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The Candletree Graves Part 2

After about ten minutes, I put the ladder back in place and left the barn, it is only an hours walk back to my house yet it seemed like I walked for days.

When I arrived home I went straight to my room and locked myself in, I did not sleep a wink all night, instead I walked the floorboards. My head full of thoughts of Magdalaine. But as the sun came up it dawned on me that Danny and Magdalaine’s love could not last for he was a Tantrum he had been cursed from birth and it was only a matter of time before he showed his true self. 

So that morning I vowed to wait for Magdalaine and to be there for her in her hour of need no matter how long it took.

To my surprise it did not take as long as I thought that it would, a few weeks later the Tantrum family came to town, Stevie was to come home from jail in six months and this day was his birthday.

Now it was the first time that these Tantrum boys had come to the Loach as drinking men, sure they had all been drinking before, that is except for Danny who I knew spent all of his
spare time with Magdalaine, but the other Tantrums had been seen in the taverns of Highacre and the rumours of their antics from Highacre were quite disturbing.

When they entered the Loach the village folk were suspicious
and scared but nothing went amiss, that is to say until they left the Loach. Until then they had spent the night noisily but peacefully in the Loach but once outside and on their way home through the village they met Toby.


Now Toby was the man who had stood watch at the barn over Jonathon and Jacob’s coffins on that sorrowful day when poor Molly had died, so when Toby saw the Tantrum boys walking towards him he knew that he was in trouble.


It was Craig who saw him first and ran straight at him, but Toby saw him coming and knocked Craig from his feet before he had even stopped running.


Now as I have said before it was Danny’s first time out drinking, he had come out this night probably not because he wanted to but out of respect for his father. But seeing Toby knock Craig from his feet after all that Toby had done to his family was just too much, he grabbed hold of Toby by the neck
and punched him to the floor. This alas was not enough, he continued to kick him like a dog, while the other Tantrum’s jeered him on , blood was flowing everywhere and  Toby was close to serious damage when Danny abruptly stopped.

It was not because of Toby’s cries and pleas that Danny stopped, it was because the shoemaker spoke. It just so happened that the fighting took place not more than twenty feet away from the shoemakers shop.

Upon hearing Joe the shoemaker, Danny stopped, turned around and backed away. Joe the shoemaker walked over to where Toby lay, he looked at Danny and said, “You have shown your true colours tonight Danny Tantrum and as from this night I forbid Magdalaine to meet you again!”

He then bent down, picked Toby up in his arms and walked back to his shoe shop. Danny just stood there in silence for a moment, then he turned around bowed his head and walked towards home, leaving the rest of his family to follow him.


The next day I was in the shoemakers shop, having brought a pair of my father’s shoes that needed mending, when Danny came in, the shoemaker raised his head, looked at Danny and said, “I have nothing to say to you Danny Tantrum that was not said last night.”


“Please sir” said Danny “I have come to apologise.”


“It is not me who you should be apologising to!” quickly replied the shoemaker.


Danny sighed and then said, “Please sir, may I see Magdalaine for a moment only?”


“Not for a moment, not for a month, not for a lifetime” replied Joe. “This discussion is going nowhere Danny, you know how I feel on the matter, I feel no sympathy for you, this was all brought about by your own actions. I am only sorry that Magdalaine has such strong feelings for you but I shall do my best to comfort her and hope that the misery that this will cause her will fade with time, for I would rather her be unhappy for a twelve month getting over you, than to become your grief stricken widow spending the rest of her life mourning your grave up at the Candletree, for that is the path that you started upon last night and as long as I breath my daughter will not share a part in your ruin!”


Danny’s face filled with despair, he started as if to say something more but instead walked out of the shop. From that day Magdalaine was kept within the shop, if there was an errand to run the shoemaker locked up shop and ran the errand himself.


Danny was always to be found outside the shop, he could be seen there at all times of the day and night, sometimes in the evening. Magdalaine would appear at an upstairs window, she would stand there with her hand upon the glass staring out at Danny. The same despair and grief upon Danny’s face could be seen mirrored within her own.


As the months passed by nothing much changed, Danny was still to be found outside the shoemakers shop, then one day, it was in the afternoon and the coach from Highacre had just arrived. There was suddenly gasps to be heard and Danny’s eyes for the first time that day were turned away from the shop.

It was not the gasps or the whispers which made Danny turn around, for he was accustomed to the whisperings concerning himself being always outside the shoe shop. What in fact made him turn around was a familiar voice but one which Danny had not heard for many years, the familiar voice said,


“What have you come to welcome me home son, but wait, I am home a day early, you could not have known, you were not expecting me until tomorrow?”


