THE HAUNTING OF HILLCREST MANOR book 1

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Chapter 16

It was early in the morning when Elizabeth woke. She instantly got up and dressed wanting to see Sarah before she went downstairs. “Sarah, are you okay?” She asked, as she entered her room.

Sarah as usual was sitting in her bed. She gave Elizabeth a big smile. “It’s gone now … right?” She said in a small voice which only Elizabeth could understand.

“Yes. It’s gone now, forever!”

“I knew it … I couldn’t feel its presence anymore. I am so glad you’re here, Elizabeth. If you hadn’t come ….”

“Well, I am here now, thanks to you. Sarah … how did you ever find me? London is very far away, you know. And what made you look for me there? It’s hard to believe you were capable of traveling such far distances.” Elizabeth said, as she sat down on the bed next to Sarah.

“I really didn’t know where to look at first. But then … I came into contact with an old gypsy woman.”

“You made contact with the gypsy?” She asked, incredibly.

“I hadn’t even met her yet … so how could she tell you where to find me?” Elizabeth said, in shocked, disbelief.

“The gypsies were passing through the village one day … and they set up camp for the night. That’s when I made contact with her. She saw me in her crystal ball … so I explained to her what was going on here and if she could please help us.” Sarah explained, as she began re-living their conversation.

“I am sorry… Sarah. The gypsy replied.

“My abilities are not strong enough, alone. But … I see a woman … in my crystal ball … she lives in London. She does possess the powers to help you.”

“I don’t know if I can reach her. It’s so far … away.” Sarah said, dejectedly.

“I see it very clearly now … you will make contact with her… and she will come.”

“That’s the only time I had any contact with her. I so hoped she was right. That’s when I started looking for you, in London. I was very surprised though, that I could actually travel that far from home. I kept searching and searching, and then one night … I came to your bedroom … and you spoke to me! I was so excited. The gypsy woman was right. I did find you.”

“Yes, you surely did.” Elizabeth said, now understanding why Sarah had come to her. The gypsy woman had foreseen it.“You know Sarah, that when I went to the gypsy carnival, she had looked at me as if she knew me. It didn’t make any sense at the time, but now it does.” Elizabeth stood up and walked over to the door and then turned to face Sarah.

“I need to go downstairs to help your father with your grandmother’s funeral arrangements. “Are you going to be okay, now?”

“Yes … but… there’s something troubling me,” she said, her expression was grim now.

“Oh, honey. What’s the matter? What’s bothering you?” She said, walking back to stand by the bed.

“It’s my … mother … I can’t find her. I’m so worried about her.”

Elizabeth looked down at her small, fragile face. “I know you have been visiting with her … all along, out in the forest.”

“Yes I have. But now … I can’t find her. I’m so afraid something bad had to have happened to her.”

“Nothing bad has happened to her, Sarah,” she was quick to say, trying to put the child’s mind at ease. “Yesterday … I helped your mother, crossover. She’s in heaven now.”

Sarah stared at Elizabeth while her words sunk in. Relief flooded her face.

“Oh, that makes me so happy, knowing she’s safe and where she’s supposed to be.”

“Now young lady, you need to get your rest. I will visit with you later this afternoon.” With that said, she turned and left the room, now anxious to find Nicholas. When she reached the first floor, she saw Louise and asked her if she knew where Nicholas was.

“He’s gone to the village to get Parson Davis and several pallbearers for his grandmother’s funeral today. I’m sure he’ll be returning soon. Your breakfast is waiting for you out on the terrace, if you’re ready to eat, mum.”

“That I am, most definitely.” She replied, as she headed off toward the terrace to eat her breakfast and wait for Nicholas to return home. It wasn’t a long wait before she heard him enter the Manor House. She quickly made her way to meet him.

“Good morning, Elizabeth. This is Parson Davis.” The Parson nodded his head at the introduction. “And these good fellows are here to be pallbearers.” Again she nodded her head. “If you are ready, my dear. I would like to get on with it.” He walked into the parlor with the gentlemen following. They all took the seats that had been set up for the service. Parson Davis asked everyone to bow their heads as he opened up his bible and began reading several passages from it. He ended it with an Amen. The men came forward and gently picked up his grandmother’s coffin and with the Parson in the lead they made their way out to the family cemetery. There, they placed the coffin down into the newly dug grave. They all stood in silence, as the men filled it in with the dirt that was next to it.

