A Demon in the Rough by Katherine Marcella
Tudor Ghost Story Contest Second place winner 2011
Soft lips pressing on my cheek woke me up. I opened my eyes slowly as Geoff moved in for a deeper kiss on my lips. I sighed happily but snuggled further under the warm down duvet. Geoff laughed and hoisted his golf clubs over his shoulder. “You know, Jen, if you were a good wife, you’d get up and come caddy for me.”
“Mmmmppph…if you were a good husband,” I murmured, already sinking back into sleep, “you wouldn’t leave me at dawn to play … some … silly … game.” I was asleep again before the door closed.
Three hours later I was fully awake and smiling at the thought that today would be my last full day in Scotland. Tomorrow we would leave for a second honeymoon in Italy. I whistled as I pulled a thick Shetland sweater over my head and ran a comb through my short blond hair. Just one more day as a golf widow. I could certainly amuse myself until dinner with activities that did not involve that game!
I’ve never understood the attraction of golf. It bores me. But I dutifully came along on Geoff’s annual “business conference”. All of his advertising agency partners are as golf-mad as he is and use their Scottish accounts as an excuse for a yearly excursion to St. Andrews. Long mornings of golf followed by long afternoons of business meetings were the norm. Most families skipped it entirely and stayed in New York, but I didn’t want to be separated from Geoff that long. After four days of shopping, I had pretty well exhausted all the antique stores in the area. That left nothing for today but sightseeing.
Thank goodness St. Andrews is small enough to be walkable, I thought as I left the hotel. I took a leisurely tour of the ruined cathedral, then lunched at a cafe where I contemplated the rest of the afternoon over a ham and Brie sandwich and a pot of strong tea.
It had been sunny and brisk when I started out. Now a chilly mist was creeping in off the North Sea. I was tempted to head back to the hotel for a hot bath, and an early start on packing. But our flight from Edinburgh wasn’t until tomorrow evening, so I had no need to hurry. Geoff’s birthday was coming up soon, maybe I could find him a golf-related present here. I had poked my head into a few gift shops here and there, but they all seemed very tourist-oriented: t-shirts, coffee mugs, and cheap plastic items. I was sure I could find a better quality shop around somewhere.
Lunch finished, I wandered around town until I spotted a store that looked exactly like what I wanted — a stone cottage set back from the others in a short alleyway. A weathered, hand-painted sign saying “Gifts” and decorated with a spray of thistles hung out on an iron rod over a lace-curtained window.
I pushed the door open and was greeted with a shower of tinkling bells. Two steps down and I was in a dusty room featuring tea pots and kettles, tartan scarves, and wood shelves bowed down heavily with pewter plates. The store looked as if it hadn’t had customers for years. I was still taking it in when an elderly lady bent over a rough-hewn cane hobbled in through a curtain behind what must be the sales counter. She had just managed to get free of the curtain before stopping and staring at me.
“Good day, lass, ye are nae from here.” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Oh, no. Hi. I’m Jennifer Walcott. I’m American, so I’m just visiting. My husband is here on business and to play golf, but I came along to look at antique furniture.” I stopped myself. She certainly didn’t want to know all that. I started again. “I meant to say, I’m here looking for a birthday present for him.”
“Your lad, he golfs then?”
“Oh, yes, that he does. He’s obsessed with it.” I sighed, bracing myself to be lead to the almost inevitable display of cheap tea cosies patterned with miniature golfers or key rings carrying golf charms.
“I hae what ye needs.” She leaned heavily on her cane and inched her way toward the cabinet of tartan scarves before turning to stare at me intently. I was about to ask if I needed to brush my hair or maybe wash my face, when she turned back to the cabinet and dug out a pretty blue and green scarf which she held up next to my face, rubbing it against my cheek. “Here, lass, I ken exactly what ye need, an’ wi’ it what he needs.”
She reached over to a short round table barely visible in the gloom behind a rack of tea pots and picked up something she concealed in her palm.
I wasn’t sure what to say. I hadn’t come in to buy anything for myself. The scarf was gorgeous though, the lambswool soft against my face. “How much?” I asked, wondering if I was supposed to bargain in stores like this or not.
“Nae much, lass,” she said hobbling back to the counter. “Five pounds.”
