It was late afternoon when Elizabeth went upstairs to her room to fix her hair that had come loose during the brief wind storm that afternoon. She left Nicholas in his room to rest after his ordeal. I have never seen or been in such a strong gust of wind before. To actually cause the branch to break loose from the tree and hurl itself onto the Baron. It was like it had a mind of its own, she thought, to herself.
Now that she had changed her clothes and brushed out her tangled hair, she went again downstairs. She saw the servants gathering their things preparing to leave the Manor house for the night. That was strange in itself that all would leave except Louise and George. In London the servants all lived at the house with her and her father. But maybe this is normal for this part of England.She went to the kitchen where Louise fixed her a lite dinner which she ate right there and watched as the servants left one by one until all were gone.
“Louise, why do all the servants leave every night? Is this just normal behavior or does it seem strange to you?”
“It’s normal for … here,” she answered, not wanting to tell her too much. She looked at Elizabeth, “you better be getting up to your room, mum. Nightfall is coming.”
Elizabeth rose from the table and headed upstairs. After entering her room she sat staring out the window watching the sun set and the darkness beginning to settle in. The forest looked so ominous at night. The way the trees would cast their shadows in the moonlight. She had never been afraid of the dark before but here ….
Shaking those thoughts from her head she decided to change into her night dress. She thought she should try and get some sleep now, if this night is to be like all the other nights she’s been here, she wasn’t going to get any sleep at all. The house made the strangest noises especially at night, but no one else seemed to either not hear it or wouldn’t speak of it. All she knew was she heard it and it was starting to cause fear, deep within her soul. The young spirit that would come to her didn’t scare her but that horrible pounding in the hall did indeed scare her to death.
Like the night before and the night before that the pounding began at the end of the hallway. It made its way along the corridor until it reached her room. As before, the noise was deafening. She could see her door starting to bend inward, something was trying to get in using such force that it couldn’t be from this world. The door was made of solid oak, it would be impossible to bow like that. It creaked with such pressure against it, she didn’t know if it would hold or not. The room was like ice again, she could see her breath in the air.
“Go away!” She yelled, terrified of what was happening. The pounding got louder but it was moving farther down the hallway now toward Sarah and the Barons rooms. She jumped up, threw her robe on and pulled open the door. She could see a large dark shadow now at Nicholas’s door. His door was locked but it cracked and splintered as the shadow entered his room. She could hear Nicholas screaming as she ran toward his room as quickly as possible. Terrified as she was, she had to help him. He had no defense against this dark entity. When she entered the room the shadow turned its ugly face toward her. Bright, glowing red eyes were staring at her, the air was hard to breathe with the stench of this being. She had never seen or experienced such evil in her life. It lounged at her, knocking her down as it left the same way it had come. Leaving her shaken. Quickly she looked at Nicholas, again she could see blood running down his face and arms. The bed had collapsed with him in it. She could see a large piece of wood from the bed stuck in his arm.
“Nicholas, OH MY GOD!” She screamed as she tried to get him out of the collapsed bed. Finally she managed it but his arm was bleeding profusely when she removed the splintered bedpost from it. Ripping a piece of his sheet she wrapped it around the wound, trying to control the bleeding. “We need Louise,” she said wildly.
“She won’t come out of her room until morning,” he replied, bluntly. “No one comes out at night … for any reason.”
Elizabeth stared at him, wide eyed, “but you’re hurt, Nicholas, we need her!”
“She won’t come,” is all he could say.
Leaving him sitting in a chair, she made her way downstairs to the kitchen where Louise had left her sewing box and quickly retrieved it and re-entered the Baron’s room. “I guess I’ll have to stitch you up myself,” she said, as she began threading a needle. She could see him wince every time she pushed the needle into his flesh. “Just a few more stitches and I’ll be finished.” Once she was done, she admired her handiwork. She had never stitched human skin before but she thought she had done a pretty good job of it.
“Thank you … Elizabeth. I think you probably have just saved my life.”
