The sexton hung the lantern up at the entrance to the Edgcumbe vault. The shadows cast by the dancing light seemed as if the graves were opening and ghosts were coming out. He gulped then steadied himself. He went down the step into the cold tomb. He found the coffin of Lady Mary Edgcumbe where he put her, in the empty slot in the family vault that morning.
The young mistress of the house had died in the week from no apparent cause. One morning she had failed to wake up. The master was distraught. They hadn’t been married long. He ordered she be buried in her wedding costume, including her ring.
The sexton had seen the beautiful ring with its large stone on Lady Mary’s hand as he had put her in the coffin. “You won’t be needing this where you’re going, my lady,” he thought to himself and vowed to come back that very night to get it.
Now here he was, in the cold dark vault with only the light from his lantern to keep the shadows away. He pulled Lady Mary out from her niche in the wall, opened her coffin and tried to get her ring off.
He pulled and twisted, pressed and pinched, but it wouldn’t come off. In the end he decided to cut her finger off and take the ring that way. He got out his knife and began sawing away.
Suddenly blood began to pour out of the wound and the corpse sat upright in her coffin. She opened her eyes. The sexton screamed, dropped his knife and scrambled up the steps into the graveyard, not stopping to collect his lantern, running for home as if all the spirits in the world were after him. He packed his bags and disappeared in to the night.
Lady Mary climbed out of the coffin and followed the sexton out of the vault. She took the lantern and walked on to Cotehele House. All the doors were locked against the night. She tapped on the windows and cried to be let in. The servants thought she was a ghost and refused to let her in. She made her way to her husband’s study and tapped on his window.
Her husband, hearing her voice, opened the door, expecting to see a ghost. She fell into his arms, bleeding from the cut on her finger, very much alive.
retold by Liz Berg