Yes, it was indeed his father Stevie Tantrum, Stevie was home from prison and it seemed that the curse was once again back on Wrathsea.

Within the hour Tracy and Mark were seen hurrying through the village towards the Loach, they left with enough bottles to leave no doubt in the villagers minds that the Tantrum family were to have a welcoming home party for Stevie.


The next day Mark and Danny came down to the Loach for more bottles and on the third night, to the villagers horror, the Tantrum’s came to town.


They entered the Loach about seven o’clock and sat in the far corner, the atmosphere was very tense for the first hour but nothing seemed to go amiss, then after another hour and another table of drinks Danny stood up and shouted,
“No, no, I will not do this!” and then stormed out of the Loach.


The rest of the Tantrum’s stayed where they were and carried on drinking as if nothing had happened. As to the sudden outbursts meaning, none of the village folk in the bar could tell, as no one there could hear what the Tantrum’s were talking about.


The Tantrum’s left the Loach at about eleven o’clock, to everyone’s surprise nothing had happened and everyone was relieved.

Sometime later my father Bill, older brother Jethro and myself left the Loach, it had been a tense night with the Tantrum’s sitting in the Loach but we were happily surprised by the outcome as we walked we decided and hoped that all those years in prison had changed Stevie’s ways.


We had just one stop to make before we went home and that was at Toby Thomas’s house, because of what happened with the Tantrum’s a few months back Toby was nervous at the thought of Stevie’s return and he had not been out of his house for three days.


We were taking him a flagon of cider that we had promised him earlier, when we arrived at his house we received no reply which was strange as Toby was expecting us. After knocking several more times my father went and had a look through the living room window, in a flash he was back shouting, “Dora’s on the floor!” Within a second of hearing this mine and Jethro’s shoulders were against the front door, upon our second attempt our fathers shoulder joined ours and the door split right down the middle.

When we got to the living room we saw that the furniture was upturned and some of it was broken, the only thing that seemed to be the right way up was a table.

We found Toby’s wife Dora laying under the table, wrists and ankles tied to each table leg, she was also gagged with a piece of cloth that had been ripped off her own dress. We quickly untied her and she told us that the Tantrum’s had come in the back way, she said that Stevie and Craig had grabbed Toby, bound and gagged him while Richard and Gareth had gagged Dora and tied her to the table.


“What have they done with Toby?” my father asked.


Dora burst into tears and cried out, “They said they were going to hang him!”


“The Candletree!” shouted my father and the three of us rushed back out of the house.


When we were outside we saw Mrs Bennett who lives next door to Toby and Dora, she had been woken up by us breaking in Toby’s door, she said that she’d heard quite a bit of noise earlier but thought that Toby and Dora were arguing again.


My father quickly told her what had happened, told her to send word to the men in the Loach and then to go and look after Dora.


The three of us ran all the way to the Candletree but when we arrived there it was already too late, there was not a Tantrum in sight, the only person there was Toby, his feet suspended three foot from the ground, he was dead.

When we cut poor old Toby down from the hanging branch my father cried, “Oh my God, look at him!”


I looked into his face and saw the name Molly cut into his forehead, suddenly my throat started to choke, he also had three fingers missing, I knew this not by looking at his hands but by looking at his mouth. His own fingers were clenched tight between his teeth, as I turned away from the ghastly sight, my stomach wretching, my throat choking up vomit, I saw my brother sitting on the grass a few feet away, he was wiping his mouth, he had already been sick.


We carried Toby’s body over to the Tantrum house where a huge crowd had gathered, we saw Parson Arthur Wood and as we approached him he went to pull the coat away that we had placed over Toby’s head but when my father whispered something to him he quickly drew his hand back and said,
“Oh my God, the poor man! Would you take him over to the church, it is open and I shall be with you shortly?”


“But we want to help catch the murderers!” exclaimed Jethro.
“And so you shall.” replied the Parson. “But in the morning, we have already tried to enter the house several times, it
seems that the Tantrum family have been expecting us, for each time that we step into the garden a new hail of bottles and rocks fly at us. Four men have been injured so far and no one has yet made it up the garden path, no it shall be in the morning when we strike, when the Tantrum’s are weary of watching and have developed hangovers, someone has already been sent to Highacre to fetch the magistrate. Ten men have already volunteered to stay hereovernight, five at the front of the house and five at the back of the house
to watch for escape, they have been told to use whatever force is necessary to stop the Tantrum’s, the law of the land and God Almighty is with them.”


