The Baron did just as he said he would. He was ringing the doorbell at the break of dawn.
A servant showed him into the hallway where he was met by her father.
“Is the young lady ready to go? I’m in a hurry now because it’s a long way out to Hillcrest Manor and I need to get an early start if I want to be there before sundown.”
As Elizabeth descended down the stairs she could hear the conversation going on between the Baron and her father. How sure he was that she would accept his offer, she thought to herself.
“Well Elizabeth, you are packed and ready to go aren’t you?” Her father asked, when she walked up to them.
“Yes father, I am ready to go.” She didn’t say another word to either of the two men standing in front of her.
Her father gave her a hug and placed a kiss upon her forehead. Hoping he had made the right choices for her. She was his only child and now she would be going far away to that desolate place out on the Moors. He didn’t know how any of this came about. It was so strange he thought, but….
The coach pulled away as Elizabeth looked back at her father. She had a really bad feeling that this was going to be the last time she saw him alive, that is. As the coach turned the corner she sat back against the cold hard seat trying to make herself more comfortable for the long journey ahead. They rode together for what seemed an eternity before the Baron spoke to her.
“Lady Elizabeth, I want you to know that I usually don’t go looking for young ladies that I’ve dreamed about but …. This reoccurring dream about you was so different than any other dreams I have ever had. You must think I’m mad but it doesn’t make any sense to me other than it feels like this is what I was supposed to do.” He looked at her with concern. “Does it make any sense to you? And why would you accept the position to stay with my daughter when none of us have ever met before?”
After a few minutes, Elizabeth answered him. “Sir, I also have been having … dreams of someone needing my help.” She didn’t want to tell him that she was a clairvoyant, at least not right now. “I couldn’t make out who it was until yesterday, when I went to the carnival in London and met with an old gypsy woman.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he laughed out loud. “Please don’t tell me that this old gypsy told you to come with me?”
“As a matter- of- fact, yes she did. In her own way.”
Now the Baron was really laughing out loud, then realized that the young lady wasn’t laughing at all, just looking down at her hands in her lap.
He settled down quickly when he saw her expression and took on a more dignified posture. “You really believe in these gypsies? I didn’t think anyone believed a word they said. Especially a property young lady like yourself.”
She gave a little smile wanting to end this particular conversation. “Please tell me about your daughter.”
Nicholas sat back in his seat and related the facts of his wife’s death. How the carriage that she and their ten year old daughter were riding in had just turned into the long drive that lead to the manor house when all of a sudden, something spooked the horses and they bolted out of control. The carriage finally ended up crashing into a tree and his wife was killed instantly and his daughter, Sarah was severely injured. In relaying the story to her, his emotions were coming out full force. It was like he was re- living the accident all over again. It’s now been two years since he’s lived at Hillcrest Manor, he only returned to replace a governess, which was often. He had tried to take his daughter with him to London but she went into seizures every time they tried to leave so finally he gave up trying and left without her. He couldn’t stand being there after his wife was killed and their daughter … was never the same. It held to many sad memories for him. He had hired so many governesses over the past two years he lost count. Why they left so abruptly, he didn’t know. None of them actually told him why they were leaving, they just left. Hopefully, this young lady will stay longer than any of the others because she was from London and didn’t know anything about the stories that surrounded his home as did the local women he had hired from the nearby villages.
It was just passed sundown when the carriage finally pulled up in front of Hillcrest Manor. A footman came out immediately to greet them and retrieve their baggages before following them into the house.
“Good evening your lordship. I hope your trip was uneventful, sir.” Louise said excitedly, glad that his lordship was home. I’ll have George take your bags up to your rooms.” She looked over at Elizabeth thinking that she looked a little too young to be a governess or wouldn’t be strong enough to handle all of the strange events that happen in this house. I’ll give her maybe a week at most and she’ll be bursting out the front doors and never heard from again like all the others, hopefully with her sanity still intact.
“Louise, let me introduce you to Lady Elizabeth, she’s come all the way from London and will be staying here to help … Sarah.”
