Sunday, 11 December 2016






It was a day of great sadness in the little village of Grimswald as Mrs Chilcomb the baker’s wife lay hysterical in her bed having slept very little the previous night after her youngest son Harcourt went missing yesterday. Her husband, Seymour, the baker was with the rest of the men-folk searching for the boy but it would be no use, he had disappeared like all the rest before him! The legends connected with Gallows Wood and the ‘Mad Mudadabob’ the wicked beast or ‘witch’ named by the villagers and said to reside in the woods were numerous and handed down through generations so that a very real presence was conjured that crawled through the woods and right through the village and whoever enters the woods were surely never to be seen again. Just over a hundred years ago four children were playing in the woods against their parent’s warnings and all four were never seen again. It seems that not a year goes by without some catastrophic event connected to the woods occurring.
The woods were dark and dense and those that had travelled near its edge where the road climbs towards Penwizen say that there is an awful pervading silence and that no birds will sing in the vicinity of the woods; no flowers bloom in the woods and the primrose and bluebell fear to grow beyond the outer limits of the wood within its strangling darkness. Strange lights have been seen flitting through the boughs at night and children sing songs about the fairies in Gallows Wood. Fearing yet more tragedies the Lord of the manor, Lord Montague announced a decree to the village proclaiming that anyone who can rid Gallows Wood of its infernal monster shall take his daughter, Lady Lucinda’s hand in marriage along with a thousand acres of land and a place within Monford Hall, he swore this upon his honour as a gentleman, which as we know is a very great oath indeed!
His Lordship’s daughter, Lady Lucinda was a very beautiful young woman with a pale complexion, long golden hair and large blue eyes, skilled in many arts and homely crafts with a very gentle nature and love for her father (her mother, Lady Matilda had died during childbirth and thus Lucinda became very close to his Lordship).
The first to announce his intentions of slaying the beast and claiming the Lord’s daughter was the shoemaker, Bill Trumble, who stated that he would make a fine pair of shoes and riding boots for his Lordship from the skin of the beast! The shoemaker set upon his journey to much cheering from the crowds that saw him off, and the shoemaker looked over his shoulder and waved as he went over the hill, puffing on his tobacco pipe with the gloomy Gallows Wood in view. The following day the shoemaker’s horse came trotting along the lane back towards the village and all the villagers feared the worst had happened to Bill, which indeed it surely had for he was never seen again from that day forward!
The next person to attempt the quest was the Butcher, Joseph Cotton, and before he left the village he declared that he would make a huge chain of sausages from the monster for the whole village to enjoy! And so he too set off into the distance with the dark impending doom of the woods before him. To keep his mind from the horror that lurked ahead, Joseph blew tunes upon his tin whistle but Joseph’s heart almost beat out of his chest as he neared the haunted woods and a dark mood took over the butcher which grew in intensity the closer he got. The next day Joseph’s horse was seen heading towards the village on the old Penwizen Road. Joseph was never seen again, much to the annoyance of those admirers who delighted in his pies and sausages!
The third person to set off from the village was the extremely short-sighted, bespectacled Tailor, Thomas Bullfinch, who presumptuously stated that he would stitch a fine suit from the skin of the beast and present it to his ‘Father in Law – Lord Montague’! His boastful attitude did not win him much favour in the village and besides, most of the villagers were too poor to afford his expensive suits and so hadn’t much taken to him as a villager, but, he may bring back a fine suit to prove that the beast is dead and so they made a great pretence of wishing him well, knowing that he would probably never be seen again, like the shoemaker and the butcher before him! And so he wasn’t!
Over the past few days as these brave men had set off into the woods with what appeared no fear of death, the Vicar’s daughter, Miss Selina Merryworth, had, like the other villagers watched them go. Selina was considered to be very beautiful amongst the villagers with her long dark hair and large brown eyes and she was well-liked and she knew that she was just as brave as any man, and so without notifying anyone of her intentions, she set off after dinner on horseback with a hunting rifle and the intention of bringing back the dead body of the Mad Mudadabob or whatever it is that lurks in the woods!
