no door, open nor close, and no steps upon the floor.
   “Good morning to you Reverend” he said in his loud monotone voice as he rounded the table and took seat near the head of the table.
   “Good Morning Mr Cragg,” I hoped we might get off to a better foot than we had yesterday.
   “I trust you slept well?” he inquired of me.
   “Well good Sir, to be honest, I had a long night, I guess it normal in new surrounds…”
   Cragg nodded eyeing me closely.  “Perhaps Reverend,” he said with some pause “you would fair better in going to sleep  at night instead of pacing the floor and glaring from windows”
   He had seen me, and heard me.  He had seen me?  Could it be that Mr. Cragg was out in the churchyard with the others?  I look at him with my mouth hanging open.  Forcing my jaws closed, I decided changing the subject for the moment may be the preferable course of action.
   “Mr. Cragg I was meaning to ask you a bit of history of the village and the people.  I understand your family came here in the early part of the century.  Where did they come from?”
   “Reverend, my family’s arrival in this village, is long since passed.  I would prefer to not discuss those long past dreary events.  It is enough to say that they came here, and rescued this small ailing village and brought it through the last eighty years.  In spite of what those who opposed them said”
   I was dying to know his thoughts on the Hemsworth fire which had from the moment I had read Father Cleary’s letter intrigued me.  “I understand they were not a founding family?  Is it true the founders died in a fire?”
   “Reverend,” I could see him fighting back a rage “Let me explain this to you, just once so you know not to bring it up again.” He shot me a look that left me doubt that asking again would not serve me well.
   “When my family arrived here from Scotland, this village was on the verge of dying off.  Joseph Hemsworth and his family were strangling the people with moral sanctity and overbearing Christianity.  That massive building where you are intended to hold services on Sunday morning, is a memorial to their efforts to rule this village with an iron grip.  When my grandfather arrived here with his family, Joseph Hemsworth would have seen them gone, and why? Why I ask you?”
   He paused and I was not sure I should reply.  I raised eyebrow only and waited for him to continue.
   “Because good Reverend, they were different.  My grandfather would not bow to their God…to your God, and chose to live outside of their rule.  And so, when the Hemsworth’s were no more, and their rule over this village dissipated, my family found a way to live in….shall we say…peace with the people of this village.  The grandiose church closed and all thought we were done with it.  Now, we find ourselves in need of a man of the cloth, and here you are.  But let me be clear good Reverend, it is not easy for me to have you under my roof.  I hear the voices of my grandmother Anna Rose berating my judgement.  So you are aware, you are here because circumstances dictate such.  Do not expect however Father that my necessity of you, includes my friendship, for it does not.”
   I was thunderstruck.  I looked down at my plate with a dejected silence, then a thought that may resolve this amicably “Mr. Cragg,” I began “perhaps as this is your feeling toward me, I should seek other lodgings in Bolton Cragg, thereby letting your grandmother’s voice rest from your ear.”
   I heard the leprechaun snort behind me.
   “Reverend, you will find every door in Bolton Cragg but this closed to you.  You may of course leave Ravenscragg, however you will not find other accommodation here in these parts.  There is really no choice.”
   And it was said.  If I were to stay here and be a shepherd for God’s lost sheep here, I would have to lead from this dark desolate house.  Under the roof of a man who sees me as his enemy, or at best not a friend.  To strengthen my resolve to save this village or to inquire of the availability of a wagon ride back to the ferry in Sheet Harbour.  I swallowed the last two bites of egg, with a resolve forming in mind.  I stood from the table.
   “Let me assure you Mr. Cragg… there is always choice.  It’s what God has given us.”
   I spun on my heel and thundered out of the kitchen toward the front door.  Throwing it wide, I stepped from the gloomy house and walked into the warm sunshine.  Each step closer to the gate, encouraged me, and as I closed the gate behind me, and started upon the path down into Bolton Cragg, I felt more determined than ever to save this village from their ways.  My first stop would be the church, and then on into the village.

2 thoughts on “A Taste Of A Book – The Cragg Witch – Curious for feedback

  1. Your writing is solid but highly visual. This isn’t a screenplay. If you can save a sentence by providing the feeling of a room or a person with all its details, you should. “Vigorous writing is concise.”
    I feel disconnected from the Reverend’s emotions, although you write in the first person. “and I usually love stoves”? Who loves stoves? Similarly “Most would run screaming,” from the creepy-looking house, is quite melodramatic. You already said it was ominous, barren, bleak, neglected, without any feeling of warmth or coziness, is is cold, frigid, without any cheer whatsoever,” saying he felt afraid is both redundant and inadequate. I think, by saying he wished for any excuse to retreat rather than step across the yard and knock on that dark door, you said enough (paraphrased).
    7000 words is a lengthy first chapter. Perhaps you could end the first chapter at your scene break or at the end of that day. You could write the events of the journal entry as they occur. If you’d rather include that journal entry (in italics or in another font, for clarity), you could end the chapter with Missus Mack at the door.

  2. Thanks Brian, I appreciate the feedback! This is the first time I’ve ever written anything, and friends sometimes won’t give constructive criticism which is needed to improve, so this is exactly what I needed. 🙂

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