It was about two in the morning and Bell hadn’t been able to sleep. She had been reading a Gothic horror novel, lost within it’s pages and words. The candle by her bedside was low, the wax dripping away and the flame dropping.
Bell knew she should get a fresh candle but once out of the armchair and woollen blanket, it would be freezing. The fire in the wall next to her had long gone out and the chill from the autumn moor had crept into the house.
She looked at the candle and decided if she didn’t want to end up in the dark within a few minutes she had to move.
Placing the book down, she wrapped the blanket around her and got up. There was a candle by her bedside which she took and carefully lit the new wick from the dying candle. She blew out the first flame then took the new candle and her book to bed.
It was a grand four poster thing and she wasn’t use to sleeping in luxury. She had been brought up in a simple house with simple things. Her father had educated her which had helped Bell learn that her family had fallen on hard times. She couldn’t remember not being happy and her parents had tried to give her anything she needed.
The turn had come when she was fourteen. Her father, ill of health for years, passed. The money ran out. Her mother lost everything.
In the poorhouse, the beds had been straw. They had been surround by people making lots of noise for three years. You would think you couldn’t sleep in such a place but the twelve hours of work a day made you so exhausted that sleep came as a blessing.
Now, Bell was alone in this large room, in this huge house owned by a uncle of her father’s whom she had never known but had somehow found her. Bell was grateful to have been saved after her mother had become ill and died three months ago. It was the answer to her prayers.
Some nights though, she wished to be back with her mother on that floor. Comforted and loved. No longer feeling the loneliness and sadness that consumed her.
Bell got into bed. The sheets were cold against her. She opened her book again and began reading. Her concentration was broken and the chill was making her shake. Putting the book down again, she curled up and thought about trying to sleep.
There was a window across and the curtains were half drawn. She could see the night sky and the full moon. It was too dark to see the raising moorland that surround this house but she could picture the current barren landscape well enough.
The candle wick cracked and the flame flickering against the wall. There were too many shadows in this room for Bell’s liking. The words of the old maid came back to her and Bell remembered the warning of falling asleep with candles lit. That’s how the west wing burnt down.
Bell’s head turned towards the door as footsteps sounded in the hallway. The boards squeaked and a door handle rattled.
It was just her uncle or a servant, restless like herself and walking around the house.
A door opened, the loud creaking wail further broke the silence.
Bell felt a drift of air. The candle flame flickered violently and black smoke trailed up the wall. Bell sat up and looked towards her door.
It was wide open.
She clutched the sheets to her chest. Thoughts racing through her head; it’s just my uncle or servant checking on me because they saw the light.
No figure seemed to fill the doorway and nothing else moved.
Bell couldn’t find the words to speak.
The candle went out.
Plunged into darkness, Bell let out a cry and threw the sheet over head. She curled up, fear driving everything. Her breathing was harsh in her ears so she didn’t hear the soft footsteps crossing the floor.
The bedding began to slip down, gathering on the floor.
Bell clung to what she could but the bedding began to drag her with it. She let it go and dug her nails into the woollen blanket still around her instead.
‘Who is there?’ Bell cried in a shaky voice.
There was a low whistling like wind through a gap. The dying candle came back to life. The glow of the yellow and orange flame so bright in the room.
‘What do you want?’ Bell shouted.
There was a hand by the flame. It first it seemed nothing more then a wisp of smoke from the candle but it grew and turned shape, became more solid and took the form of a figure.
Bell wanted to scream but couldn’t. She was stiff with fear and yet she couldn’t turn away from what was forming beside the candle flame. She had never seen a ghost before but this one was for sure.
It seemed to be a woman in a flowing dress like a shadow against the wall.
‘I can see you,’ Bell whispered, ‘do not hurt me.’
The ghost moved, gliding to the bed and Bell saw the features of a face. The eyes and mouth expressed sadness and longing with familiarity.
‘Mother?’ Bell breathed.