1934


11
YEARS

THE ABANDONED COTTAGE

“A friend had relatives near Cambridge,

and he chanced to tell me…”

“...that he had visited an abandoned cottage…”

“The story went that a man had commited suicide there…”

“by jumping down the well in the garden,

[and] leaving for his wife an enigmatic note…”

‘I am going to seek for the truth…’

“His wife had lost her reason,

and it was said that the empty cottage rang

with her wails…”

“…while from time to time

the sounds of unexplained gasping and gulping

issued from the garden well…”

“We cycled over…

one beautiful and still

summer’s day…”

“The sun beat down on us

as we sped past Royston Heath…”

“...and into Cambridgeshire…”

“We entered the cottage

through an empty window-frame

at the back of the house…”

“...wide-eyed

and with hearts thumping,

we explored every room…”

“It seemed unusually quiet,

particularly in the little bedroom...

at the top of the stairway…”

The cottage had been empty of human beings

for a long time,

and was now the home of bats…

“...which I remember thinking… might well be

responsible for the…sounds...heard in the garden…”

“We found the well

covered with a massive stone

for safety…”

“...easing this a little to one side

we peered into the ominous dark hole

and…”

“...dropped a pebble,

waiting for what seemed an interminable time

for the tiny splash…”

“...which seemed to echo somewhat strangely…”

“We sat on the well for a few moments…

…and began to be aware of a strange air of expectancy

in that isolated and forsaken place…”

“There was not another human habitation within sight,

and we neither saw nor heard a single person or a bird

in the vicinity…”

“As we turned to go,

we both heard a kind of groan or heavy sigh

that stopped us in our tracks…”

“...but the sound was not repeated…”

“Years afterwards

I tried to find the cottage again…

but could find no trace of it.”

“The only spot I could pinpoint as its site…”

“...was an odd little plot of waste land

...that nobody seemed to care about…”

“...and I noticed that no birds sang

at that forsaken place…”

No Common Task
pp.30-31