Today, we have a guest with us, sharing a beautiful Christmas ghost story. Sofia is a very talented writer who is also passionate about nature. Her speciality are local myths and stories. Especially for us, she wrote a Christmas story that is perfect to read to your family on Christmas Eve.
The chapel in the pond
With a sigh of relief, the travelling merchant takes off his heavy load. He puts his case with merchandise in a corner of the inn and takes a seat at the long dining table, between a drunken whore and a shabby old man. The company could be better, he thought, but he sure was glad to be inside.
It was a chilly day in December, and he had travelled a long way, starting in Ellecom along the river IJssel, to this inn just outside Brummen. Inside the inn it is warm and noisy. Cast iron chandeliers with dripping candles hang from the ceiling beams. A musician is playing his accordion, the whore sings along with a surprising good voice. The hostess serves stew and beer.
“Cheers,” says the shabby old man as he lifts his glass of brandy. “Are you far from home, this close to Christmas?” the merchant lifts his mug in reply. “Not too far, I’m heading for Zutphen. If I keep up my pace, I’ll be home in time for the midnight mass. How about you?” The old man lets out a hoarse laugh. “No, no, no, I am a farmer. Farmers don’t travel. Who would milk the cows? I live out there, on a farm by the river.” The old farmers points outside, but the dark window only shows reflections of candle light. “Near the river?” asks the merchant, “Wasn’t there a flood just a while ago?” “Oh, it wasn’t too bad. My farm is built on a mound. Besides: the cows warned me the water was coming. I had plenty of time to prepare. No, this was nothing compared to the horrible flood fifty years ago…” the old farmer gestures the hostess to bring him two more brandies; one for him and one for the merchant. He leans back and gazes down his memory.
“Fifty years ago, almost to the day. It was the night before Christmas. The weather was dreadful and the river was high. The water came right up to the rim of the levee. Yet, the pious people of Brummen all went to the midnight mass. All the churches were full, even the chapel near the levee. During the mass a thunderstorm broke loose, the wind rose higher. A fat branch broke loose from the oak tree next to the chapel and chattered a stained glass window. the altar was covered with colorful pieces of glass. The preacher clamored Our Father when the beams began to creak. The people panicked and tried to leave. It was too late. The levee had broken. Black water gushed through the gap and tore down the whole building. The next day, there was no trace to be found of the chapel. There was nothing left, but a deep pond. Since that day, every Christmas eve, singing can be heard from the depths of the pond where the chapel once stood.”
Many brandies and stories later, the merchant stumbles to bed.
It is almost noon when the merchant finally wakes up the next day with a terrible hangover. He curses, gathers his belongings and heads out without breakfast. His family will be very disappointed if he arrives late for mass. His case weighs heavy on his back. Every step echoes painfully in his head. He stops several times to overcome a fit of nausea. He is not making a lot of progress at all. He is not even half way when the sun starts to set. Damn his immoderacy and damn the old farmer with his stupid stories. He struggles on along the darkening levee.
Far away bells start ringing. He is now officially late. Dispirited, he sits down on his case and stares down at the water of a dark pond. The depth starts to sparkle. The merchant rubs his eyes. Is he still not over this hangover? But the sparkles grow brighter and set the pond in a glowing light. He peers down the water. Now he can hear singing. Dozens of clear voices rise up from the deep water. The merchant folds his hands and clears his throat. With an unsteady voice he joins in on this ghostly mass.
To read more from Sofia, visit her (Dutch) website.