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The Curious Case of Cold Tom

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An excerpt from a 1920 children's book titled, "An Impasse at Waywickshire; and Other Tales of Impossible Truths."

Sadly, only a few copies of this book remain, probably. I was only lucky enough to find a copy amongst my grandmother's old things in the closet upstairs.

Author of this tale is Arthur Holmeswick.


In the later part of the 14th century, in about 1360 or so, there lived a landowner called Waywick, in England in the area currently known as Cheddar who came into possession a singular sort of servant.

Of course, servants of this time were of a different sort of importance than servants as we know them today, but this servant was especially peculiar, mainly for the reason that Waywick did not have any servants aside for the one that mysteriously appeared in his workshop one afternoon, long after tea.

Waywick’s eldest daughter was the first to notice the presence of the new man, and first having thought him a customer (though, in all honesty, a queer sort of customer he would make, and an even queerer servant as she would soon discover), and informed him that Waywick had departed ahead of his family for Massachusetts.

Cold Tom, as he would ask to be called, looked up from where he was sitting at Waywick’s workbench and told the girl that he was Waywick’s servant, and would be living with them for whatever period as Waywick say fit.

And thus Cold Tom came to live with the Waywicks. Cold Tom ended up being a curious breed of servant, something of a combination of butler, footman, coachman, and general man-of-business. Mr. Waywick consulted Tom for a numerous tasks, much more, his family thought, than he should have ought to.

But then, Tom always had a curious sort of pull around him, not least of because of his rather strange appearance. Tom was rather tall, and excessively thin, and his too-large head was swamped with a great mass of downy blond hair.

His face was half over with a strawberry mark he claimed he’d had since birth, and contrasted wildly with his eyes, which twinkled a blue-green, and stood out in the night, like pinpricks of St. Elmo’s fire.

But despite his strangeness, Tom was never disloyal to Waywick, and did his very best to serve the man in every thing. His only fit of temper came when he destroyed a pot lain carelessly upon his hand by Waywick’s daughter Margareta, both of which were long and thin and fragile, and no-one could hardly fault him for being cross.

Then, on the morning of April 4, in the late part of the 1360's, Mrs. Waywick came home to find a cabinet in the kitchen where no cabinet had been before.

It was, Tom explained when she asked, a magical cabinet. He had thought, he explained, it very cruel of Mr. Waywick not to grant his wife a restful place to stay instead of working all day. He had often begged Waywick, he explained, to be more forgiving to his wife.

Mrs. Waywick wanted to know where the cupboard led. Oh, to a magical place where all care was lifted from your shoulders, and as long as you stayed, you could live in complete and utopic happiness, and that Mrs. Waywick should see for herself.

Mrs. Waywick did not know what utopic meant, but asked if her husband knew of this.

Cold Tom replied that but of course he did! And seeing the errors of his ways, had asked Tom especially to find it for Mrs. Waywick.

Oh! Then it was alright then. Said Mrs. Waywick, and went into the cupboard.

A total of 137 people disappeared into the cupboard that afternoon, never to be seen again by any English man or woman, including Mr. Waywick, his middle and youngest daughter, the nurse, eight of his neighbors, most of the town’s children, the parish priest, and several of his brothers and sisters.

Only Waywick’s eldest daughter, Mary, did not go in, and told the King’s men, when they were informed of the matter, what had happened. “My father entered some time ago, to try to persuade the people to leave the cupboard. He has not come back out.”

But of Cold Tom, no trace could be found.

And I must not omit to say that in 1914, an archaeological dig was conducted in the northern part of England, on the craggy coastal region, on what appeared to be the site of a town of prehistoric origin, where the team members found, under two stones laying against one another, stairs leading down into the earth.

In a subterranean room of about twenty feet long by sixteen feet wide, they found a over a hundred corpses, all bearing markers of having lived nearly some six-hundred years ago, all sitting with their knees drawn up to their chins, and their arms wrapped about their legs.

Aside for the sheer scale of bodies found, and the curious positions they were found in, the only thing the archaeological team could not account for, however, was the apparent recentness of their deaths. Which, to all intents and purposes, was only several days before hand.


Written by Arthur Holmeswick

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