WOMAN IN BLACK
(Susan Hill, retold by Margaret Tarner)
A Note About This Story
This story is set in England many years ago. At this time London often had fogs in the winter. This fog was a very thick, dirty mist. The fog mixed with the smoke from fires and factories. It was difficult to see or breathe in these fogs.
Arthur Kipps is the hero in this story. In Chapter 2, Arthur is twenty three years old. He is soon to be married. His fiancee, the woman he is going to marry, is called Stella.
Arthur works as a solicitor in London. He helps people with their legal business. For example, he writes the documents when land or buildings are bought or sold, he also prepares wills. These papers say who people want to give their money or property to when they die. When someone dies, the solicitor sometimes goes to their funeral. Later, the solicitor arranges for their money or property to be given to the dead person’s family.
1. Christmas Eve
My name is Arthur Kipps. When I was a young man, I worked in London. I was a solicitor. I worked for the same company all my life.
Fourteen years ago. I bought this house called Monk’s Piece. I live here with my dear wife Esme.
Fsme’s first husband had died. She was a widow when I married her. I became the father of her four young children. Our years at Monk’s Piece have been happy ones.
It was Christmas Eve. All the family was at Monk’s Piece for the holiday. We were all sitting by the big fire at the end of the day.
I was in my armchair, listening to the laughter and the talking.
‘Wake up, Father!’ someone called. ‘We’re going to tell ghost stories!’
The lights were turned off. Suddenly the room was dark and shadowy. I smiled as I listened to the young people’s stories. The stories were full of horror, but they did not frighten me. They were not true.
Then I remembered. I remembered terrible
things. These memories were terrible – because they were true!
‘Tell us a ghost story. Father!’ someone cried. ‘You must know one story!’
I stood up, cold and shaking.
‘No, no!’ I shouted. ‘I have no story to tell!’
I hurried from the room, away from them all. I went out into the garden. I stood there in the cold and in the darkness. My heart was beating fast. I was shaking with fear. Will I never forget? Will I never find peace?
How can I find peace? There is only one way. I must write clown my terrible story. All the horror. Everything. Then I will find peace.
I turned and walked back into the house.
Answer the following questions.
When and where was the scene laid in the story?
Who and what was Arthur Kippe?
What have you learned about Arthur’s family?
Why was Arthur not able to tell a ghost story?
2. London Fog
My story begins in November, many years ago. I was a young man of twenty-three. I worked for a solicitor called Mr Bentlev. Sometimes the work was uninteresting, but I worked hard. I wanted to do well.
That November morning, the weather was cold. A thick, yellow fog covered London. The fog filled people’s ears and eyes. It got into houses, shops and offices.
Mr Bentlev called me into his office.
‘Sit down, Arthur, sit down.’ Mr Bentley said. He pointed to a paper on his desk.
“This is the will of Mrs Drablow. Mrs Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House in Yorkshire. A strange old lady and a strange house. Have you ever been to Yorkshire, Arthur?’
‘Well, my boy, go home and pack your bag. Mrs Drablow is dead. She has no relatives in England. And we are her solicitors. I want you to go to the funeral.’