That was certainly reasonable. “And how much for that other…gift?” I asked uncertainly.
“Nae charge for it. Ye’ll suin learn its value.” She took my five pound note and wrote a receipt. “Hae ye been to the castle?”
“St. Andrew’s Castle?” I asked. “No, I haven’t had a chance to go there.”
“Go this efternuin, lass…’tis a good day for it. The Queen has a cottage there, ye know? They have antiques. Ye’d like that, nae?”
“The Queen?” I hadn’t heard that. “Queen Elizabeth has a cottage there that I could see?”
Her head shot up and she shot me a steely glare. “Wheesht, lassie! Elizabeth is nae queen here. Mary is our Queen!”
“Oh, okay,” I was taken aback. That must be something political I wasn’t aware of. “I’m sorry. Queen Mary it is.”
I smiled, and was rewarded with a smile back and a brown paper package wrapped loosely with twine shoved into my hands. I accepted it and she immediately — but slowly– led me toward the door. “Ye gang look for that cottage lass. Now be gane,” she said, guiding me up the stairs and out before closing the door in my face.
I walked back down the alley wondering what that had been about. At the corner I stopped, pulled the string off and tossed all the wrappings into a nearby trash container. In the folds of my new scarf was a small china figurine. It was no more than three or so inches tall, an Elizabethan lady in a black court gown with a delicate white filigree ruff and fancy headdress, her red hair just peeking through. I had to look closely to read the small neat lettering on the bottom: “A Demon in the Rough”.
That didn’t make any sense, and I couldn’t imagine Geoff having any interest in the thing, much less any need of it. At least it didn’t cost me anything. I dumped it in my shoulder bag. Today was just the day for the scarf though. I looped it around my neck.
Thick fog isn’t really my favorite weather for sightseeing. But the castle wasn’t far away. And it was still early afternoon. I walked up the coast to the visitor center, paid my entrance fee, and wandered through the ruins. The two guides I asked knew nothing about a Queen’s Lodge, so I eventually left the castle and headed back through some woods toward the hotel. The fog was swirling in thick drifts when I rounded a large tree and ran across a troupe of reenactors. I gaped at them in amusement.
Half a dozen women clad in 16th century clothing looked like they were preparing for a golf game. I laughed out loud at how ridiculous Geoff would find their golf bags — nothing more than cloth sacks they were dragging along the ground. I rummaged in my shoulder bag for my camera. Big mistake. The movement attracted their attention. One of them, a tall redhead pointed in my direction and yelled something that sounded like “cadet”. I wasn’t sure she meant me, but there wasn’t anybody else around me. I stood mutely until she crooked her arm and beckoned to me, yelling something in gibberish.
I felt like a complete idiot, but I started toward her. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand you? Do you speak English?” A blank stare. “Italiano?” I opened my hands in a gesture of total incomprehension.
It didn’t help. She looked me up and down, fingered my tartan scarf briefly, then said something I knew by the tone had to be derisive. All the other reenactors laughed as she shoved her bag of clubs at me. I wanted to shove them back at her, but I was too curious about what was happening. So I took the bag and slung it over my shoulder. The ladies vanished into the fog and I tried to follow them.
They were moving fast, and I had trouble keeping up though the bag wasn’t heavy. By the time they stopped, I was out of breath. The redhead laughed at me again and gestured that she wanted something from the golf bag. I just looked at her, and got an outburst of what I could only believe was a browbeating in a language I decided might be French.
“Look, I think you are asking for a particular club, but you’re asking the wrong person.” I held the sack of clubs up to her. “I don’t know much about golf to begin with, and I certainly don’t know what these clubs are called. They don’t look anything like my husband’s. I’m not the best person to help you with reenactment, but would you mind if I took a picture?”
She leaned toward me, her hands clenched in tight fists, and glared. Then evidently fed up at my obtuseness, she grabbed the bag from my hands and pulled a club out. I let the bag drop at my feet and watched as she assumed the familiar stance that Geoff called “addressing the ball”. The fog had lightened considerably by now, but I couldn’t make out a ball or a tee. And even the club she had grabbed seemed to be fading. I blinked my eyes to clear them as she pulled her arms back.
