I was late home...again! And I knew my wife would be worrying herself sick.
You see I had called in to a friend's house just over the way a bit from where I lived and had one drink more than I should have, I suppose, and kind of lost track of the time.
And now I was very definitely late home!
Sometimes though you just needed a chat and a few drinks with a friend.
I'll be the first to admit that my wife certainly has a lot on her slender shoulders, what with bringing up our two young children and keeping the place clean and putting meals on the table for a start.
But I work hard too...and there's not a lot else an honest man can get up to round these parts.
Without doubt my wife would be wondering where I was though, imagining all sorts of sticky ends I'd no doubt come to.
So when I eventually set off for home it was with a quickened pace.
Now I'm not the kind of man to take fright easily, so I decided there and then to take a shortcut through the old graveyard.
I knew it would be a much quicker route back to my home on the edge of the village by at least 15 minutes or so.
It was a fine, late Summer's evening. Warm and lifeless, though beginning to fade to dark now.
To the West a huge thunder cloud, tinged orange at its lower edges by the last of the sun, hinted at a potential storm...but that was for later, I concluded, and so there was absolutely no reason not to go via the graveyard.
The gates were always locked by sunset and old Bates had already attended to that task...he presumably wanted to dash off home...via 'The Coachman' no doubt!
Children and adults alike knew where the gaps in the perimeter fence were though and so did I...I had done since I was a child. A bunch of us had even gone into the graveyard in the dark of night on one occasion for a dare.
The last of the light had gone by the time I forced myself through a space where two missing planks of wood should have been and on into the graveyard.
The path I needed, the one that ran from the Northern side to the Southern extremity, was quite close to the makeshift entrance I'd come through but it was all just a bit darker than I thought it was going to be.
Was it the overhanging trees, that had begun to rustle gently in the faintest of faint breezes that had suddenly blown up from nowhere, or was it my eyes struggling to cope with their new environment...or was it really much darker than it should have been?
A smallish shape that looked human to me wavered not that far in front of me. I took a step back and half thought about leaving this place for the comfort of the long way round. But I had never feared this place before on the many times I'd previously taken a shortcut home...and there was no need for me to be afraid of anything this time around I assured myself.
'Probably kids' I thought trying to further calm myself down...for, although the strange shape had disappeared, I was surprisingly still ill at ease!
My night vision had kicked in by now though to the point that I could see a peculiar row of four small headstones to my right, completely set aside from the larger, older tombs and vaults that made up the majority of this section of the graveyard.
An odd beam of moonlight illuminated these tiny graves.
Strangely drawn to this little group, I knelt down to make a closer inspection, basked in an eerie light that, now I come to think about it, couldn't have been moonlight as the moon wasn't due up for ages yet!
'MARY TAILOR AGED 6'...'HARRY TAILOR AGED 6'...'MAX TAILOR AGED 4'...'SARAH TAILOR AGED 2'
Four graves...four small children's graves...and each weather-worn stone headstone in the shape of an angel, some angel wings were damaged here and there.
'How sad' I thought
'How very sad' as the sense of the loss of these poor little souls became somewhat overbearing to me.
A voice filled my head...I say a voice but it was more like a chorus than a single voice.
'We do not dwell here!'
And then again...
'We do not dwell here!...For why would anyone wish to live in this place of earth and bones?'
I turned around...but nothing...nothing was there.
The strange luminescence had dimmed somewhat, though I was still bathed in a ghostly light.
Something tugged at my trouser leg, I looked down just in time to catch a glimpse of a deathly-white hand retreat into the blackness of the night.
'We do not dwell here!'...a dissonance of childish rhyme.
I looked right and then I looked left...but when I turned to my right again...I got the shock of my life!
Glowing a dazzling white and all holding hands in daisy-chain fashion were, what I immediately assumed to be, the four young Tailor children (the twins Mary and Harry...Max...and little Sarah).
'This is where we all lay...' said Max
'But we do not dwell there' said the older girl.
Speechless, all I could do was gaze open-mouthed and in some wonderment at the shimmering apparitions of these poor, long-dead children. I didn't want to believe what I was witnessing but I didn't really have the opportunity not to believe.
'We wanted to tell someone' said Harry Tailor
I went to speak but I couldn't. But they had reached out to me, I thought, for some reason or other and so I felt that I must engage them in conversation. I owed them all that much at least.
'Tell someone what? I managed to respond in a voice I didn't recognise as my own.
'That we're not sad anymore' they all said with uncanny singularity.
'We all died from the 'pox' ' said two year-old Sarah...far too intelligently for one of such a tender age
'No-one is alive to truly grieve for us now...' continued Harry Tailor
'But we are not sad anymore'
'We know people cared...continue to care...even people who weren't our people'
'We were all very sad once...but we soon found happiness again...in our new life...away from here'
'Please tell everyone we are not sad anymore!' implored the older boy, whose words were echoed in the faces of his other siblings.
Still reeling, I somehow managed to collect my thoughts enough to form a rational response.
'Why me? I said
'We've seen you before...we like you' said the older boy
'Yes! We all like you' came back a reply that filled my head, almost to bursting point.
'You say that you were all sad but you aren't anymore..how so? I replied
The four apparitions quivered and the strength of the light radiating from them dimmed somewhat as if the whole process of conversing with the living was taking its toll on them.
But just when I thought they were all about to fade away as quickly as they had manifested, the little group of phantoms seemed to receive a fresh charge of energy from somewhere.
Still locked together by their hands, the children suddenly floated as one to within a few feet of where I stood in utter awe of their ghostly goings on.
Harry Tailor, looked straight at me with such an intensity that I felt his piercing blue eyes on me in an instant.
'We all missed our mother Ann...and our father David...terribly so...but we know now' said Harry
'We all know!' they all chorused with the kind of certainly I can only compare to that of a priest giving Communion to the dying.
'Our time here is almost over' said Mary
'We cannot say too much' she added...although I sensed that there was so much more the elder female ghost would have liked to impart.
All at once, the four ghostly children appeared to merge as one in front of my very eyes and, as they did so, their combined spirits converged to produce the most brilliant star-shaped light I had ever seen. I even had to draw my hands up to shield my face...such was the intensity of the light emitted.
Another bright flash...not as strong as that given off by the children's poignant departure...then a rumble of distant thunder followed...and only a matter of seconds later it began to rain.
I hurried across to the partially covered hole in the graveyard fence I needed to continue my journey back home, holding my jacket over my head to ward off some of the rain that was now falling in torrents.
Next day, I returned to the scene of the previous night's ghostly activities. It was daylight now and everything felt so...so different.
The children's gravestones looked as inauspicious as any of the multitude of others inside the compound of the old graveyard.
Recalling my meeting with the little Tailors last night, I felt strangely at peace with the world. I was happy with my lot in life.
Above all else, I had a wife and two small children of my own who all loved me very much...I was truly blessed.
And should fate ever intervene...as it often did these days...I had a renewed hope that all would be good again...one day...somehow!