Now Parson Davis asked everyone to bow their heads once again as he read a few more passages from his bible. Then he put up his hand and said: “May the lord bless you and keep you, Mary Blackwood, for all eternity.” He then asked if anyone else wanted to say anything to the deceased.

Nicholas stepped up. He lowered his head again and spoke aloud. “I am sorry grandmother that I never got to know you while I was growing up. And that your young life ended … in such a horrific way. You didn’t deserve to die like that. No one does. Then … to never have had your body laid to rest with a proper burial …. Now, finally you can rest in peace.”

When he had finished, Parson Davis asked everyone to bow their heads once again and join him in saying the Lord’s Prayer. When they all said, Amen, the service was over. Everyone headed back to the Manor House with the exception of Nicholas and Elizabeth. He wasn’t ready to leave yet. He hadn’t been in the cemetery since his wife died. It was too painful for him. Now he was ready to visit his wife’s grave. They started with his grandfather, whose grave was to the left of his grandmother. They read the inscription on the headstone: John Blackwood. Born: May 4, 1744 - Died: June 17, 1786. Then came the grandmother, whom they just buried. Mary Blackwood. Born: March 1, 1745 – Died: April 2, 1768. To her right was his father. Henry Blackwood. Born: August 17, 1764 – Died: July 13, 1814. And the last headstone in the row was his mother. Anne Blackwood. Born: January 5, 1765 – Died: November 14, 1804.

The next row started with Nicholas Blackwood. Born: October 5, 1785 – Died: ________.

“As you can see, I’m still alive,” he joked, causing Elizabeth to laugh. Beside his was his wife. “Margaret Blackwood. Born: February 15, 1787 – Died: July 27, 1816.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Nicholas. She was in the prime of her life when she died. It had to have been so very hard to have lost her.”

“Yes … it was.” He said, with a single tear trickling down his cheek.

He took in his breath as they moved slowly to the final headstone. Sarah Blackwood. Born: September 13, 1806 – Died: August 1, 1816. Nicholas’s mouth dropped open when he read the inscription. “Died: August 1, 1816. How can that be … Sarah’s not dead? She’s upstairs in her bedroom. I visit her as often as I can. “Someone … had to have inscribed this in error!”

“Nicholas,” Elizabeth said, quietly. “It’s not an error. Sarah … died five days after your wife.”

“No … that’s impossible! I don’t believe you.”

“Your wife died instantly in the carriage accident. But Sarah … had barely survived the crash. She was taken upstairs to her bedroom where she lived for another five days. Her injuries were just too extensive for her to have lived any longer. She was then laid to rest here, next to her mother.”

“If what you say is true then … who’s upstairs in her bedroom?” He asked, still in denial of his daughter’s death.

“It is Sarah’s spirit.”

Nicholas broke down with the news that his daughter had passed away. He pulled Elizabeth into his arms and laying his head on her shoulder. Quietly sobbing over her death. They stayed there for quite some time before heading back to the Manor House.

“One thing I still don’t understand … why does Louise take her up her meals every day? She can’t eat them, can she?”

“No, spirits can’t eat.” She replied.

“I think Louise does that for your sake. She knew you still believed Sarah was still alive so she just went through the motions of taking a tray of food up to her. And then later, fetching the untouched tray back downstairs.”

“Well, I can understand Louise doing that but … explain to me about the governess’s. When I hired them, I brought them out here and introduced them to Sarah. Like I did with you. So … why did they accept the position if Sarah had already passed away? Answer me that, will you!”

“I would think the young ladies needed the position to help support their families. They probably just went along with you because of the money.”

“So, you’re telling me that when I would introduce them to Sarah, who wasn’t really there, that they just pretended to see her?”

“Yes. Most likely they did.”

“Oh my god! To think what they thought of me? That I was seeing my daughter… that wasn’t even there? I must have sounded like I had lost my mind!”

“Or a grieving father.” She added, quietly.

“You always make things sound so sensible.“Now explain to me why they never stayed very long? If there wasn’t a child to take care of, it would be easy money. They wouldn’t have to do anything.”

“You’re forgetting that this house was haunted. That’s why they all left. They were terrified. Easy money or not … the evil spirit sent them packing. Never to return to this place again.” With that said, they walked the rest of the way in silence.