“Nicholas, what was that … thing? Have you ever seen it before?”
He just looked at her and shook his head. “No … I haven’t. I shouldn’t have brought you here. This house … is cursed.”
She didn’t know how to respond to him. “Cursed? How can a house be cursed, Nicholas?” She asked. She had never experienced anything like she had in this house before.
“I truly believe that now. I have never stayed here at Hillcrest Manor for very long, but with the death of my wife, and my daughter severely injured when they came here for the very first time, I should have known then, that something didn’t want us here … ever.”
“Is that why the servants won’t stay here after dark?”
“Yes. And I think that’s why I could never keep a governess for very long. Their actions now make sense to me.”
“I think you should get some rest, Nicholas. You’re looking a little pale. Why don’t we move you to my room, for the rest of the night and find another bedroom for you in the morning.”
He agreed as they made their way down the hall to her rooms. She tucked him into bed as she went over to the table and chairs and sat down. Deciding she would try to get some sleep there. The room was back to normal temperature so she knew the spirits were gone … for now.
The next morning Elizabeth rose from her uncomfortable chair she had tried to sleep in last night but didn’t sleep very well at all. She kept imagining that horrible beast would come back again. She couldn’t bear the thought of meeting those red glaring eyes again anytime soon. She viewed Nicholas sleeping in her bed and decided not to wake him, he needed to rest after such a horrible ordeal last night, on top of the accident, with the tree branch that afternoon.
As she entered the kitchen, Louise and the other servants who had returned at daybreak, were hard at work preparing the morning meal.
“Good morning, Elizabeth,” Louise said, when she saw her approach. Not wanting to look at her, she kept her eyes on her work while they talked. There was no more avoiding the issue, now.
“May I have a word with you Louise, in private?”
“Yes, mum,” she replied but still didn’t want to look her in the eye. They walked outside on the terrace in silence.
“Louise, I know you had to have heard all that pounding and banging that was going on last night. So don’t try and tell me you didn’t hear it. The Baron was injured when the … shadow figure broke his door open and destroyed Nicholas’s bed with him still in it.”
“OOOOOH, MY! I had no idea that his lordship was attacked or injured. I must go to him!”
“I’ve already stitched him up and put him in my bedroom so he could get some rest. So tell me what you know of all of this. How long has it been going on? Have you ever seen anything?”
Louise clinched her hands together before speaking. “The noises … the banging … has been going on for years. I really don’t know when it began but it has always been happening since I’ve been here. And that’s oh … probably fifteen years.”
“And you never said, anything?”
“I was told many years ago … to make sure I lock my bedroom door at night, and not come out again until morning … no matter what I heard or thought I heard. So … I did as I was told. No one speaks of it. But … no one has been injured since her ladyship and Sarah’s carriage accident. At least not until that branch came down on his lordship yesterday.”
“Do you really think that was caused by this … thing?”
“Yes, mum. I do. I have never seen anything like that before. We get wind and storms yes, but ... nothing like that yesterday. It was like … it was intentionally aiming right at his lordship, wanting to hurt him or possibly kill him.” Her eyes became wide as saucers as she related all she knew, which wasn’t much, to Elizabeth. It always gets much, much worse when his lordship is here.”
Elizabeth looked at the poor, frightened housekeeper with sympathy in her eyes, she knew now how scary this house must be for her. But she is loyal to the family and stays on as well as George when all the other servants leave before dark. “Louise, I would like to take Sarah up her breakfast, this morning, so I’ll need the key to her bedroom. I thought this would be a good time for Sarah and I … to become better acquainted. I promise I will not tire her out, or stay too long. After all, this is why I am here, isn’t it?” She said, with more confidence than she felt.
“Yes … I guess you’re right. His lordship gets so over protective of her when he is home that he forgets why he hires a governess or a companion as he likes to say.”
“Well it’s settled then, as soon as her breakfast tray is ready, I’ll take it up to her.”
