Tuesday, 4 December 2001

Tears for a Little Girl


I hate blogs.

Really, I do.

I prefer to write to people one on one. However, something happened to me recently and I wanted to share it with you.

It changed my life - just a little - and though it won't change yours, I hope that what I'm about to reveal will at least keep you entertained for a couple of minutes. That's all it will take to read this entry and let me share the memories of this day with you and the memory of a little girl who touched my heart.

This story comes to you from York in England. York is a fascinating city - steeped in history, friendly, fascinating, beautiful and with pub after pub after pub. In the two months that I've been here I've visited lots of interesting places and made many new friends.

Some nights ago I took part in a Ghost Walk. What's a Ghost Walk I hear you ask? Well, a Ghost Walk is when a large group of people meet at a particular place and time and are taken on walk around the city by a man or a woman who has guided that same walk hundreds, if not thousands of times before.

The guide entertains the crowd with stories of ghosts and ghouls, graves and goblins. Ghost Walks take place in York every night. Each walk lasts for around an hour and a half and costs about three pounds. It's a chance to soak up the history of York and see some of the most curious and often most infamous parts of this great city.

The Ghost Walk I joined - the Original Ghost Walk - started at about eight o'clock on a cold and foggy night in late November. The guide - a woman in her forties - told us lots of stories as she led us down narrow and cobbled streets, some of the stories were funny, some a little scary, some were sad.

There is one story I remember well. Even now I can recount it, almost word for word. The ghost part of the story doesn't really matter because the facts - the true, historical facts - were enough. They were enough to almost cause me to break down and cry amongst a group of strangers.

So. Let me tell you the story. And it won't cost you three pounds...

There is a house in York known to many as Plague House. It gets its name from the events that befell a little girl who lived in that house a long, long time ago.

I don't know the little girl's name and probably never will. All I know is that her parents were amongst those to be affected by the Black Death as it swept across Europe hundreds of years ago. (York was badly affected by the plague at regular intervals; In 1604, 3,512 people are known to have died before the plague hit York again in 1631). Both parents died and it was thought that this little girl would die, too.

So what the residents of York did was to board up the doors and windows of the house. But when they boarded up the house they left the little girl inside, alive, with the decaying bodies of her parents. Perhaps the locals left her some food. I don't know.

But I do know that the residents of York were scared. They were scared of catching the plague and they were sure that this little girl was doomed. So they boarded up the house and left her inside and completely alone. She was four years old.

There was one window of the house that wasn't boarded up. It was a window to a room at the top of the house. A window that I looked up at just a few nights ago.

Every day the locals would pass the house and they would see the girl, a pale little face, tapping at the window, asking for help, waving at children, smiling, crying, playing. No-one dared enter the house and so she was left there. Every day the girl would appear at the window, her face growing ever paler, until one day she was gone and the locals saw her no more.

Some time later, when the plague had passed, the locals entered the house to remove the bodies. They found the bodies of the mother and father but they couldn't find the body of the little girl. They eventually found her, in the top room, but she hadn't died of the plague. She had died of starvation.

Somehow she had not contracted the plague or she had recovered and she had survived there, for weeks, with the bodies of her parents. Eventually she had died because she had nothing to eat. And nobody had the courage to enter the house to help her. She was forgotten.

As I wrote, the ghost part of the story doesn't really matter because I feel the facts are enough. If the ghost part of the story is to be believed, then there was eventually a happy ending over a century later when the house was blessed by a priest. If you would like to hear the ghost story, just let me know and I will publish it here.

I wanted to share the story of Plague House and the story of this lonely and forgotten girl with you because it touched me a great deal.

As I stood there outside the house, looking up at the window, I could almost imagine her little face and how awful her last weeks on this earth must have been.

I didn't want to simply forget her and move on with my life, getting lost again in the routine of my day to day existence. That's why I wanted to share the story with you. This entry is for her. Now the memory of this little girl lives within you, too.

As I add this entry to my blog, years have passed since that day and York is a distant memory to me now, as are many of the people that I met amongst its old and cobbled streets. But this story and that night will remain with me forever, as will the memory of a little girl who I hope has found peace, wherever she is.

Thanks for reading this.

From the memory box of a Professional Englishman.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

i have also been on a goust walk in york and was told about that fimmiliar house. but what you have not mentioned is that the house was recently bought and the bedroom with the box window, also known as where the little girls stood, is a little boys bedroom. and 1 night whilst his mum was tucking him in he piped up "mummy dont let that little girl sit on my bed again please" and doing what any good mother would do is she took him downstairs and made him tell her the whole story. it had gone on for almost 2 weeks and he talking to the little girl if not comforting her. but now that 1 bedroom they have converted it into a GUEST BEDROOM. i dont think they eill be expecting any visitors soon!

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London, ENGLAND, United Kingdom
This is me. Read a few entries and they will tell you more about me than I can fit into these few paragraphs. Many of these entries started their lives as mass emails. That was before I discovered blogs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my life. Both a work in progress.