The Battle at Ballantyne Manor
Martha struggled to move her massive bulk up the curved stairway. ‘Oh Lord but if these stairs don’t get steeper every year,” she puffed as she leaned on the railing for support. Why had she let Sassy take the good mistress’s silver pendant upstairs to begin with? Slowly she made her way upward, groaning with the effort.
Meanwhile a small gray creature scurried from beneath the heavy oak bed and headed for the wardrobe on the south wall of the little master’s sunny bedroom. The night before, he had found a delicious chunk of sweetbread amongst papers on the floor of the wardrobe but was obliged to flee when the upstairs maid came to prepare the room for the night.
Now he was hoping to find that she’d had no time to clean up his feast. More than one promising snack had disappeared through the actions of misguided and over zealous humans. But this was a good time…the children were occupied in the classroom and the maids were busy elsewhere. Old Martha was probably dozing in her chair by now. She seldom bothered to make the attempt to gain the second floor anymore.
Good thing. He had heard the stories passed down through the mouse generations. In her younger days (so he’d been told) she had been one mean rodent chaser with that big old straw broom of hers. According to mouse folklore she had been the death of an untold number of his ancestors.
Pausing to catch her breath at the top of the stairway, Martha heard the rustling of papers coming from Master Timothy’s bedroom. Her heart seemed to beat even faster as she reached for the broom that had been carelessly left against the wall. For once she didn’t feel the usual sense of irritation she had toward the folks who didn’t bother to put stuff away.
“There’s somebody in that precious child’s room,” she muttered under her breath. Just at that moment the sun disappeared behind a cloud, closely followed by a loud clap of thunder. The faithful old servant jumped at the sound, and the dread that she had felt in her breast since the day she arrived at the manor half a century before spread through her being. “Oh, Lord,” she gasped in a whisper. “I knew this place was haunted! I knew it, I knew for all these years!”
She hesitated for only a moment. Then placing her trust in the Lord she had served for so long, she pushed her fear down and fairly toppled into the room, swinging her broom every which way. She looked wildly around, searching for the ghostly intruder. Instead what she saw was a small gray mouse, now running wildly in her direction.
“Eek, eek, eeeeeek!” Squeaking madly and totally disoriented, the terrified critter raced spot on toward Martha, ran between her slipper-clad feet and across the room.
“EEEEK! AHHEEEEEEEEEEEK!” shrieked Martha. But startled and frightened though she was, she took aim at the departing rodent. She barely missed him as he disappeared back under the bed to safety.
Dropping heavily into the nearest chair, she placed her head in her shaking hands and did the thing she did best. “Oh, thank you, Lord, thank you,” she prayed. “Thank you it wasn’t a ghost.”
Martha was thankful it was not a ghost but merely a tiny gray mouse. And a tiny gray mouse was thankful as well. He was thankful for the God-given instinct that had saved him from the wrath of Martha’s broom.
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