The next morning was dull and freezing, but at least father was home. George Midgley was a slight man with fine, receding blond hair, a long nose and piercing blue eyes. He wore fine clothes, but never succeeded in looking smart, he remained, despite every effort by his daughter, a denizen of the realms of the rumpled and dishevelled.
George Midgleys' whole demeanour was very much a product of an odd nature. Aimiable but absent minded, his thoughts always seemed to be elsewhere, far removed from the day-to-day niceties of a clean shave and well starched linen. He was in actual fact a remarkable man - an inventor, a poet, a fine musician capable of excellent performance on both pianoforte and violin, a scholar and a keen antiquarian. Politically he was of a radical and enlightened disposition, well liked by those in his employ, to whom he advocated less of the masters charity and more of the workers rights. But for all his creative genius, George Midgley was a loser. The price he paid for his extraordinary abilities was a weak, sensitive and overly pliant nature, quite lacking in the hard-nosed business acumen that is the hallmark of the Yorkshire entrepreneur. A soft touch for any hard luck story going, he would bend over backwards to help anybody he thought needful of his aid. This weakness of nature had cost his business dear, and it was only through the efforts of his two rather less worthy younger brothers that the family concern had been saved from bankruptcy. Indeed, the persistant advances of Mr. Midgley's creditors had driven him to a nervous breakdown which had resulted in him being incarcerated in a convalescent home, while his brothers (from not entirely noble motives) had sold off the rights for his 'Midgley Patent Wire Drawing Machine', in order to pay off his debts, after which they had assumed full control of the business.
But now at least George was back home with his beloved daughter, and now, as he donned top hat and cape and called to Dicky Postlethwaite to bring out the pony and trap, Mary was happy once more - she was escaping Parkfield and riding out with papa. So it was dismal - and dull, but anything was better than imprisonment within those four walls.
As the cart clattered up Hob Lane towards the tantalising stand of trees atop Rawley Billing, Mary decided it was time she made some attempt to pump her father about recent events.
"Yes my dear?"
"Uncle Edwin and Uncle Wilf...."
"Well do they have to live with us?"
Her father laughed. "Why Mary? Don't you like them?"
"Well...they're alright I suppose. But they're not like you."
"Now there's a fine compliment from my sulky daughter! Or is it that my brothers don't let you get away with as much as I do?"
"You would charm the birds from the trees Mary Midgley, if it suited your purpose. You are so like your mother. Look my dear, while I know that having my brothers living with us is not an ideal arrangement, we need them nearby to manage things at the mill."
"But you could handle things if only you could...."
"Buy my holding back? Quite frankly my dear I'm sometimes glad they've relieved me of the responsibility. I only have a few affairs to wind up and I'll have more time to devote to you and to my real work."
Mary sighed. Poor father! Dreaming again! Here he was, a near bankrupt, effectively living off the charity of his brothers, and all he could think of was his latest inventing or writing project. Dear, sweet, unworldly papa, how she wished he would come down to earth and champion the Midgley honour! What use ideas and dreams without wealth and fortune to back them up? And as for her uncles, if she had the means she'd buy them out lock, stock and barrel and send them packing down the road!
George Midgley flicked the whip as the cart rumbled over the stone setts.
"Your uncles aren't that bad you know. And I know for a fact they think highly of you!"
Mary smiled. "Maybe so father. But it's just that they're so secretive always plotting and murmuring among themselves."
"Secretive? What do you mean?"
"Well for one thing they're doing something odd on the staircase. They've set a chair up to look out of the window, and they won't tell me why they're doing it?"
An expression of stifled mirth lit up George Midgley's thin face.
"You mean that old table they've put on the middle landing?"
"Yes papa, halfway down the stairs."
He grinned. "Oh you don't need to worry my Mary. It's nothing of any great pith and moment."
Mary frowned angrily. "Oh papa! Now you're being as horrid as them! That's all they ever do, fob me off with half truths and mysterious smiles. And now you're doing it! Its really too much!"
George Midgley could contain his mirth no longer. He erupted into gales of laughter while his red faced daughter stiffened angrily with an indignant look on her face.
"Oh Mary! If you could see yourself. You're a picture! Do you really want me to tell you what Wilf and Edwin are up to?"
"Well the silly blighters have been listening to that daft Dicky Postlethwaite. He's convinced them that old Captain Thompson is going to show them the way to his treasure."
