The Woman in the Cowl
Some folks tell a tale that is just a tale to entertain; a story that may or may not have bits of truth. Some folks tell a tale and do not know for certain if it was a memory or something cooked up by imagination or need but is triggered by a passing comment, a situation caught in the frame of time. A trigger.
I know a lady who swears this story is true.
Almost forty years ago in the month of March she and her husband planned to paint their small apartment to welcome the new season. It was an early spring, no sign of snow or even March winds, and a hint of a hot summer approaching. Gathering together all they needed they took brushes and rollers in hand and began their task.
Within a very short time their young son, only a few weeks old began to cry and spiked a fever. The woman told her husband the baby must be allergic to fresh paint. They could not stop what they were doing and the only answer was for the mother to take the baby somewhere for a couple of days. The young woman phoned her grandmother and asked if they might stay with them. The grandmother agreed and said one of the two guest bedrooms had a crib in it and they were more than welcome and that she would not be home but the grandfather would be.
The husband drove his wife to her grandmothers promising to finish the painting that day and would join her later in the evening.
The grandfather eagerly greeted them and served the lunch he had prepared. Mid afternoon the mother put the baby in the crib for a nap in the upstairs bedroom of the ancient house. It was evident to her that the old man was also ready for a nap as his eyes grew heavy, so she excused herself saying she would like a nap herself and climbed the old wood staircase to the second floor planning to read while baby and grandfather slept.
Checking on the infant who was sound asleep she closed the door to the room and lay on the bed to read. Within minutes she could hear the tell tale sound of someone pacing back and forth across the linoleum floor outside the door. She thought it strange, if it had been her grandfather coming up stairs she would have heard the creaking of the old staircase. She opened the door but no one was there. Closing the door again she lay down on the bed just to hear the pacing more frantic now.
Perhaps she had just not heard her grandfather coming upstairs. Checking the other bedrooms and the bathroom on the second floor she realized she was alone and decided to check the main floor. Her grandfather was sound asleep in his chair.
Returning to the bedroom she lay down again. This time she left the door open.
The afternoon progressed quietly and in due time the grandmother came home and preparation began for dinner. The young mother forgot about the strange events of the afternoon. When her husband arrived late evening and following more visiting and catching up the couple retired for the night.
About midnight the young woman awoke and sat up in bed. It wasn’t pitch dark as moonlight shone through the old lace curtains illuminating shadows. As she looked toward the crib at the foot of the bed to see if perhaps her son had stirred waking her she saw a dark form cross from the doorway to the crib. It appeared to be a woman shrouded in a long gray cloak with a cowl preventing sight of her face. She was small, perhaps about five feet in height and slim in spite of the cloak.
The woman went to the crib silently and leaned over the side. The mother realizing she was awake became frightened and screamed out. The dark woman’s head snapped up towards the sound and she disappeared.
Taking the baby into bed with them the couple slept till morning. When she told her grandmother about the strange occurrence during the night the grandmother gave reassurances that nothing in the house would ever hurt them.
Over the years the family related stories about their experiences with the woman in the cowl but no one expressed on going fear once they realized there was no threat to themselves, and while the woman continued to visit her grandparents regularly she never again stayed overnight.
I was that young mother. Whenever the memory surfaces I find myself feeling badly because I soon realized too late that the ghost, if that was what it was, just wanted to see the new baby.