This is a continuation of a previous story I wrote, See here:
The Strange Inheritance – Part Two
Even though the house was falling apart and the smell of damp permeated throughout, Jennifer had to admit it must have been a really grand house at one time.
Downstairs there was a large dining room with green peeling wallpaper, A living room painted cream, a billiard room, painted bright red and a Library lined wall to wall with books.
She was impressed, she had no idea that her family must have been very grand at one time. She, along with her brother, had grown up in an orphanage and so she didn’t really know much about the family history. Her brother was a few years older and he knew a bit more, but not much. What he did know he didn’t like to talk about. He had always been surly and volatile but he had looked after her, wouldn’t let her out of his sight. In some ways, it had held her back. A few times at the orphanage a couple had come and wanted to adopt her, but her brother always insisted that she wasn’t going anywhere without him. They’d take one look at this dark, broody lad with those dark staring eyes and would decide to take one of the others instead. Still, he was the only family she really knew. She had known about Aunt Elizabeth but at the funeral and the reading of the will was the first time that she’d met her, or at least remembered meeting her. James said that she’d briefly taken them in when their parents died. He’d been six and so still remembered, but she had been only three. Aunt Elizabeth was a strange one. She was tall and thin and gave the impression of being a dithery old lady, she was in her late seventies, but her eyes were sharp and darted around taking everything in. She also often had the strangest smile on her face. Frankly, she gave her the creeps.
Aunt Elizabeth wandered around the house humming softly to herself. She was so pleased to be back in the home she’d grown up in. All the memories came flooding back.
She wandered into the Kitchen, the meat hooks were still in the ceiling where they used to hang the meat, sometimes venison, sometimes lamb, once it was Cousin Henry, she remembered. Smiling she wandered over to the window which overlooked the garden. Goodness! It was all overgrown now. It used to have a lovely lawn and the flower beds were filled with roses, red, the colour of blood. They used to have gardeners then who would labour hard to keep the garden looking lovely. The lawn swept down to the Lake and there was a boathouse, that’s gone now. Such a shame about what happened to Sarah, the maid, she was found drowned just by the boathouse. Oh, what times they were.
Turning she noticed the door to the cellar and an involuntary shiver ran through her. “Never go down the cellar at midnight“, that is what her father had always told them. Her father had been a very strict man, he would beat them for the slightest transgression. He had always been adamant that no one should ever go down the cellar, never at midnight. Edgar hadn’t listened of course, and that’s why he was found hanged down there. Next to the cellar was a recess, not many people knew, but it led to one of the many secret passages built into the walls of the house. This one led up to one of the bedrooms. As she walked up to it and brushed the tile that triggered the door gently with her hand, she realised that someone else was in the room.
She turned and let out a scream and clutched her heart.
A middle-aged woman stood there with a surprised face. She had on an apron and her greying hair was pulled back into a bun.
“Who are you?” Elizabeth asked breathlessly. The shock of finding someone standing there had given her quite a turn. It didn’t do to let your wits wander too far in this house.
The woman responded “I’m Mrs Ponsomby, I was the cook here. I’ve been told to stay on until Sunday. I understand you and the young man and girl will be staying here this weekend.”
“Oh, that’s nice, I thought we would have to fend for ourselves. I don’t eat fish, never have, and I like a cup of hot milk to take to bed with me, about eleven o’clock.”
Mrs Ponsomby came over pale as she said “Oh, I’m sorry Madam, but I never stay here after dark. I come in the morning to cook breakfast, stay for lunch then I prepare dinner and leave it ready in the oven to serve, but once night falls, I’m out of here. I live in the village. I wouldn’t stay in this house, not for any price.”
Mrs Ponsomby looked out of the window at the heavy rain. It was already getting dark.
“I’ve prepared a Shepherd’s Pie for your dinner, it’s in the oven keeping warm. I hope that is suitable? I’ll be off now, Mr Ponsomby is coming to pick me up in five minutes.” She said checking her watch, as though wishing it would tick faster.
James came into the kitchen and saw her.
“Oh, It’s you,” he said in his typical rude voice. “And who might you be?” He turned to Mrs Ponsomby.
Aunt Elizabeth replied,
“This is Mrs Ponsomby, James, she is going to prepare meals for us while we’re staying here. Isn’t that nice? She’s made us a nice Shepherd’s pie. She’ll be off in a minute though. She lives in the village.”
“Oh, thank you, Mrs Ponsomby? Can you tell me which of the bedrooms is mine?” James inquired.
“I was told to let you all decide which ones you’d like. You can have any room, except for the Master Bedroom. That is kept locked, since Mr Van De Gaard’s death. Dr Forbes, the Vicar, has the key.”
“Well, I want the Pink bedroom, the one at the end of the landing, just above this Kitchen. It was mine as a girl and I’d very much like to sleep in it again.” Aunt Elizabeth said.
“No objections from me. That one’s got a broken window. I’ll take the blue room at the other end of the landing. Jenn’ll have the mauve room next door, we can share the connecting bathroom.” James responded.
Aunt Elizabeth tutted and retorted “Shouldn’t you let Jennifer choose for herself?”
“She’ll do as she’s told, it’s for her own good. I mean to keep her safe. I don’t like you Aunt Elizabeth, in fact, I loathe you and I don’t trust you. I mean to make sure nothing happens to Jennifer or me. Get it? Now I’m off to get ready for dinner.”
With that, he left and slammed the kitchen door behind him.
“Well, he’s not a very respectful young man, I must say. and you his Aunt too. Shocking is what I call it.”
Just then they saw a car pulling up to the house, the headlights shone through the window as it turned ready to pull out.
“Ar, that’ll be Frank. See you in the morning Madam. I’ll be here at 8am. There’s plenty of milk, bread, butter and eggs. I’ll bring some bacon with me in the morning. Good night.”
“Goodnight dear.” Aunt Elizabeth said, smiling. There was flash lightning outside followed by a loud clap of thunder. “Oh, it’s so good to be home.”
End of part two.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 03/September/2018