So those of us who were to leave for the night started back through the village, we had only been walking for a few minutes when someone came into view heading towards us. It was Joe the Shoemaker and he was carrying something, as he got closer we could see that it was Magdalaine.


“She is dying!” the Shoemaker cried. “My daughter is dying!”


“What on earth happened?” gasped the Parson.


“There is no time” answered Joe. “Help Magdalaine first and then I shall tell all”.


“Right!” said the Parson.


“Jethro, Jim take Toby’s body over to the church, Dr Johnson is visiting kin in Highacre, we will take Magdalaine over to Mrs Bennett’s, if anyone can help her she can.”


My brother and I quickly rushed off to the church and left poor Toby with Elsie, Sadie and Betty the three women who were watching the church, then we rushed over to Mrs Bennett’s house.

Magdalaine had been taken to an upstairs
room and when we arrived Mrs Bennett was just coming down the stairs, wiping her  hands in her apron. “She will be fine” answered Mrs Bennett to everyone’s unspoken question.


“Thank God!” cried the Shoemaker.


“The Stab wound is in the shoulder, she will be weak for quite some time but she will live” explained Mrs Bennett.


“Stab wound!” I shouted.


But the Parson silenced me with a wave of his hand, he approached Joe and asked him to tell us what happened.


Joe mopped his brow with the shirt sleeve of his right arm and spoke, “Well Magdalaine went to put the cat out before we locked up for the night, she had only been outside for a minute or two when there was a terrible scream. I rushed outside and there, lo and behold, stood Danny Tantrum with a knife dripping with blood in his hand and there on the floor lay his brother Mark and next to him lay my Magdalaine. I ran to her and picked her up in my arms, I could feel her heart beating against me so I knew she was not dead, at least
not yet.


I looked at Danny and hissed,\‘You beast, you have killed my baby, you have killed my baby!’ Until this he had stood exactly as he was when I came rushing out of the
house, as if he were frozen, but upon hearing me saying that Magdalaine was dead he half whispered, half croaked.
‘No, No!’


He then dropped the knife, looked at me as if he did not understand what was going on, then turned and ran off. I then came up the road looking for help and that was when I found you all.”


Arthur Wood told Joe the Shoemaker not to worry, that justice would be served, that Danny had in all probability gone back home where he would be found in the morning when they arrested the other Tantrum’s. Then the Parson asked Mrs Bennett if she would accompany him to see if anything could be done for Mark Tantrum but Joe interrupted by saying,

“It is of no use bothering Mrs Bennett, Parson, instead you had better send for two men to carry the body, he was dead before I left, he has about twenty holes in him, half my garden is red with his blood.”


The Parson sighed then asked me and Jethro if we would help him to take Mark’s body over to the church. We replied that we would and he advised everyone to go home and get a few hours sleep or rest at least, we would all meet in the morning, at the church at seven o’clock.

At eight o’clock us villagers and the magistrate approached the Tantrum house. Dave Brewer the thatcher, one of the men who had stayed to guard the front of the house, informed the magistrate that although there had been noises from inside the Tantrum home, no one as yet had tried to leave.

The Magistrate nodded to the Parson and the Parson stepped forward but as soon as his hand was upon the garden gate to enter a stone came flying from one of the windows towards him. It would seem that the Tantrum household were
not suffering from the sort of hangovers that we had expected, they must have taken it in turns to keep watch while the others rested.


The Parson raised his hand and shouted, “Stay back from the house everyone for I shall have no one else hurt!”


The Parson then turned to the magistrate for advice. The magistrate looked at the Tantrum house with disgust, tilted his hat back upon his head, wiped his forehead with a pocket kerchief, replaced his hat to its proper position and said unemotionally, “Smoke them out!”


“What do you mean, set fire to the house?” asked the Parson with more than a slight shock to his voice. A general murmuring had suddenly developed amongst the gathering of people listening also.


“Indeed!” was the magistrate’s simple reply.

“But what about the women, Susan and Tracy, they have done nothing wrong?” asked the Parson with concern.


“They will come out as soon as the smoke hits them, it is a natural reaction in us all to stay alive, also every male will come out, for I am sure that they would rather face us than the flames!” the magistrate replied.


There was a brutal logic about this and there seemed no other answer, apart from trying to enter the house by force and risking who knew how many casualties or by waiting, but by waiting how long?