"I don't understand? Who's this Captain Thompson?"
"Who was he you mean? He was one of those twin brothers who built the mill and the houses. He lived at Parkfield while his brother lived next door at Millfield. According to daft Dickey the Captain thought that his twin was out to steal his earthly riches, and he was reputed to have hidden away a cache of gold just before he died. Since then, when the moon is full the Captain's ghost can be seen through that window, pointing the way to his hidden treasure. That's why your uncles have set up a vantage point from the tall window. They're waiting for a ghost to appear!"
"A ghost papa? really?"
"Yes - if you believe in such things".
"Do you think they'll see anything father?"
George Midgley laughed, " Oh come now Mary, I thought you had rather more sense than that. Ghosts are the stuff of storybooks - not the outskirts of Leeds. So let's hear no more about it."
At Rawley Billing they left the trap and walked, passing through a stile and strolling alongside a broken drystone wall beneath bare, windswept trees and a leaden grey sky. Beyond rose an outcrop of tumbled gritstone boulders eroded and fissured by the wind, blackened by the smoke pollution from the city. They scrambled to the top and took in the view, the distant hills and moors, the forest of smoking chimneys in the near distance. George Midgley was right. In this world of profit and loss, muck and industry, time and motion - there was no room for ghosts.
Back at Parkfield Dickey Postlethwaite was mucking out the stable.
"Good afternoon Miss Mary. Did you enjoy your stroll?"
"Yes thank you Dickey, my father's been telling me all about your romances."
"Yes. Captain Thompson's Ghost - and buried treasure."
Dickey grinned. "An' you don't believe me do you Miss Mary?"
"My father doesn't."
"Its no joke miss. There is a ghost - though I've not seen it misen."
"Then who has?"
"Mi mam miss. She saw it. She used to be housekeeper here at Parkfield. She told me all abaht t' ghost when I were a bairn."
"And the treasure?"
"Well me mam heard that Captain Thompson came back from sea with some fabulous treasure he'd found on his travels. She thowt he'd been involved with some kind of piracy. Whatever it was, when he finally came back to Leeds he was wealthy enough to set himself and his brother up in business. It were him that built t'two houses an't' Parkfield Mill. Anyway, t'story goes that t'Captain's twin brother were a wastrel. He gambled away his share of t' wealth, and when t'Captain refused to give him any more they quarrelled, and never spoke to each other again. When t' Captain died he'd cut his brother out of his will, and what he left to the servants amounted to nowt much, which raised the question of what had become of his wealth? A few years later his twin died i't'workhouse. Me mam allus reckoned that t' Captain's spirit wouldn't rest - maybe he felt guilty on account o' what he'd allowed to happen to his brother. Anyway, according to what me man said when the moon is full his ghost appears at Parkfield and shows the way to his hidden riches."
Towards the end of the afternoon it snowed, slow lazy white flakes floating gently down into the bare garden, blanketing the cold earth. Mary sat in the window seat of the dining room at her embroidery, looking out into the gathering dusk. The light was fading fast and her eyes were becoming strained. She put down the hoop and moved towards the door, from beyond which wafted the strong scent of tobacco smoke and a murmur of conversation. She knew that beyond it her father and two brothers were playing at cards. She did not enter - it was not her place to do so. Instead, she sat down on the oak settle by the doorway and listened in on the conversation.
"....So I told him to bring a table up to rest the chair on so we could see out."
"Oh come on Wilf, you're not serious are you? Surely you're not going to sit up there in the dark watching for shadows? Our Mary's been asking me what you're up to."
"But what if there is some sort of treasure? You know this house is full of funny numbers and things."
"I think you're letting your imagination get the better of you. Now then. Royal Flush. What are you going to do about that then, eh?"
"Come on Edwin, pay up."
"I can't, Wilf, he's cleaned me out"
"Give him a note then. I'm sure George will put it on the slate till next time."
"Of course. I suppose you're going to pay me with this fabulous treasure you're going to unearth. (After the ghost's shown you where it is of course!)"
"Dont laugh George - 'There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are mentioned in our philosophy.'"
"Yes, but Hamlet never lived on the outskirts of Leeds! So when are you expecting this 'visitation' then?"
"Wilf says tonight. There's a full moon."
"Well don't expect me to sit out with you on that cold landing. I'm going to be warm and snug in my bed! Good hunting gentlemen!"
copyright © Jim Jarratt 2007