When Louise saw them enter into the Manor House, her heart went out to Nicholas. She knew Elizabeth would have showed him Sarah’s grave. It was time for him to face the fact that his daughter had died several years ago from the accident. He wouldn’t believe that she had died. He just pretended in his own mind that she was still alive, up in her bedroom. He would bring governess after governess to stay with her. But they never stayed very long after he would leave and go back to London. The evil spirit that lived in this house would scare them so badly they left screaming out the front door. Not until he brought Elizabeth here. She was different than the others. Louise thought to herself. No matter how hard the evil spirit tried, he couldn’t frighten her away. She actually grew stronger, determined to rid this house of the evil presence that had been here for so many years. Now that it’s gone, maybe Nicholas can finally find happiness again with Elizabeth. She saw how he looked at her. They were meant to be together.

***

As they entered the hallway Nicholas saw Louise and stopped her.“Has Parson Davis and the pallbearers left yet?”

“No, Sir. They are waiting for you in your study.” She replied. “They are getting very impatient to leave but I told them I would have you go to the study as soon as you returned from the cemetery.”

“Very good. I’ll go speak with them, immediately.” He said, and then turned to Elizabeth.

“My dear, if you would wait for me on the terrace, I will join you shortly.” He released her hand that he had been holding. Then disappeared into the study. “Parson Davis that was a wonderful service you held. I know my grandmother was watching from heaven, and was very pleased.”

“Thank you … Nicholas. That’s very kind of you to say.”

Nicholas walked to the other side of his desk and pulled out his coin purse. He handed the Parson and pallbearers a few coins from it. “I want to thank you again, Parson for such a wonderful service, I know you didn’t have much time to prepare.” He said, as he escorted the men out the front door. With that done, he made his way to the terrace where Elizabeth would be waiting for him. Louise had already brought their lunch out when he sat opposite Elizabeth.

“Are they gone, now?” She asked, looking at him.

“Yes, they have. Why haven’t you started eating?” He asked, noticing she hadn’t touched anything on her plate.

“I was waiting for you, Nicholas. It would have been very rude of me to have started without you.”

“Oh Elizabeth. We don’t have to stand on ceremony with each other,” he said, but he felt pleased inside that she had waited for him. “There is something I have wanted to ask you all day, but it didn’t seem proper to do so,” he said, quietly.

She looked at him with an inquisitive expression on her face. “What is it?”

“Remember what I asked you the other night?” He waited for a moment before continuing. “The question I asked you.” Elizabeth thought to herself. Her emotions were all over the place right now with his grandmother’s funeral and having to deal with another evil spirit.“I asked you to marry me!” He blurted out, getting impatient with her silence.

“Oh! I … haven’t had much time to think about it.”

“What! Not enough time! How much time do you need to just say, yes?”

Her eyes grew large as she looked at him. “Yes … Nicholas. I will marry you.” After answering him, she lowered her head in embarrassment. How could she have forgotten his marriage proposal? The day has been quite emotional. With burying his grandmother. And then to see his daughter’s headstone. For the first time Nicholas had to face the truth, that his daughter Sarah, died two years ago.

“I’m sorry, Elizabeth. I didn’t mean to sound so … harsh. I feel like my whole life has been turned upside down. But the one real thing in it … is you.”

She was touched by the sincerity of his words.“Nicholas, I have felt like that my whole life. I never really had any friends. I did have schoolmates but … they all made fun of me, because I was different.”

He got up from his seat and walked around the table, drawing Elizabeth up into his arms. He held her so tight she could hardly breathe. “I love you just the way you are. If it wasn’t for you … and your abilities, this house would still be haunted. And … my family members would be held captive for all of eternity. Never being able to rest in peace.”

“Nicholas, there still is one family member still trapped here. Your daughter.”

He stepped back enough so he could see her face.“Sarah. My beloved … Sarah. I’m just not ready to let her go yet? Does that make me sound … like I’ve lost my mind?”

“No, Nicholas. You loved your daughter so much, you didn’t want to let her go. But it’s time. She needs to crossover and she’ll need our help.”

“I don’t understand. What do you mean by our help?”

“Sarah … doesn’t know … she died. She believes that she survived the carriage accident and was left crippled and mute.”

“What? How can someone die and not know it? That just doesn’t make any sense to me, at all. Are you sure of this? How could she not know, looking at her hands or feet? Wouldn’t she see they weren’t there, anymore?”

“Sarah sees what she wants to see. Just like you do, when you visit her in her bedroom. It’s the same thing.”

“So now what do we do?” He said, in frustration. He didn’t know how much more he could deal with.

“We’ll have to explain to her that her body had been so severely injured that she died five days after her mother. But for some reason, her spirit remained trapped here on this earthbound plane.”