The Tantrum’s larders were probably stocked full of preserves,dry meat, fruit and nuts and the like, we could be waiting for weeks.


The Parson shook his head and sighed.

Rags of cloth were collected which we wrapped and tied around small rocks, we soaked the cloth in pitch, they were all set alight and thrown through the windows of the house. At first the burning rocks were thrown back out of the house again just as quickly as they were thrown in but within a few minutes one of the curtains caught alight. Then I guess the Tantrum’s were concentrating on putting out the burning curtains while more fire was being thrown in, it got too much for them for within ten minutes or so, smoke was to be seen coming out of more of the windows.

Shortly there was a shout from the villagers at the back of the house to say that the back of the house had also caught alight. There were yells and sounds of furniture and other objects moving from inside the house, the Tantrum’s must have barricaded themselves in.

The Parson ran through the gate and up the garden to the front door, Jethro, myself and some other village men followed. We started to try and smash in the front door, but although it split in many places it would not cave
in, the barricade behind it felt as strong as a wall.

Then I heard a splintering and smashing sound to the side of me, it was my father, he had wrenched free the garden gate and was throwing it through the wooden section of the window frame. He then leaned inside the house and within a second or two he was dragging Craig out by the shoulders, black of face and coughing and spluttering. After this the rest of the Tantrum family came stumbling out of the window one by one, that is except for Susan, Tracy and Danny.

Stevie was the last to emerge from the window and by the time his feet were upon the ground the whole house was completely ablaze. We all had to move out of the garden because the heat was so intense and overwhelming. The Parson flew at Stevie, grabbing hold of him by the neck of his shirt and cried, “Where are the women, God curse you to hell, were are the women?”


Stevie still coughing and spluttering from the smoke that he had breathed in answered, “We locked them in a cupboard out of harm’s way, we knew that there was going to be plenty of fighting and trouble but we were not expecting you to set
fire to the house, we thought that they were in the safest place!”

The Parson turned and looked at the burning house with a face of pure terror and through eyes of undiluted grief. We all knew what he was thinking because everyone of us was thinking the very same thing, there was smoke billowing
out of the windows and the roof had now split, there were flames coming out of that too. There was no way of saving poor Susan and Tracy, they were already dead.


There was silence for a few minutes, apart from the cracking and hissing of the burning dwelling, it was myself who broke the silence and I broke it with a question.


“Where is Danny?” I shouted.


“Danny?” replied Stevie confused. “I have not seen Danny since he left the Loach last night!”


“Alright!” exclaimed the Parson wearily. “We shall look for him later, let’s take these evil monsters to the Candletree,
every breath which they breathe is a treason to humanity and goodness, their destiny is the hanging branch and the heavens are waiting for justice!”


They were all shackled and led to the Candletree in silence. There were no prayers for these Tantrum men and indeed they did not ask for any, they did not seem to care and stayed silent until each gave his gurgling, gasping death throes, first Richard, then Gareth, then Craig and finally Stevie.

Their graves were dug as they were being pulled up into the wind, they were buried as quickly as possible and each villager turned and spat the disgust out of his mouth onto the grass a step or two in front of himself as we all quickly and gladly walked away from the Candle tree.

When we had walked a little way from the Candletree, the Parson stopped and spoke, It seemed strange for no one had uttered a word for so long, the only noises had been the spades hitting the earth and the gargling, gasps of the dying Tantrum men.


The Parson declared, “Danny must be found and he must be found while the magistrate is still in Wrathsea, I want volunteers!”


Every single man there put his hand up into the air, as weary as we all were, there was no question that this had to be finished and finished as soon as possible.


The Parson looked around at us all and nodded approvingly then continued, “Nobody knows the countryside around here better than you fine men, find him and find him quickly, but be extremely careful he has already taken the life of one, his own brother and he nearly took the life of another, the woman that he is supposed to have loved. Right now he is like a wounded, scared animal, survival being his only thought and concern, he has no safe place to go, be careful when you find him, for he will surely bite and when he does it will be to
kill.

The magistrate and I will go to whatever is left of the Tantrum home and kneel in prayer for the souls of those poor women, fly now, I pray that you meet with success, the Lord is with you!”

Jim Corner spat as John Mayfield had grown accustomed to him doing and said “There is not much else to tell you John, the magistrate left Wrathsea seven days later, Danny as yet has not been found. Which is why I am here tonight, or should I say morning, for it is just dawn.


