IV. O Nightingale!

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'What do you mean, after the cats died too?' My voice could not hide the chill that twisted in my throat. It was like a new presence had entered the room, wrapped its hands around my neck, and tightened its stranglehold on me. I moved away from the door frame.

'Do you believe that the soul can leave a body after death, and linger on this Earth until it obtains absolution?' Antonia asked in the most troubling manner. Her eyes looked unto mine. I explored hers, and travelled in the depths of her iris to uncover whatever secrets she hid there.

'I do not believe in such nonsense,' I told her. I had not realised how displeased I sounded, and so my harsh sibilance resembled the hissing of a snake. Thinking it best to rectify my chilly response, as to not make the absolute worst first impression, I continued, 'ghosts and whatnot are just fancy. I choose not to believe in them.'

Antonia observed me silently, forming some kind of judgment she thought suitable. If she eyed me correctly, she would see that I am not the type of woman to yield at such babble, that my rough hands showed the years of hard labour, my dress practical and not one for fashion, or that my eyes – oh, my eyes – reflected the metaphorical ghosts of my past; they're always mistaken as my vexation.

'Perhaps, in not believing, you have chosen to keep that veil over your eyes,' Antonia remarked.

I had strength of mind sufficient to protest and argue my defence, but I feared I would speak out of turn with something I would later regret, and so I decided to bid her farewell to avoid seeming uncouth. A moment longer in that room would have descended into chaos.

The space inside Dove Cottage was small, so small in fact, that I could have ran both hands down opposite walls in the hallway. As much as I admired it, I decided to leave the comforts of the cottage to explore Grasmere in the hopes of finding my Uncle.

Horses passed every so often in the cobbled streets, and various men offered a ride to wherever I was heading. My reply was always the same: 'No thank you. I'm not entirely sure where I am heading.'

To be sure I would not get lost, I kept an internal compass of the general area. I had an idea of where I had left Dove Cottage and how to return when I needed to. In a small village like Grasmere, it was a rather difficult task to get lost, but my own assurances kept me safe and sane.

The hills surrounded the village like a valley, a green wall with promises of keeping the outsiders on the outside, and the insiders on the inside. There was so much for the eye to see. I walked by a lake with a row of houses dangerously close to the water, yet the scene was serene and it filled my hopeful heart with the visual beauty.

I passed the nearby small stone bridge with a decayed sign – 'Danger of Death'. Paying no attention to it, I made my way down a nearby street and my eyes fell upon a pub titled The Ravensworth.

If I was not much mistaken, Elizabeth told me that their Uncle Henry had a tendency of drinking at the same establishment, so I pushed open the black doors and wandered inside.

As if the Fates had heard my prayer, there he was, drinking at a nearby table. Men surrounded him, lifting glasses of beer that noisily slipped down their gullets. They laughed. The entire scene felt bizarre to me.

I approached the table. I hoped I had the right man, for I could only recall a younger portrait of him that vaguely resembles this older gentleman. Immediately, they all turned to look at me. Some of them nudged each other and raised a glass. It was very unsavoury.

'Can we help you darling?' The man perched next to my Uncle asked.

'I would like to speak to Henry,' I replied coolly.

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