“Glad to make your acquaintance, Louise, please just call me Elizabeth. We don’t need to stand on ceremony,” she said, in all sincerity.
Louise nodded her head in response, thinking that she really liked this new governess or companion as his lordship liked to say. She seemed different than any of the other women his lordship hired. Maybe this is the one….. “I’m sorry that all of the servants have gone home for the night except George and myself.” She knew none of them would ever stay the night here at Hillcrest Manor except of course her and George. The others were terrified to stay past nightfall. They knew that the house came alive when darkness fell. The banging and moaning would start and continue until dawn. Strange shadows would appear and disappear as soon as you looked at them. They all knew the stories about this house were true. For some unknown reason his lordship never said a word about the things that were happening in the night. It was as if he never heard or saw anything. But everyone was to retire early to their rooms and not come out again until morning that was the rules the Baron established several years ago.
“Louise, please send up a platter of food to our rooms. I’m sure Lady Elizabeth must be famished by now.”
“The cook has already gone home for the evening but I’ll try and find something for the two of you to eat.” Louise said, as she sped off into the kitchen.
“I would really like to meet Sarah now, your lordship,” Elizabeth asked, now anxious to meet her charge.
“That would be quite impossible right now, Sarah I’m sure has already retired for the evening so you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow. Now if you please follow me I will escort you to your rooms.”
Elizabeth followed without another word up the staircase to the second floor. She could see many rooms on both sides of the hallway. They stopped in front of one of the doors and the Baron opened it for her to enter.
“I’m sure you will be very comfortable in here. This bedroom has a small drawing room over-looking the grounds. I’m sure Louise will be up shortly with a light supper, so I will bid you goodnight, madam.”
“Goodnight, Baron.” Throwing her cloak over a chair she gazed out the front window. There was an eerie mist covering the ground now moving like it had a mind of its own. Closer and closer it had come to the house until it had made its way up to the front doors, then encompassed the entire house. It gave Elizabeth a chill as she watched its movement across the ground.
A light tap at her door made Elizabeth jump. “Oh my god, you scared me, Louise,” she said, as she moved away from the window patting her chest.
“I’ll just set this tray down on the table for you, mum. I’ll fetch it first thing tomorrow morning, so if there is nothing else you require than I will take my leave of you.”
“No, no. I won’t need anything further.”
With hearing the new governess wouldn’t need any more assistance this evening she turned and quickly left the room for the safe haven of her own bedchamber.
As soon as the housekeeper left Elizabeth could hear her door being locked from the outside. Quickly she ran to the door and tried to open it, but she couldn’t. She tried several times but still couldn’t get the door to open. Why in the world the housekeeper would lock her in her room, she thought with a surge of panic rising in her throat. She called to her through the door multiple times but there was no answer. She decided to wait until morning and demand an explanation from the Baron.
She picked at her food that had been placed on the table, changed into her night dress and climbed into bed. She wasn’t accustomed to long journeys and today was the farthest away from home she had ever been. Actually, this was the first time she had ever spent the night away from home. Surprisingly she felt very comfortable here. She laid down in the bed, pulled the comforter up and closed her eyes to get some much needed sleep. The house was quiet but she could hear someone walking down the hallway. If she was locked in her room and instructed not to come out again until morning no matter what she heard, then why was there someone walking down the hallway. The footsteps were getting closer and closer to her room until they stopped right outside her door. Elizabeth sat up now thinking someone came to talk with her. She could hear the doorknob turn, back and forth, back and forth but it didn’t open. Suddenly a loud pounding rattled the door, so loud that she had to put her hands over her ears.
“Who’s there?” She cried, holding back the scream that was about to come out of her mouth. The room was pitch black except for the moonlight that was coming in from her window. Then as quick as it started the pounding stopped. Elizabeth knew it wasn’t over yet for she could feel the coldness in the air.