Susan and Tracy’s bodies were found amongst the ashes and rubble of theTantrum house and were buried with Mark in the churchyard. Magdalaine recovered after a month or two but has not spoken a single word since, she also has a grey streak an inch wide running down the right side of her hair.
Her father the Shoemaker says that it is the shock of that terrible night and that she has never and will never get over it.

I sit with her as often as I can in the garden at the back of the shoe shop, but she neither looks at me nor speaks a word, It is a heartbreaking shame!”


Jim Corner stood up upon his feet and stretched himself lazily then started to kick loose earth over the ashes of the dying campfire.


“But do you think that Danny Tantrum will return to Wrathsea, if he is still alive?” asked Mr Mayfield.


“It is hard to say” replied Jim Corner. “There is nothing for him to come back to, he has no kin left alive and the only
woman that he loved he thinks is dead, the only reason may be to visit the Candletree Graves, which is why we watch. The villagers do worry, as do I myself, for I thought that I knew Danny Tantrum but he turned out to be the most wicked of them all, curse him to hell!”


“But enough!” exclaimed Jim Corner. “The tale is told and you now know the story of the Tantrum’s and the Candletree Graves.


Let us think better thoughts now that the daylight is here, let us head into the village, where early as it is I shall buy thee a drink!”

As the two men walked across the grass to join the road, a trail of brightly painted caravans, coaches and wagons passed by. The two men stood upon the verge of the road to watch the colourful spectacle.


“I had almost forgotten that the fair was due once again!”
exclaimed Jim Corner with a boyish, happy smile. As the last caravan passed, the two men stepped onto the road and walked behind the trail of the travelling fair. Jim Corner spoke to John Mayfield of singing, music, dancing, fisticuffs but most important of them all the yard of ale contest which would take place this night of the fair. As they talked and walked along they were unaware that they were being
watched, that a pair of dark, nervous, untrusting eyes were peering through a crack in the curtains in the back window of the last caravan. The pair of eyes watched the two men for a minute or two, then drew away, Danny Tantrum sat back down within the caravan and whispered,  “I am home!”

Around eight o’clock at night of the same day, Magdalaine stepped out of the door at the back of the shoe shop into the cool night air, she inhaled a deep, crisp breath and sighed almost silently, closing her eyes momentarily as she
did so.


She always came into the garden at this hour, it was when her father would leave to go to the Loach. She liked to sit upon a bench which was situated at the bottom of the garden with its back against a wall covered with trimmings of lush ivy. She would sit there for hours sometimes, staring up at the stars in the night sky above the roof of the shop. When she was about half way down the garden path she suddenly stopped, someone was sitting upon her bench. This annoyed her for this was her time of night and her time of night to spend alone, it must be that Jim Corner she thought, it is not good
enough for him that I sit with him in the sun he wants the moon also, well I shall show him.


She peered angrily at the figure, with her hands on her hips, stamped her foot upon the garden path, turned and started her way back towards the shoe shop. She did not make it very far, within three or four steps she had suddenly stopped again this time she felt frozen to the ground.

It was a voice that stopped her, a familiar voice but one which she had not heard for a very long time. Slowly she turned around and there not three feet away stood
Danny Tantrum.


“Is this a dream?” she whispered in disbelief. “Are you a ghost of my Danny, this cannot be real, is a broken heart so powerful that it can make you see what you ache to the very core to see, even when he has been dead for so long?”

“Oh, but you have no idea, I could say the same about you” answered Danny his voice wavering and breaking with emotion. “I only came back to Wrathsea to find my angels grave, to say a prayer over her and to lay down these flowers.”


With this he turned, ran back to the bench, picked up a small bunch of flowers and was in an instant once more before her.

He held out the flowers, she took them and held them tight to her chest, almost as if she feared that they might vanish at any second.


They stood there staring deep into each other’s eyes, amazement encircling the hearts that pumped within each of their bodies.


“I searched every gravestone!” groaned Danny. “Looking for the sweet name of my Magdalaine but could not find it, so I searched again and after my third attempt I sat down amongst the grass confused.

The last I saw you, you were bleeding from the chest, your father told me you were dead, yet you were not to be found in the churchyard. Then suddenly came, hope that I thought had left me forever, perhaps your father was mistaken, perhaps you had survived.


Without another thought I was over the churchyard wall and running to your home as fast as my feet could carry me. Within a minute of sitting down upon the bench an angel stepped out of the door and started walking down the
path towards me, and now here she stands before me.”

Magdalaine just stood there staring at him with eyes as wide as a startled rabbit but without any of the fear.