The moon shone full as Selina entered the dreary woods that hung over her like a dark shadow and followed a trail that meandered through the interior. Not a sound was heard nor a creature seen and the intense darkness held some fearful approaching menace. Suddenly the horse pulled up and began to rear and Selina could do nothing to encourage it to walk on. She dismounted and tethered the horse to a branch. In the distance beyond the dark boughs she could see a light and as she got nearer she could see the old woodcutter’s cottage in a much dilapidated state, yet a light shone within. Selina approached the cottage and seeing the door was open, entered, closing the door behind her. Through the murky gloom that was illuminated by a flickering fire in the hearth she could see human bones decorating the room, skulls upon the walls and a table and chair made of skeletons. In the hearth was a large pot and as Selina peeked into it she could see a pair of spectacles floating in the bubbling soup and then she noticed a pair of eyes behind them, glazed and staring at her and as she looked again she could see the ruddy remnants of the Tailor, Thomas Bullfinch’s face bobbing up and down in the boiling liquid, his tongue extruding from his mouth. Selina quickly turned away and as she leant against the table she could see a tin whistle and a tobacco pipe among other objects upon it, such as a small doll, a pair of dice and several coins.
Suddenly, the door flew open and there standing in the doorway was the figure of a menacing woman framed by the dark night behind her. Two points of fiery red lights pierced into Selina’s soul and in the next moment a large and lithe creature which must have been seven feet tall moved swiftly as if it were floating and Selina could see the human-like figure before her covered in a fine material which draped around the monster. The thing stared intensely at her and Selina felt something come over her, as if she were dreaming but she managed to pull herself out of the unearthly spell of the witch which must have overcome those who had tried to kill the beast before her and then without warning the thing rushed at her with great pace. Selina drew her rifle and blasted a hand-sized hole in its heart and the witch fell to a heap before it could get its sharp talons on her!
When she had recovered her senses Selina walked towards the monster and could see it had an almost human face, female in fact with eyes much like her own which were now black where flames were moments before and a mouth which was contorted into some wild grimace. She took the rope she had with her and bound the body of the ‘witch’ to some wooden poles she found in a clearing and attached the rope to her horse and set off back to the village and to Monford Hall.
When Selina reached the village her father the Vicar, who had been very concerned about his daughter, was the first to greet her and the church bells were ringing and the villagers were cheering and shouting with joy! In fact, the day became a festival day which would be celebrated for many generations after!
At the Hall the Lord was pleased to see Selina and looked at the ‘witch monster’ she brought with her and declared that the village was now safe! Then his Lordship added that of course she would not hold him to his oath to present his daughter, Lady Lucinda’s hand in marriage and that instead he would give her his daughter’s weight in gold coins, but Selina said:
‘My Lord, you are a just man and a noble man and your word is very truth amongst the village and so I request that you keep your word and honour me by allowing me to take your daughter’s hand in marriage!’ His Lordship was aghast but being an honourable man he was duty bound and kept his word and a week later Selina and Lady Lucinda were married by Selina’s father in the parish church of Grimswald and both brides were very beautiful, Selina wearing a lovely scarlet dress which clung neatly to her small bosom and Lucinda a white dress which complemented her delicate and petite figure and following the ceremony a great feast was prepared for the village and on the table, set for dinner, was the Mad Mudadbob, which had been roasting in the kitchen all day, on a magnificent silver platter, big enough for several children to bath in, which following the feast became its general use amongst the village children!
Mrs Chilcomb, the baker’s wife had an extra large portion of ‘roast witch’ and felt contented that by proxy she was getting even with the butcher, Joseph Cotton, who once served her a terrible cut of shoulder which she accused him of belonging to a small dog, and at the same time, getting even with the Tailor, Thomas Bullfinch, who once short-changed her but also not realising that she was also ‘getting even’ with her own son, Harcourt!
Selina and Lady Lucinda became very well-liked amongst the villagers and the Ladies resided at the Hall with Lord Montague and in time Lucinda’s duty to honour her father’s wishes deepened into a great love and intimacy for Selina!
It was two years later that Lady Lucinda’s cousin, Sheridan, a handsome man who was a very skilled horseman came to visit the Hall and stayed several days. Sheridan and the Ladies talked much about the legend of the Mad Mudadabob and how Lady Selina killed the witch; and how now birds sing joyously in the woods once more and flowers grow within without fear!

It is to be noted that not long after, there were celebrations in the village at the news that Selina and Lucinda had both fallen pregnant but as to who the father or fathers were were not talked about. Selina and Lucinda gave birth to a healthy girl and boy, respectively who both grew up to be very skilled in horsemanship!

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