by Andrew J. Müller
Artwork by Ivan Lloyd Smith
Lucy Lightfoot was one of the most beautiful and popular girls in Carisbrooke. She had lived her 17 years in the village of Gatcombe with her father, the local miller, and her two brothers. She was tall and had long blond hair, lustrous, the colour of the corn her father milled. She was pale and ephemeral-looking with peachy cheeks and full lips. Her figure and deportment were beyond anything else Carisbrooke had seen for many many years.
The local lads would crowd around Lucy whenever she went to market for provisions. But Lucy was never interested in any of them, however suitable her would-be beaus may be. Her heart lay in St. Olaves Church, carved in wood and laying atop his own tomb. The wooden effigy of Edward Estur, a brave and fearless crusader knight who died in 1303 in Palestine. He had built the church in which his body lay and Lucy had visited the church everyday since she was 12. Estur lay, his wooden dog by his wooden feet, unresponsive, silent, but listening in his way to Lucys every feeling. In his own wooden way he appreciated the flowers she brought and the love she gave to him.
It was a hot June night in 1831 when Lucy came to the church for the last time. She tethered her white horse by the lych gate and carried an armful of wild flowers up the path and into the church. There she sat on a stool by Edwards tomb and started to tell him of the days events.
Lucy hardly noticed the temperature dropping or the rain as it began to hammer down outside. The flashing lightning did not disturb her from her reverie. Outside, though, her horse nickered and pulled on his tether. As the rain got harder he crept underneath the lych gate and sheltered until the skies cleared. Then, as the frightened horse looked out, the moon crept across the sun and blotted out its light. Darkness spread down the lane from the village and a curious half-dark embraced the church and the whole island.
Only Lucys horse saw the odd white light emanating from inside the church, and only the horse saw it slowly fade away. Moments later the sun emerged slowly from the moons shadow and a bright and sunny afternoon fell upon the Isle of Wight.
* * * * * * *
Dr. Albert Maltravers knelt by the old gravestone in the churchyard and began to write in his notebook. He looked over at the horse tethered by the lych gate and vaguely wondered who it belonged to. As he looked up a farmer came up the lane leading a donkey pulling a hayrick. The farmer went over to the horse and patted its nose, trying to calm it. Dr. Maltravers walked across and greeted the farmer.
"Sir, do you know to whom this animal belongs? It has been here since I arrived some hours ago and no one has come to claim it."
"I do, sir, it belongs to Miss Lucy Lightfoot, a young lady of this parish. She would be in the church with her beloved crusader."
Maltravers had been inside the church earlier, so he shook his head and told the farmer he was wrong. "Lucy Lightfoot, you say?" Maltravers rubbed his thin beard in thought.
"Hold here a while, sir, I will tether my charge and come with you into the church to see if Miss Lucy is present." The farmer led the donkey over to a nearby tree and tethered it there. Then he and Dr. Maltravers walked up into the church.
There at the end of the aisle was the tomb of Edward Estur, with its big posy of wild flowers laid across his chest. A stool sat unused by his carved wooden head. The two men walked up to the effigy and Maltravers heard the farmer take a deep breath.
"What is wrong, my man?"
The farmer pointed at the hilt of the carved wooden sword held in Esturs hands. "The jewel is gone," he looked down at the dagger in Esturs belt, "and the lodestone from his dagger too."
The two men then began to search for Lucy, but after several hours they gave up. The farmer took the horse back to the distraught millers cottage and Dr. Maltravers rode to Cowes where he took a boat back to his home in Portsmouth.
* * * * * * *
A few weeks later Dr. Maltravers sat in his study researching for a class he was to take soon on medieval history when a name caught his eye.
He read on and his jaw slowly dropped. In 1297 one Lucy Lightfoot of Carisbrooke is recorded as having travelled with Edward Estur to the Palestine, whereupon she presented him with a jewel which he wore always thenceforth in his sword hilt. Estur had died a few years later, what happened to Lucy Lightfoot history didnt record. She was described as 'a fair maid in face and figure with a sunny nature and unexpected intelligence.
Maltravers sat back in his chair and took a big gulp from his cup of tea. It would seem a return trip to Gatcombe might be necessary after all . . . .
For The Love Of Lucy first appeared in IN FRONT Magazine in March 1999
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