After a few seconds more Danny spoke again, “Oh, please say
something to me Magdalaine, for pity’s sake, before my heart explodes inside me!”


But Magdalaine said nothing, instead she did two things, the first was to burst into tears, the second was to burst into his longing arms. After about half an hour or maybe it was only a minute for it felt like the latter of these to the two lovers, Magdalaine took a step back from Danny , she raised her eyes and said,


“You should not have come back Danny, they will catch you and hang you!”


“I know” answered Danny.


  “The stories have spread far and wide about my family and of that night, it seems that I do not have to live in Wrathsea to hear curses attached to my birth name, I can hear them nearly everywhere I go. I came back for one thing and one thing only, to see your grave with my own eyes. Now all that has changed, for how can I leave without you, come with me Magdalaine, come be my wife away from this cruel place, this place of hate!”


To say that there was a flicker of hope in Magdalaine’s eyes would be to do it an injustice, there was in fact a bonfire of hope alive in her eyes.


“Oh, Danny!” she sighed nervously.


“Do you think that it would work, could we find somewhere safe where we could at last be happy together?”


“For sure we can!” answered Danny excitedly.


“I have not stopped travelling since I left Wrathsea, I have seen so many places, there are mountains to the  North where people smile and say good morning to me, not knowing that I am one of the Tantrum’s that they hear tales about. Oh, Magdalaine, we could be so happy, say you will come with
me!”


“Aye, I will come with you Danny Tantrum” replied Magdalaine. “For now that I know you are alive I could not go on living if I was not living with you.”


Danny grabbed hold of Magdalaine and held her tight, kissing her nearest cheek furiously, then stepped away.


“I must leave you now!” said Danny. “For the road will start filling with people from the Loach either going home or going to the fair to carry on drinking.


But be ready tomorrow and meet me at the barn at the bottom of Dewdrop Hill where we used to shelter from the rain at ten of the morning, I shall get a horse and be waiting for you.”


They held each other tightly for a moment then Magdalaine asked,


“Where will you go tonight Danny?”


“I will sleep at the barn” he answered.


“Then so shall I!” she replied.


“What do you mean?” he asked. “What about your father?”


“Well, my father will come home drunk from the Loach, wish me goodnight and will be asleep within minutes, then I shall steal away!” she explained.


“I will be waiting by the back wall” said Danny with a smile.


“Alright but do be patient and do be careful!” she answered.


With this she kissed him, turned to walk back to the door but stopped, faced him once more and asked,


“Do you have a rhyme for me Danny, will you tell me a rhyme?”


Danny smiled, looked her in the eyes and spoke,

“Travelling through the cold seas of life
in search of love to treasure.
I have now found that love
and it is a love beyond all measure.”

Magdalaine’s face burst into a smile, a smile that she had not shown to anyone since the last time Danny had seen it, then she blushed, turned and walked through the door whispering,
“It is a love beyond all measure!”

An hour later Magdalaine stepped back out onto the garden path, seconds later she was in the arms of her lover. Together they made their way carefully to the barn at Dewdrop Hill. Their journey was not as dangerous as might be expected, for in that hours wait , the people had left the Loach and had arrived at their destinations which was either home or the fair.

Now the Fair, as it only came to the village for one night, stayed active for all of the night, so the lovers made their way quite unhindered. When they reached the barn, a bed
was made of hay and Danny’s coat and there upon this makeshift bed Magdalaine and Danny spent their first night together. It was a night of joy, a night of tender closeness, a night of feelings and sensations which only lovers will understand. When finally they drifted off to sleep, the moon shone in through a hole in the barn roof and its glow seemed to wrap them in a heavenly cloak. It was as if the angels were looking down upon the lovers and were smiling with happiness at the sight of true love come together at last. And there they remained until the light of the moon was replaced by the grey light of dawn.

At dawn the festivities of the fair were finally breaking up, the people of the fair would rest until the evening and would then travel on to the town of Highacre.


Jim Corner did not join with the other village folk in their walk towards home, instead he walked off in the opposite direction. He was restless, his head was filled with thoughts of Magdalaine, he felt that enough time had now passed
to offer her a new life yet still she would not speak to him. He rambled on in this fashion for a while, sometimes speaking aloud to himself, until something made him stop, it was the sight of Magdalaine.

Without meaning to because he was not even thinking about where he was going, he had wandered to the top of Dewdrop Hill and it was here that he saw her. She was below by the old
barn picking flowers, he could not comprehend what was going on, what could Magdalaine the very girl he had been thinking of be doing by the barn at this hour picking flowers?

