There is a popular shop on the Shambles in York that sells little ceramic ghosts. You can’t walk far in that ancient neighborhood without realizing that ghosts are a big business with the tourists. But I didn’t know about the fairies in York, until I stumbled upon them one summer morning while walking along the bank of the River Foss.
Although I never actually saw any fairies, it could have been because they were asleep among the blackberries. While I would never intentionally disturb them, I certainly wasn’t tempted to look for them and risk getting tangled up in the thorns. Nevertheless, they seemed to go all out to make visitors feel welcome, even if they were not there to greet anyone personally.
The fairies had placed informational signs on the ground, leaning against the trees. Sometimes a plaque was hung on a trunk a few inches up from the base. I suppose that was as high as a tall fairy could reach while standing on a ladder. As I made my way along the riverbank, I enjoyed reading about the magical properties of the plants that grew there. I learned a lot that day.
The East Webburn River flows through the ancient, picturesque village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, past the Rugglestone Inn, and through the vast land holdings of the fictional family of Joseph Buckleigh, the hero of the historical novel A Moon Garden, by Roxane Gilbert. When his tour of duty in the American War for Independence comes to an end, Joseph returns to his ancestral home in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, to heal and resume his life.
Joseph’s eyes sparkled as he smiled. “I will tell you something right now that is as sincere as anything you will hear today. I am going to strip off all of my clothes and plunge my body into that very cold stream over there on the other side of the hedge. There is nothing I would like better than for my wife to get some clean clothes from my brother, and a sheet in which I may wrap myself when I come out of the water. Now, if you can present these to me in five minutes, I would be most appreciative.” With that, Joseph pulled off his shirt, dropped it on the ground, then ran in the direction of the creek.
It was not Grace who stood on the bank when Joseph finished bathing. He laughed when he saw Russell Jayne, now a captain with the Royal Army, sitting on a moss-covered rock. Russell threw him the sheet. “Good Lord, Buckleigh. What I must endure for King and country.”
It is July 4, 1778. The British Army’s 33rd Regiment of Foot has returned to the New York colony, after sustaining heavy losses in the horrific Battle of Monmouth.
“It was a warm day with a mild breeze in Manhattan. Joseph sat under a tree in the meadow at the end of Broadway, cleaning his musket. As Colonel Eades had foreseen, now that Joseph was back in New York, he was finding time to rest. He reflected on the tough battles he had been through with his regiment. When they left England and arrived in the colonies in 1776, they numbered nearly 500. In two years, the 33rd had lost close to a quarter of its men.
“… Joseph closed his eyes and envisioned the raven-haired beauty with the pale complexion, clear green eyes, and bright smile. The two of them were together, laughing, walking across the ancient rough-granite footbridge over the rushing River Dart, then running up a hill to stroll hand-in-hand on the vast, misty moor.”