Annabelle almost tore through the letter itself as she disregarded the envelope. Her eyes flicked across the neat handwriting that she recognised as being her father’s from the countless letters he had sent her. The letter was brief and written to his lawyer about amendments to his will.
My wife has died, he wrote, And I wish to leave the care of my daughter to my sister, Lucy Yeats and provide her a sum of money monthly to look after the child’s needs and education. My country house, should go to my brother, Edward and his wife. If anything should happen to my sister and her family which means they can no longer care of my child, she is to go to my brother.
Annabelle felt she already knew about that, perhaps her aunt Lucy had once told her. Luckily, none of that had come to pass and she was only staying with her uncle to get some fresh air and recover from illness. She knew she’s soon be back in London shopping with her cousins and discussing possible husbands.
She read on, noticing how her father’s last letter for that was which she guessed it to be, was so different from her mother’s. Her father continued to list money and items to people, namely her and other family members. Then he had signed it at the bottom. Annabelle set the letter down and picked up the envelope to put it back in. As she did so though light from the candle light caught it and she saw that something had actually been written on the inside of the envelope.
Carefully, Annabelle opened the thin paper and read the secret message her father had placed there. The ink was fading and the words so small it was hard to read without holding it up to the light. She felt a chill go through her as she read;
My wife is not actually dead, but she is as good as. Her madness has become too much to cope with. She no longer knows me or her child or anyone else. I have had to leave her in Edward’s care and remove our child to a safer place. My wife can not be cured nor do the doctors know how long she will live for. Often, she raves in French about seeing the ghostly form of her mother and we are finding it hard to keep servants in the place.
I need a death certificate but so far I have been unable to find a doctor who will sign one. They think perhaps, I mean to cheat my daughter out of inheritance. My will must be prove enough that I do not wish that to happen. We must arrange a meeting between us and a doctor who will assist us. It should be at the church were my sons are buried and everything done in secret for the time being.
The letter ended and Annabelle fell into a deep reflections. She had once had brothers and all the things she had heard about her mother’s passing had been wrong. Everyone had made her believe it had been in child birth, but all along it had been some other illness. And the ghost! Was the hunchbacked old woman actually her grandmother? Perhaps that explained why she could not rest for she wanted Annabelle to understand what had happened and for things to be settled.
Putting the envelope down, Annabelle picked up her mother’s letter and read it in a new light. The words made better sense now and Annabelle felt her heart breaking further.
I have not much time left, her mother had written, I can feel it. Some days I know my husband by his face and voice, but other days he is a stranger to me! I can not remember much other then my baby is gone to join the others in the grave and my young daughter has been sent to London. I hope that she is spared my illness.
The north tower has become my home and often I think of the poor child of my husband’s brother. That child lived here too, hidden from the world because of his deformity and the family’s shame. I think sometimes I can hear screaming and scratching at the door. My mother visits often in her ghost form. I have for years tried hard not to talk of her, but I can no longer hold it back. Still she does not speak and it is always past the midnight hour when she appears.
What will become of my child? I always think of her when I come back to my senses. I wish to she her, but my husband says she is gone and will only come back when I am better. I have heard the doctor’s whispering and I know I never will survive this. I want to leave. I want to get out of this house, it seems to have some supernatural powers, maybe it is cursed or evil lives here. My husband does not believe me, but I think I could get better if I only left!
My child needs to be kept away from this place. I fear for her if she ever comes here.
Annabelle dropped the letter and burst into tears. How had they kept this all from her? She put her head down on the desk, resting on her arms and cried for sometime. Exhausted she then fell asleep and had fitful dreams.
The room was darker when she awoke because some of the candles had burnt themselves out. Annabelle got up and went to the door. It was still locked. She bang her fists against the wood and began shouting loudly. Someone must come!
However, when she paused to drag in deep breaths, she heard nothing but the slow creaking of the house. Annabelle looked at her hands and saw they were bruised. Wondering what to do she swept about the floor and decided to see if there was another way out the room.
She searched for a long time, testing all parts of every wall and even the floor, but the rooms give up no more secrets. Hungry and tried she give in and lay down on the bed. Holding on to the fact that someone would soon start looking for her, she fell asleep.
She dreamed of her parents in the manor house. They were running down the corridors and in out of the rooms, they were chasing each other and laughing. She watched them from the point of view of a baby until they vanished into the folds of the house. She cried loudly, begging they come back to her, but they did not reappear and she was left alone.
Annabelle woke with a start, her ears still ringing with the crying of a baby. She sat up, pushed her hair behind her and listened. The crying was still going on. Getting up, she walked around, but could find no source of the noise. She returned to the bedchamber and the desk just as the crying stopped. Annabelle saw the hunchbacked old woman waiting by the foot of the bed.
‘I know now!’ Annabelle cried, ‘I know what happened, but I’m trapped in here. How can I tell my uncle and aunt?’
The ghost looked at her and turned towards the door. Slowly, she floated over and went through the door. Annabelle dropped her shoulders and felt all the energy leaving her. She rose a hand to her head as she felt pain growing and then it was gone. She heard the door click open and slowly move inwards.
Annabelle hurried to the door and opened it fully. The ghost was standing in the hallway lighting the way as the last candle in the room went out. The old woman began moving and Annabelle followed to her chambers.
At the door, she thanked the ghost and promised to make things right, then she went into the room which was warm and blazing with light.