He started down the hill towards her, as he got nearer
he raised his hand and shouted, “Hello!” She turned like lightning, gave him a look filled with horror, then fled into the barn.

Within a moment or two Jim Corner was at the bottom of the hill and entering the barn, he saw Magdalaine standing over by the ladder that climbs to the loft and he took a step towards her. Suddenly he felt a dull pain spread over his head and Magdalaine vanished from his sight, she was replaced by darkness, he fell to the barn floor unconscious.

When Jim Corner came back to his senses, he could not move his arms or legs, he panicked, then realised he had been tied to the ladder. He saw Magdalaine sitting upon a bale of hay then to his horror someone else stepped into view, it was Danny Tantrum.


Jim corner gasped in disbelief. “Curse you Danny Tantrum, if you harm so much as a hair on Magdalaine’s head they will not have chance to hang you, for I will kill you myself, with my own bare hands!”


“You speak nonsense!” replied Danny. “I could no more harm Magdalaine than I could catch a cloud or stop the rain from falling!”


Jim Corner’s eyes flushed with anger. “You tried to kill her and you nearly succeeded, you have come back to finish her off, why could you not just leave her in peace?”


Magdalaine stood up, walked over and stood next to Danny, she looked at Jim and said, “Danny has come back to love me not to harm me.”


“But how can you believe this after what he did to you?” stammered Jim.


“He did nothing!” explained Magdalaine. “Except save my life, it was Mark who stabbed me, Danny took the knife off Mark and killed him in revenge of me!”


Jim’s face looked confused, then he realised that he had not heard her voice for so long. “You speak again, Magdalaine!” said Jim.


“Yes!” she replied. “The day that I regained consciousness my father was in the room with me, he was thanking God that I was alright and cursing Danny for doing this to me. I tried to tell him that it was Mark and that Danny was innocent but he would not listen, he said that I was a lovesick fool, that no one would believe me and if I said any of this to the other villagers he would send me to the convent at Southhaven.

Then he told me that Danny was certainly dead, that no body had been found but that no one had seen him and that no one just disappears like that unless they are laying at the bottom of a ditch or at the bottom of a river dead.


So from that day fourth I went into mourning and refused to speak to anyone, then last night my prayers were answered, heaven sent my Danny back to me.”


“But why would Mark stab you?” asked Jim confused.


“He did not come to Magdalaine’s home to hurt her” answered Danny.


“The reason that I stormed out of the Loach that night was because my father wanted me to take part in the hanging of Toby. I wanted nothing to do with it, the trouble that I had got myself into before that had cost me the price of seeing Magdalaine. I hoped that Joe the Shoemaker would forgive me in time and I would not do anything to jeopardise that. So my father sent my brother to find me and to persuade me to help them, well my brother found me in Magdalaine’s garden, I told him what I have just told you and then he pulled out a knife, held it up to me and said that if I did not come with him like a true Tantrum that he would kill me for being a coward and a traitor to the name.”


“It was then that I stepped out of the door!” interrupted Magdalaine. “I saw Mark facing Danny with the knife, I screamed and ran towards them.


Mark turned around and stabbed me with the knife, as I fell I saw Danny wrestling with him and then everything went black.”


Jim Corner shook his head and said, “Why didn’t you say something to me Magdalaine, I would have listened?”
“Yes, you would have listened but you would not have believed!” answered Magdalaine. “For Danny is a Tantrum and there is not one of the villagers who would believe him!”


Jim Corner was silent for a few moments then he spoke,
“I believe you Danny, I believe you because I believe Magdalaine, I know that she is honest, she is in love with you but she is not a lovesick fool, she would not be here with you if she did not think it was right. Untie me Danny and come with me to see the Parson Arthur Wood, the magistrate is with him, he came over from Highacre yesterday to discuss the robberies happening on the Wrathsea to Highacre road. We will sit down before them, sort out this mess and clear your badly mistreated name.”

“I thank you Jim” replied Danny. “But it is no good, I have no trust for the village folk, I fear that they will see red instead of the truth, I am taking Magdalaine away with me!”

“Well then, let me help you at least?” offered Jim.


“No!” replied Danny. “I thank you again Jim, but risking mine and Magdalaine’s life together by setting you free, I cannot do.”


Danny turned to Magdalaine and said, “We must leave Wrathsea now, I have a horse tied to one of the caravans at the fair, I will go and get it and be back here before an hour has passed!”


