The White Lady of Rownam Avenue

I pleaded, and begged, and threatened my schoolmates, but none were willing to trespass the grounds of Rownam at night to see a ghost.

By Liana Paraschaki

Rownam Manor House was the property of Sir E.C., and a fine specimen of that, too! Its architecture was of the sixteenth century, and all around it was surrounded by trees, oaks, and elms, and beeches, so thick and gigantic and tightly-knit that they almost blocked all sun rays. I had often ventured into those woods, finding solace in the hollow of one of the largest oak trees, where I would spend most days hiding. Sir E.C. and his companions would walk past my hiding place, without casting me a second glance. Had I ever been caught, I would have been punished with the utmost severity, not only because Sir E.C. despised trespassers, but mostly because he and my father were formidable political opponents, who never missed an opportunity to harm one another.

But let us not linger in politics for too long. I had heard rumours that Rownam Manor House was haunted, and that the ghost was none other than the late wife of Sir E.C., whose death was hastened, if not completely accounted for, by her very own husband. Sir E.C. was said to have been extremely harsh and cruel towards his young wife, but to his character I cannot attest with any certainty. I can only relay rumours. Nonetheless, I was set on seeing the White Lady of Rownam. I pleaded, and begged, and threatened my schoolmates, but none were willing to trespass the grounds of Rownam at night to see a ghost. At last, my curiosity won, and one cloudless night, I climbed out of bed and made for the trees at Rownam. It seemed as if nature herself was standing still. There was hardly a sound, and I found the summer air intoxicating, so intoxicating I almost found myself drunk on it, rolling on the mud and turning my face towards the sky, as if inviting the moon and stars to kiss me.

Eventually, I found myself in the hollow of my favourite oak tree, and it was then I finally noticed there was something eerie about this night. Even the full moon could not penetrate the foliage of the woods, and the trees, typically so alive with the sounds of insects and squirrels, were as if sworn to silence. I rose from my hollow, ready to make the way back home. As soon as I emerged, a voice came from afar. Convinced that I was, at last, caught, I quickly returned to the hollow of the oak tree, making myself as small as possible, breathing quietly and keeping my limbs unmoving. And then – there she was! A ghost, an actual ghost, a Lady in White appearing in front of me! My nerves tingled with excitement, and I found myself smiling at the prospect of telling my schoolmates all about it tomorrow. Oh, how envious they would be!

The lady was altogether luminous, as if glowing from within. Her skin was so pale it was almost translucent, but she was still hauntingly beautiful, all dainty features and golden locks blowing in the wind. I was so enamoured by her beauty that I did not notice the figure standing by her side until they walked right past me. Yet, here he was, Sir E.C. with his arm around her waist and his eyes drinking in the beauty of her face. Gone was his scowl and permanent frowning; pure, luminous love painted his features. I was, at that point, so enamoured that I forgot I was hiding, and emerged from my hollow. Only, I emerged so hastily and so clumsily I fell headfirst on the ground, momentarily losing my senses. When I awoke, both the White Lady and Sir E.C. were gone. I ran home, faster than I ever had before, and lay in bed, my nerves still tingling with excitement, and a mischievous smile plastered on my face. I was to be the hero of the school the next day, relaying the story of my adventures and the White Lady.

A few short hours later, I arrived at school, and could hardly contain my excitement. We started speaking, as boys often do, one over the other, our sentences hastily spoken, remaining unfinished, questions dying on our lips before new ones could even form. Suddenly, one voice rose above all others: “Sir E.C. is dead!” The body had been found in the woods around his property, near my hollowed oak tree. The doctors said he had died of shock.

I never told my schoolmates of my adventures. All excitement died on my lips when I heard of Sir E.C.’s death.