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|The Ploughman's Apprentice (standard:horror, 3718 words)|
|Author: Ian Hobson||Added: Jan 24 2008||Views/Reads: 1771/931||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|He dropped the skull and jumped backwards, shuddering at the sight of its grinning jaws and earth-filled eye sockets…|
The Ploughman's Apprentice ©2008 Ian Hobson I am in no way connected with the accused, John Barley and, although I am of the legal profession, it is not my job to record the proceedings of his trial. Though I was present on the day he gave his testimony and find myself compelled to write an account of what he, in his mumbling and inarticulate way, claimed to have happened. He is, by his own and his mother's account, twelve years of age. None too bright perhaps but, prior to the terrible incident, hard-working and willing to please; and he had been taken on, this very spring, as an apprentice to the ploughman, Henry Goodman who, in turn, worked for James Wainwright of Towton, south-west of York. Wainwright, having decided to turn his lower pasture over to vegetables to meet increased demand, had instructed Henry Goodman to plough the whole of the field in readiness for planting; and it is here in this very pasture that, according to the accused, John Barley, this tale of bloody murder begins. *** 'Steady now, steady!' Ploughman, Henry Goodman, shouted words of encouragement to his two horses as he skilfully guided his wooden plough, cutting and turning the sod. There was a gentle slope to the field and the uphill stretch was just a little harder on both man and beasts, especially as the field had not been ploughed since Saxon days. Goodman's apprentice, John Barley, ran ahead looking for stones that might damage the plough. He was a scrawny lad, of average height for his age, and as he scanned the field ahead his keen young eyes caught sight of something white laying close by in the previously cut furrow; a large stone by the look of it, he thought. He ran to it, wishing he had noticed it before and hoping that no damage had been done to the plough and that he would not get into trouble; for he knew that every ploughman had to make his own plough and was responsible for its maintenance. But as he took a closer look at the smooth round white thing and bent down to lift it, he made a gruesome discovery: it was not a stone at all, it was a human skull. He dropped the skull and jumped backwards, shuddering at the sight of its grinning jaws and earth-filled eye sockets that seemed to be staring straight at him. 'Move, boy, move!' The two plough horses were almost on top of him, but heeding Goodman's warning just in time, John scampered out of the way and ran on to continue his search for stones. But yet again he came across something white, not a scull this time but a bone of some sort; perhaps a leg bone from a dead sheep. Then he noticed that the plough horses had stopped and, as he ran back to find out why, he saw that Goodman was stooping to examine something turned up by the plough. 'Did you see that skull back there?' Goodman asked without looking up. 'Yes, maister,' John replied, fearful of rebuke for his negligence. 'But it didn't do no 'arm did it?' 'No, lad, and nor did this'n.' Goodman held up another skull and then a pair of long white bones. 'There's bodies buried in this 'ere pasture. I think thee best go and fetch Master Wainwright. I don't want to be ploughin' up no graveyard.' *** The landowner, James Wainwright, ordered the ploughing to continue, but he stayed close by, riding his mare up and down the length of the field and watching as more bones were unearthed. He had brought along his eight-year-old son, Daniel, and he and John Barley had been given the task of collecting the bones and skulls as they were unearthed and carrying them to the corner of the field. Late in the day, Wainwright sat astride his horse and surveyed the growing pile of bones. It had begun to rain heavily and any skeletal remains that were still caked in earth were gradually being washed Click here to read the rest of this story (331 more lines)
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