Danny then turned back to Jim and said, “The first town that we arrive at, I will send word back so that you may be freed.”


With this he kissed Magdalaine once and ran out of the barn door, he scrambled up to the top of Dewdrop Hill, turned around and saw Magdalaine standing next to the barn watching him. He waved, whispered I love you, wished that he could shout it from the top of his lungs, smiled, then
disappeared over the hill.

Magdalaine sat on a bale of hay, in a daydream world, she was smiling at her own thoughts, while humming a soft tune and weaving wild flowers into a delicate, pretty, colourful chain.

She was thinking of her beloved, of all they had been through and now it was  ended, every bit of hurt and sadness lay in
the past. She closed her eyes as she realised that she would never sleep another night alone, she would wake up each and every morning within the arms of her husband.

Yes, as soon as they found somewhere where they could settle they would become man and wife, build a home together, Danny would take up carving and she would tend to the children. Oh, the children, this was so overwhelming, a tear trickled down her cheek, all of this warm magic made possible in one night. All of this made possible because of the
bravery of her Danny, coming back to all that he had run from just to get her, because he loved her. She wanted to love him through every hour of every day of every month of every year of his life, they would grow old together. Through them their children would bring the Tantrum name full circle so that to be a Tantrum would be a proud and noble thing.

She realised that she had never cooked for him, she had loved him all of this time and yet she had never cooked for him, this amazed her. She had never mended his clothes, washed his clothes, made him clothes, this was all too much, she had heard women in the village complain about having to do these things, she could not understand it. She could not wait to be able to do these things, all these everyday things
would remind her how lucky she was to have her Danny.

She was suddenly brought out of her daydreaming by a distant noise, the noise was a bell.


“It is funny but the church bell sounds different today and why is it ringing so early?” Magdalaine thought aloud.


“Oh, my God, that is not the church bell!” cried Jim Corner from the ladder. “Untie me Magdalaine, untie me, we have not a moment to lose!”


“What are you talking about?” she asked almost irritated.


“Danny has been gone for more than an hour and that bell is the watch bell at the Candletree, untie me girl, they have Danny and they are announcing the hanging!”

Magdalaine leapt off the bale of hay and ran to the ladder, she fought with the binds that held Jim Corner’s feet, her hands were not working properly, she was shaking uncontrollably. She felt like she would be sick one second and the next she felt like her entire body was going to fall into different bits and land in a heap upon the floor. Jim Corner’s feet came free, she stood up and worked at the binds on his hands, she felt the warm urine gushing down the inside of her legs. As she worked away she wanted to tell Jim, that he must
save her Danny but she was mute, she could not say a word.

Then Jim’s hands were free, he did not even turn to look at her he was off at a gallop out of the barn.

She followed, she was nowhere near as fast as him but by damn she followed. Up the hill, through the bushes, over a wall, through a bog, she followed, falling ever behind but still she followed, fighting off the thoughts inside her head, she focused on the ever diminishing figure of Jim Corner and
followed.

Jim Corner reached the bottom of the gentle slope to the Candletree just as the crowd around it let out a cheer.


I still have time, he thought to himself, they have only just pulled him up into the air, I still have time. As he drew nearer he wanted to shout Stop!, but he could not, that would slow him down.

He dove into the crowd, knocking three or four people to the ground, this barely slowed his pace, then he was out of
the other side, he saw Danny hanging and leapt for him. He had Danny’s waist against his chest, holding him up, holding the weight, as he fought to regain his breath, I’ve got you Danny he thought to himself, I’ve got you.


He looked up at Danny’s face with tears in his eyes, then he noticed Danny’s neck, it was broken, he let go of the body and fell onto his backside staring up in disbelief.


There was a scream, a scream unlike anyone there had ever heard before, the crowd turned in the direction of that scream and saw Magdalaine.


She was running towards them, the scream had disappeared but her mouth remained open, frozen by it, she kept running, stumbling, falling, getting back up and running, running, running.


The crowd parted as she approached and she passed through, she stopped three feet in front of the hanging body and screamed again. She started ripping at her own clothes, ripping at her own hair, ripping at her own face.


“My Danny, my Danny!” she cried in a voice so full of pain it did not sound like her own.


“Not a year to this day will pass with me above ground!” she screamed. “I will be dead before the anniversary of this!”


Then she stumbled to Danny, held his legs close against herself, closed her eyes and fell to the floor.


© Paul Tristram 2006


The End.

 

 


 

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