A low moan, almost a growl was coming from the hallway now. She could hear it finally leave her doorway and proceeded down the hall until she couldn’t hear it anymore. This event left her visibly shaking, never in her life has she ever had an encounter like this one before and it scared her. How she was ever going to get to sleep she didn’t know but finally she dosed off and was abruptly woken up by Louise bringing in her breakfast.
“Good morning, mum, I hope you slept well last night,” the housekeeper said, but didn’t wait for an answer. She just placed the breakfast tray on the table and left.
Elizabeth sitting up in bed felt like she hadn’t slept at all and now was expected to be up and ready for the day’s activities, whatever they would be. She should be terrified after what happened last night to stay another minute in this house but for some unknown reason she wasn’t afraid anymore. Something told her to rely on her gut instincts. The old gypsy came to mind as she thought that maybe this is what she saw in her crystal ball. Rising she quickly dressed and ate a few bites off the breakfast tray and went downstairs to hopefully get some answers and of course to finally meet Sarah.
The Baron was sitting in the parlor impatiently waiting for Elizabeth to finally make her entrance. Slightly annoyed at her lateness he bid her good morning. “Lady Elizabeth, in this house we start our day at dawn which was an hour ago. Hopefully your lateness of the hour this morning will not happen again.”
“I’m sorry, sir but I was unaware of the household schedule. So now that I know I will not let it happen again. There is one thing I would like to speak with you about,” she hesitated for a moment then continued. “Why was my bedroom door locked last night?” She asked in somewhat of an angrily tone.
“House rules. I don’t want anyone walking the halls late at night disturbing everyone else’s sleep. So why is this such a big deal for you? No one else has ever complained, until now that is.”
“I’m not complaining but … I don’t feel safe with my door locked from the outside. There could be a fire, or someone needing help and I wouldn’t be able to get out of my room, the window is far too high to jump from.”
“So what’s your point?”
“I would appreciate it if I could have my door to stay unlocked at night. What if Sarah needs me and I can’t get to her?” She implored hoping he would see the wisdom in her logic.
“I’ll think on it,” he replied nonchalantly, waving his hand as if to dismiss her.
Standing up he looked at her, “I think we’ve gotten off to a bad start today. I would like to show you around the estate. He motioned for her to follow as they walked through the entire first floor. “Upstairs is nothing more than bedrooms so I don’t think it’s necessary to tour that part of the house.”
When they finally walked out on the terrace, Elizabeth fell madly in love with the most beautiful rose garden she had ever seen.
“When can I meet Sarah? Is she outside playing somewhere for I didn’t see her as we toured the house,” now really anxious to meet her charge.
“I’m sorry Elizabeth, but she wasn’t feeling up to meeting anyone new today so you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow if she feels better.”
Elizabeth’s disappointment showed on her face. She had so looked forward to meeting Sarah and hoped they would become best of friends.
“There is another very important rule I need to inform you of, and it can never be broken.”
Elizabeth looked at him oddly thinking ‘him and his silly rules’ but listened attentively.
“And what is this rule, your lordship?”
He didn’t care for the attitude in her voice, but continued, “Do not at any time ever go into the forest alone. Do I make myself clear on this point?”
“I said NEVER, Elizabeth, never alone, do you hear me?” He practically was yelling at her.
She looked out at the forest and couldn’t quite understand why he was so adamant about this. A large portion of England was forests, so why is this forest so different than all the rest? It did look a little creepy though. The more she stared at it the creepier it got, it was like it was calling to her, daring her to enter.
The Baron interrupted her thoughts when he started speaking to her again. She missed the first few words but caught on quickly to what he was saying.
“Since Sarah isn’t coming downstairs today I’ll leave you to familiarize yourself with my estate.” With that being said, he abruptly turned around and left her standing there alone on the terrace. What a strange man he was, she had never met anyone like him. He would be so abrupt one minute and nice the next. She had never heard of any family before this taking all their meals in their rooms. How odd that seemed to her. Usually dinner was a time for the family to gather together and talk about their daily activities or maybe their future plans. But to dine alone….