Before she could swing the now invisible club, a shout came from a short distance behind me. I couldn’t make out the words, but it sounded like a warning – or a threat. Before I could react, something struck my right temple causing a sharp pain, and I felt myself falling. The last thing I saw was the tall woman pointing and laughing at me.
I don’t know how long it was before I regained consciousness. The fog had lifted completely and I blinked my eyes into the afternoon sun. It didn’t seem very late. My temple was throbbing, and I touched it gingerly, surprised I couldn’t find a lump there. I was even more surprised to discover that that weird figurine was in my hand. I knew perfectly well it should be in my shoulder bag.
* * *
“Oh, really, Jen, you fell asleep under a tree and had a weird dream. With all the golf around here, it’s hardly surprising it was about golf, is it? I don’t know where the Elizabethan ladies came from, the castle maybe?” He laughed.
I had told Geoff what happened to me as soon as he returned that evening. But now, over a late salmon dinner, I wondered if he was right. Maybe I had dreamed the entire afternoon, even that odd gift shop.
“But…the scarf?” I had checked at the hotel desk that afternoon and they handed me a book of tartans. “My scarf is the Clan McLeod tartan. How would she know that?”
“You said you chatted with her. You must have mentioned your maiden name, and she found the right tartan for you. It’s hardly surprising she would know all the patterns.”
“No, I never gave her my maiden name. I just said I was Jennifer Walcott.”
Geoff shrugged and bit into an asparagus spear. “We should have good weather tomorrow night for the flight. Would you like to take a few days while we are in Rome and go up to Naples?” he asked. It couldn’t be more clear. He had lost interest and this topic was closed. He was probably right. I could have mentioned my name in the gift shop and forgotten it. This had just been a strange dream. My temple had stopped throbbing, and I never found a lump or bruise.
Geoff was still talking. “I know I promised I wouldn’t play golf tomorrow, but I would like to go to the golf museum in the morning. Why don’t you come with me? I’ll protect you from any weird lady golfers.” He laughed.
“Okay, okay,” I agreed. At least by this time tomorrow, we’d be out of Scotland.
True to my word, I accompanied Geoff to the British Golf Museum the next morning. While he was paying our admission fee, I spotted a picture on the wall, a woman in black Elizabethan dress. “Geoff!” I grabbed his arm. “That’s her! That’s the woman who was playing golf yesterday!”
Geoff stared at me incredulously. “That was really some dream. You do realize that’s Mary, Queen of Scots, and she’s been dead for over 400 years?”
“But she played golf, didn’t she?”
“Of course she played golf. She’s sometimes called the ‘Mother of Golf’.” I stared at the picture. Yesterday still stood out vividly in my mind. If that had been Mary, it was natural she would have been speaking French to me. She grew up in France and spoke that better than she did English.
“Cadet,” I said pronouncing the word she had called me. “Does that mean anything in golf?”
“Well, I don’t know how true the story is, but the word “caddy” is supposed to come from the French “cadet.” It would have been pronounced “cah-day”, though I suppose the feminine version could be “cadette”. He spelled it out and pronounced it just as I remember hearing it the previous day. “Hey, come over here,” he clasped my arm and steered me away from the picture. “There’s a great exhibit of bronze casts of hands of famous golfers clutching their clubs.”
The rest of the day sped by in a blur. I couldn’t put the experience out of my mind. I hadn’t been dreaming. I was still thinking about it late in the afternoon on the limo ride to Edinburgh. I held the strange little statue, fingering it lightly. Geoff’s gift? Was that what it really was supposed to be? He wouldn’t have any use for a figurine. But what had come of it? My getting caddy lessons from Mary, Queen of Scots, and failing so miserably she kicked me out before we played even one hole? I laughed to myself as I noticed we were driving past a golf course. Perfect. I tossed the figurine out the open window and watched as it disappeared in the rough grass bordering a fairway. Maybe somebody with more potential than I had would find it and be a worthy pupil.
Geoff, rummaging through business papers in his briefcase hadn’t noticed what I had done. I slid across the seat and leaned against his shoulder. “While we’re in Naples, let’s go out to Capri. I hear it’s a perfect place for a second honeymoon.” And with a little luck, I thought, golf would be the last thing either of us would be thinking about.