‘Whoever shall dare to speak her name, I say to thee - good luck and fare ye well! For here is a wretched soul that will not be laid to rest.’
The tale of Agnes Moor was well known amongst the villagers of Warbling Mill. I heard it first from my brother, Thomas, when I was seven years old. As we passed by the village graveyard one day on our way to school, I asked him, ‘Are there really dead people in there, Thomas?’
Spotting an opportunity for education, a wicked smile flashed across his face. I was his little sister, after all. Taking my hand, he led me through the graveyard’s iron gates.
‘Thomas. I’m not sure...’ I tried, hopping gingerly between gravestones.
Stopping in the furthest corner of the yard, Thomas pointed to a small gravestone. An epitaph, barely visible beneath the moss, read:
Here Lies Agnes Moor. 1765-1785.
‘Are you ready for the tale of the graveyard’s oldest resident, Hattie?’ he asked. I nodded though my heart thumped in protest. Thomas told me of the young woman who fell from the church spire one hundred years ago. ‘Folk say that being unmarried and with child, Agnes Moor threw herself from the church spire. Others say she was pushed by a jealous lover. One thing is certain – Agnes Moor is a most malevolent spirit.’
I stepped back, my mouth agape. Thomas moved toward me, his smile widening. ‘If you say the name Agnes Moor three times at midnight during a full moon, she will appear at your bedroom window. The foulest ghost you’ll ever see. And she may want to take you with her!’
‘Oh!’ I cried, charging toward the graveyard gates. Thomas’ laughter filled the air.
‘I’ll never say it! Never!’ I cried, all the way to school.
Above me, in the clear morning sky, a full moon looked on.
The church spire, visible from my bedroom window, towered above the village. Obscured by a collection of houses, its graveyard lay below. At bedtime, I asked my mother to shut the curtains tight. ‘The moon is so bright tonight,’ I told her. She kissed me goodnight and left the room. In the silence, a flurry of thoughts took hold.
I must not think upon Agnes Moor! I told myself, but then, could the tale be true?
I will never summon Agnes Moor! I continued, but would she hear me if I did?
My thoughts persisted as the church bell chimed nine o’ clock, ten o’ clock, eleven o’ clock. Sleep eluded me, such was the rising mix of terror and curiosity that stirred within. As the church bell struck a quarter to midnight, my curiosity surged.
I slipped from my bed, I tip-toed to the window and parted the curtains. The full moon beamed a knowing smile. Upon the stroke of midnight, I began, ‘Agnes Moor. Agnes Moor. Agnes...”
A noise from inside the house caught my attention.
She’s here! I thought. Oh, please forgive me! I closed my eyes and prayed that my parents would come and offer their reassurance.
Blessed with the ignorance of slumber, my parents did not come.
Click clunk. A noise from the garden this time! Instinctively, I peered down at it. In the moonlight, I saw a crooked figure creep from our back door. A rugged fellow, all whiskers and rags. To his breast he clutched the silver candlestick from my father’s study and a painting from the parlour.
‘Mother. Father...’ I whimpered, but to no avail. We were alone, this burglar and I. Then he spotted me.
‘Thomas...’ I breathed.
Lifting his finger to his lips, the burglar bid me to hush. Then he drew that finger along the width of his throat and flashed a toothless grin.
In desperation I whispered the only other name that was utmost in my mind.
‘Agnes Moor, Agnes Moor, Agnes Moor.’
At once, a great flash of light pierced the night sky! The burglar averted his eyes.
Then. At my window. A face.
She looked at me, but her face was not foul. I felt no fear as I looked upon it. Instead, Agnes Moor glowed, translucent and serene, drawing her lips into a gentle smile. She reached her arm through my window. I gasped. With a cool and delicate stroke, she wiped the tears from my cheeks.
Then she flew at the burglar, her hair a stream of white! He tumbled backwards, dropping his loot. ‘Our Father who art in Heaven,’ he began, scrambling to his feet. She hovered a moment like a luminous bird of prey. I could not see her face, but I knew from the terror in his eyes that it was not the gentle face that I had seen.
Then she swooped and she scooped him high into the air!
‘Hallowed be thy name!’ he screamed, kicking his legs. But she carried him away, to where, I’ll never know. Up toward the moon she flew, waving as she went.
‘G-Goodbye!’ I said.
The night was silent once more. With much relief, I smiled at the moon. Succumbing at last to the pull of sleep, I returned to bed.
‘Last night. I met Agnes Moor!’
I recounted events to Thomas as we walked to school the next day. He acknowledged that our parents had found items strewn across the garden, and yet he dismissed my encounter. He did, however, watch in astonishment, as I strode through the graveyard gates and up to the grave of Agnes Moor.
‘Thank you,’ I said, taking a cloth from my pocket and cleaning the headstone. On the ground, I placed a doll. ‘For company,’ I added.
You never know when you might need their help.