Playing The Fool


Note: This story is rumoured to be based on a true story from Rufford Hall in the early 1980’s.

For the umpteenth time in less than a week, work was stopped on the renovation of the old Abbey, the Foreman spitting nails, his language stratospheric. The plans were for the old stables to be pulled down, no great effort since they were falling down anyway, and new foundations laid for a restaurant and workrooms for crafts people.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t happening. The digger driver clearing the rubble had unearthed a large shallow area, full of bones. Human bones, covered in lime. A mediaeval plague pit.   Health and Safety had to be informed and an inspection made before work could continue.

In the meantime, employees were given strict instructions. Nobody was to go anywhere near! Only Harry wasn’t paying attention. Jumping down into the pit, he grabbed an arm bone and was waving it in the air, laughing. Big joke!

“For God’s sake, put it back,” the Foreman shouted. “It could be contaminated. Stop playing the fool, Harry.”

“Clear off, Alf, I’m taking this home. It’ll scare our Lisa to death,” Harry shouted. He wrapped the bone in a sheet of newspaper and pushed it into his pocket.

Lisa was not impressed. “Don’t bring it near me,” she shivered. “Take it back and stop being stupid.”

Harry set it down on the mantelpiece in the living room, leering at it as he ate his dinner. About an hour after they had gone to bed, Lisa was woken up by a crashing sound coming from downstairs.

She gave Harry a shove. “Wake up, wake up. There’s somebody downstairs. Harry, we’ve got a burglar.”

Harry mumbled and turned over. There was another crash, louder this time. He shot up.

“Stay here, I’ll go. Sort him out, whoever he is. Little bugger.”

Lisa listened as he staggered downstairs. For a moment there was silence, then an agonising cry. She dived under the bedclothes.

After waiting a few minutes, she plucked up courage, climbed out of bed and into her dressing gown. Where was Harry? She wished he wasn’t always playing the fool. Standing at the top of the stairs she shouted. “Harry – you all right?”

There was no reply. The light was on in the living room. She stormed downstairs. “Harry, will you stop…”

As she stomped through the door, battle ready, she gasped. The room was totally wrecked, the furniture reduced to matchwood, curtains shredded. There was a ghastly smell of damp and decay.

Then she saw Harry! She screamed. He was lying spread-eagled on the floor, the arm bone driven through his eye, pinning him to the ground, blood seeping. Lisa collapsed.

At the inquest, the Coroner’s verdict was given as Misadventure on both Harry and Lisa. Harry had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage. Lisa had died of a heart attack through shock. The police officer said there was no disturbance, everything in order, just a rather strange smell.

Written by Jany Sefyllian


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