Twenty minutes later, Elizabeth was standing outside Sarah’s door, hesitating before opening it and then walked in.“Good morning, Sarah.” Are you ready for your breakfast, this morning?” She said, as she headed over to the bed.
Seeing Sarah shaking her head no, Elizabeth brought the tray over to her anyway, setting it next to her on the bed. “I’ll leave it here for you so when you are ready to eat, you’ll have it.”
“Thank you, Elizabeth … but I’m not hungry right now.”
Elizabeth’s eyes opened wide, “you can talk?” She said, surprised at what she heard her say but then she never saw the girls lips move. Instantly, she realized the child was communicating with her telepathically.
“Please help us … you’re the only one that can.”
“How can I help you if I don’t know what you need for me to do?”
“Just … help us,” she replied, her voice seemed to be fading off. Now you must go … I’m very tired.”
Elizabeth saw the young girl’s eyes closing so she decided to leave her to rest for now and left the room. Shaken and dismayed, she leaned back against the door, not believing she was communicating, telepathically. This had never happened to her before. But … it would be at least one way to communicate with Sarah, where no one else could. Maybe the gypsy was correct in advising her fate was set and it was meant for her to be here.
Feeling better now she went to check on the Baron. When she entered her bedroom, Nicholas was gone. Feeling slightly upset at his absence she closed the door and went downstairs to find him. He was sitting in his study, sipping on a brandy when she entered.
“Isn’t it a little early to be drinking, Nicholas?”
He just glared at her. “One, it’s none of your business when I drink. And two, it’s helping with the pain I’m dealing with.”
“I wasn’t criticizing you. You really should stay in bed today and rest. Give your body some time to heal.”
“That won’t be necessary.” He replied, bluntly.
Changing the subject, “I saw Sarah this morning. As a matter-of-fact I took her up her breakfast tray. She seemed happy to see me.” She didn’t tell him that she was able to communicate telepathically with her. She didn’t want to over burden him with all her abilities at once. He was doing well enough right now knowing that she could see … spirits.
“That’s wonderful. I’m glad it seems like Sarah has accepted you. I’ll give it a few more days then I will leave you and go back to London.”
“You’re leaving us?”
“Yes, as I have told you already, I don’t stay long here at Hillcrest Manor. And after yesterday … you can see why. Something in this house doesn’t want me here. I do need a few days to recover from my injuries so … we’ll leave it at that.”
Elizabeth left Nicholas alone in his study and decided today would be a good day to explore the grounds. As she made her way outside, she saw a small white figure going into the woods. It was the same one she had seen the other day. She called to her, but got no answer. The girl continued on into the woods, totally ignoring her. Seeing that the girl was alone, and that wouldn’t be safe, she decided to follow her.
On the edge of the forest she could see a small path and decided to follow it. She had lost sight of the girl already but she must be taking this same path because it was the only one she saw. On both sides there was thickets of underbrush that would be almost impossible to walk through. There were lines of trees as far as she could see but she continued on, further and further until she was deep inside the forest. She could hear small animals rustling through the underbrush as she passed, but paid them no mind. There was a sound of a babbling brook nearby and she so wanted to get to it before the little girl did because she didn’t know if the she could swim, or if it was indeed deep enough for her to drown in. Quickening her pace, she finally got to the small stream of water. But there was no sign at all of the little girl. “Where could she have gone,” she thought to herself. Deciding to sit down on a rock next to the water to rest, she needed to decide if she should keep going or turn back. But … if she turned back, would the little girl be lost or did she know the forest well. Maybe she lived nearby and would play in the forest. She didn’t know. But it was starting to get late now and she knew she needed to be back before darkness fell. With her decision made, she turned around and made her way back to the Manor House. Just in time, as it was already getting dark and she could see the fog was now covering the path. It made it hard to see where she was going, it was so thick. But she did finally come out of the forest at the same place she had entered and felt very relieved when she finally entered the safety of the house.