Charity didn’t look very friendly. “You told your Mum about me. You shouldn’t have done that, Rebecca. She won’t believe you, and if you carry on, then she will have you locked away. You should be more careful”. The girl’s expression made Becky feel uneasy, but she wasn’t about to let this scruffy kid scare her. “She said you were a dream. Maybe you are, for all know. I could be imagining you”. Charity picked up the green and yellow tie, from where it was draped over the headboard. She wrapped it around her hand, then with a deep chuckle, threw it across at Becky. “Can a dream do that? Tell me if a dream can do that?”
Going on the offensive, Becky raised her voice. Perhaps Mum would hear, then she would come up and see for herself “So what do you want? How do you get into my room? Charity was unfazed. “What do I want? I want nothing. You have come to live in my house, and sleep in my room. I want nothing from you, just to help you. You should know the secrets of the tree, and what wisdom it can bring you. You will find life hard in this village, believe me”. Becky turned and left the room, hoping to get Mum to come up and see the girl, so she would know it wasn’t her imagination. As she ran downstairs, she could hear that she was on the phone. “Yes, it’s Cathy Webster. I have just sent you the revised designs, and I am waiting to hear back from you before proceeding with the cost estimates”.
Mum was sitting at the tiny desk set up under the front window, her big PC screen lit up with an intricate architectural design. Charity was standing next to her, smiling. She pointed at the screen. “Your Mum is drawing on glass with her finger. She’s either very clever, or a witch. And she’s talking to herself too, that’s a sign of possession”. Watching from the foot of the stairs, it was clear to Becky that Mum had no idea that Charity was standing right next to her. And she obviously couldn’t smell the strange musty odour that pervaded the small living room. Speaking in a low whisper, she beckoned the girl over. “Leave my Mum alone. Let’s go back upstairs, Charity”. Becky tried to make her tone chatty and friendly, covering up the fear that her voice was beginning to betray. She turned and started up the stairs, but Charity didn’t follow her. When she looked back to see where she was, the girl had gone.
Although she was only eleven, Becky was a bright girl, and not usually scared of anything. There was no point upsetting Mum by discussing what was going on, so she resolved to try to investigate the mystery herself. She got onto her i-pad and looked up Wrights Mill. There was a lot of stuff about the renovation, and estate agent sites offering the flats for sale. Ignoring all that she kept going until she found a local history website. It hadn’t been active since 1986, and information about the mill was sparse. But even those few lines started to give her a taste of what she might be able to find out.
‘The mill was first recorded in the parish in 1590, with the miller named as one Josiah Oliphant. It is believed to have passed to his son, Thomas Oliphant, and Civil War records show it as a source of flour for the Parliamentary Army, in 1646. The last record of the mill in use is mentioned in 1664, with the miller named as Christian Oliphant. The building fell into disrepair after that, and the ownership was the subject of some legal disputes between members of the Wright family, in the 1770s.’
That was about it, except for some sketches and watercolours of the uninhabited mill done by some famous local artist, in 1895. Becky took out a new notebook, and wrote down the names and dates. She had a whole day free tomorrow, and she already had some ideas. After that, she got a full uniform ready for Monday, and hung it in the wardrobe. Then she put some notebooks and pens into her school bag, placing that by the bed. If Mum checked, she had done as she was asked.
After breakfast the next day, Becky walked around the far side of the building, and headed along the riverbank in the other direction, away from the weeping willow. In places, it was too overgrown, and she had to walk along the country lane for a while. She eventually reached the village after fifteen minutes, and headed past the pub where they had eaten dinner, in the direction of the church spire in the distance. She had looked up St Margaret’s and was pleased to find out that it had been rebuilt in the 1400s, so was suitably old enough for her purpose. Being a Sunday morning, some worshipers were already heading inside for the service. But what she wanted wasn’t inside. The graveyard was on three sides of the church grounds. Judging by a small mound of fresh earth with a bunch of flowers propped up on it, it was still in use. She took out her notebook, and began to search around the oldest looking gravestones, close to the back, and against the fence.
Although they were badly weathered, and the names faded, her young eyes were good. She found the grave of Josiah Oliphant easily, and noted down the names under his. Jane Oliphant, shown as his spouse, then Timothy Oliphant, and Matilda Oliphant. From the dates, it was clear that the last two had died as children. She could find no trace of Thomas, but in a different part of the cemetery, she did find the grave of Christian. Under his name was listed Mercy Oliphant as his spouse, and the names of three children. Faith Oliphant, Percy Oliphant, and Jeremiah Oliphant.
But after inspecting every other headstone there, she could find no trace of any grave containing Charity.