The grandmother clock chimed two as Faith started to climb the cottage’s stairs. She held the candle holder away from her, so that the small flickering light offered more guidance. Her other hand rested on the heavily polished banister and she felt the smoothness of the wood against her fingers. With her slippers muffled by the thick carpet she made her way up to the dimly lit first floor.
The chimes faded and silence settled once more. Without knowing why, Faith glanced behind her. The hallway below her was empty, expect for the sound of footsteps. She twisted, aiming the candle downwards and trying to peer through the shadows. Nothing seemed to be moving and yet, the sound of a man’s heavy boots echoed along the hallway carpet.
‘Hello?’ she called out, her voice steady.
She listened for a reply, but no words came back to her. Faith glanced upstairs and the calling of her bed then carefully turning around and hitching up her skirts, she stepped down. As soon as she came to the bottom the walking boots stopped.
‘Who’s there?’ Faith shouted, ‘My husband is upstairs and it will not take much to rise him!’
Dropping her skirts, she waved the candle light about and prayed that whoever was in her new house did not know that she actually lived alone. Some of the light bounced off the stained glass windows in the front door then splashed along the wall. Her eyes followed the glow along the hallway and passed the first doorway.
Faith moved slowly and inspected the small living room, dinning room and kitchen. Nothing was disturbed. In the living room the embers of the fire burnt dark orange, but they do not cast enough light. Faith closed all the doors and went back to the stairs, there was one more room she had to check. As her hand reached for the doorknob of the parlour door, she realised that was the first room she should have looked in.
The door swung open and she stuck the candle inside. Not being able to see very far, she was forced to go into the hardly used room. Two sofas faced each other over a low circle table, the curtains were drawn at the windows and the fireplace was empty. There was nothing else in the room and no place for anyone to hide.
Faith walked out, shutting the door behind her. Frowning, she looked down the hallway again. She could hear her own hard breathing and slight wheeze caused by being in her corset and tight evening dress for too long. Her heart pumped in her ears, seemly too calm and normal for the current situation.
Perhaps though, she had been wrong? Faith puzzled, she had never had a good imagination thanks to her strict up bring and she believed everything had a logical explanation. However, the sound of the boots had been so real. She looked upstairs and wonder if it was possible the invader had sneaked up whilst she had been going through the other rooms.
Slowly climbing the stairs, Faith stopped at the top and looked first to the left then to the right. The layout was the same as below; three doors to the left and one to the right. Faith went to there first and opened the door on to a small room that was meant for the maid. The candle flickered violently and Faith paused to give it time to stop. The circle of light showed her a bed frame against the wall, a wardrobe and desk against the other, whilst a small square curtained window was in the wall opposite.
Stepping out and securing the door behind her. Faith looked into the other rooms. The first was her dressing room and wardrobe, which held a large table and mirror, an old oak wardrobe and a number of trunks and boxes. The second room was her library and study which was still being unpacked, whilst the third was her bedroom. All the rooms were empty.
Faith sighed deeply and closed her bedroom door behind her. She lent against it then moved to light the other candles that were dotted around. The once dark room quickly became bright and she felt safer. Placing the originally candle by her bedside, Faith began the difficult task of undressing herself. Luckily she had had a lot of practice of the years, but it still took awhile.
Finally standing in her under things with her abandoned other clothes on the floor, she blew out all but one candle and climbed into bed, too tried to put the night dress on. Pulling the blankets up, she put her head on the pillow and felt sleep stealing over her.
The sound of a man’s boot steps in the hallway again made her shoot up right. Faith froze, clutching the blanks to her chest and listening hard. The steps were steady and seemed to be making their way to the front door. She counted, trying to remember how many steps the hallway was. The noise went on long past her counting.
‘What should I do?’ Faith muttered, ‘perhaps, I should just lock the door and stay in here. If it’s a thief there’s not much he can take anyway.’
Faith pulled the blankets back and got out of the bed. As quietly and quickly as she could she crossed the rug covered floor and locked the bedroom door. For a few moments she listened there, but all she could hear were the boots which she decided were now pacing the hallway.
‘Oh odd!’ she cried under her breath, ‘maybe, he’s waiting for me to come down again? I shall not fall for any tricks!’
Faith got back into bed and sat there listening to the footsteps until sleep claimed her.
To Be Continued…