“And you really think she’s going to believe that?” He said, shaking his head, doubtfully.

“I think I can convince her of it. She knows her mother isn’t in the forest any longer. And she was really worried about her. I explained to her this morning that the reason she couldn’t find her mother was that she had now crossed over into heaven.”

“I know you’re right but … this is just so hard … for me. I didn’t even know she was dead until earlier today out in the cemetery. It’s all been such a shock.”

She reached out her hand and placed it in his. “We need to go upstairs to Sarah’s room now, Nicholas.”

He nodded his head in agreement as they walked together, hand in hand up to the second floor. They paused for a moment and knocked on Sarah’s door, and then entered. “Sarah?”

“Yes, father,” she replied.

“We’ve come to speak with you about something … important.”

“What is it?” She replied, sitting up in the bed.

“You’re leaving again … aren’t you? Please don’t go father, please ….”

Elizabeth walked over quickly and sat next to her on the bed. “No, Sarah. Your father isn’t leaving. There is something I need to tell you. Do you remember the carriage accident?”

“Yes, how could I ever forget that day? It was horrible. Please Elizabeth … do we really have to talk about it?”

“Yes, it’s important, honey.” Elizabeth said, knowing that this was going to be harder than she thought. “Can you tell me everything you remember about that day?”

“Well … mother and I were riding in the carriage to our new home, and father was on his horse ahead of us.” She paused for a moment. “Suddenly, something frightened the horses and they bolted. The carriage was moving so fast … I think I was screaming and then the carriage flipped over and crashed into a large tree. Mother … was covered in blood. I kept calling to her, but … she didn’t answer. And then there was a haze. I could hear father’s voice … then total blackness.”

“Oh Sarah, I hate to put you through this, but it’s really important.” Sarah looked up at Elizabeth with such sadness that all she wanted to do was wrap her up in her arms and comfort her. But, she knew she couldn’t do that. “What’s the next thing you remember?”

“I was here in my bed. People kept coming in and out. I tried to talk to them but no one seemed to hear me. The pain was so bad, Elizabeth, I couldn’t stand it.”

“I know it had to be, honey,” she replied, with sympathy in her voice. Then what do you remember?”

“Father was sobbing next to my bed … I didn’t know why he was so upset. The pain had gone completely away. He should have been happy … not sad.” She looked at her father, who was now standing next to her bed. “He still looks so sad. I don’t understand why, Elizabeth?”

“Sarah, when you didn’t feel the pain anymore… your body had died but your spirit remained here for whatever reason.” She looked over at Sarah to see if she was understanding what she was saying.

Sarah sat quietly now, thinking about what Elizabeth just told her. “Is that why no one hears me … except for you?”

“Yes, honey, it is.”

“The pain was so awful, Elizabeth, and it kept getting worse. Nothing they did for me helped. I was so happy … when the pain went away. Is that when I died?”

“Yes honey, when a person dies, they feel no more physical pain or anguish. A bright light comes for them, to take them to heaven.”

“How come I didn’t see the light? Was I a bad person and the light didn’t want to come for me?” She asked, with tears running down her face.

“No …no Sarah. You were still needed here on earth. If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t have known about the hauntings that were going on here at Hillcrest Manor. It was you who found me, in London. Now that your purpose here on earth has been completed, it’s time for you to crossover. Your mother is waiting for you in heaven.”

“Yes … I can hear her now. She’s in the light, calling me to join her there.”

“Is there anything you want to say to your father before you go?”

“Tell him … I love him.”

Elizabeth turned to Nicholas. “She wants me to tell you she loves you.”

“Tell her … I love her and miss her terribly.

“She can hear you, Nicholas. You can tell her, yourself.”

Nicholas looked at the small, fragile spirit sitting on the bed.

“Sarah, I love you and miss you so much. I’m glad you will be with your mother, again.”

The light that Sarah saw was getting brighter, now. It came down all around her. She was looking up, smiling.

“Thank you, Elizabeth for all your help,” she said, and then the light disappeared, and Sarah went with it.

Nicholas took Elizabeth in his arms. “I don’t know how I could ever repay you for what you have done for my family.” He whispered, hoarsely before his lips came down on hers.

They can now finally live in peace for all eternity. Or can they?

THE END

CONTINUE THE SAGA OF ELIZABETH AND NICHOLAS IN THE EXCITING SEQUEL

“THE RETURN OF THE BEAST”

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