This is a continuation of a previous story I wrote, See here for part one:
and here for part two:
The three of them sat at the large dining table and ate the Shepherds Pie that Mrs Ponsomby had made.
Jennifer realised that the peeling green wallpaper had been hiding the mould growing in several places, but it couldn’t mask the odour.
It wasn’t just the unpleasant smell that was spoiling the delicious meal, it was also James’ demeanour. He had always been a broody young man, but his mood seemed to be getting darker and darker with every passing minuted spent in this house.
He was practically glaring at Aunt Elizabeth who sat demurely at the other end of the table, with that strange contented expression on her face.
“Well, it seems that Mrs Ponsomby is a good cook. Although Shepherd’s pie is rather a commoners dish. When I was a girl here we used to have banquets with Suckling Pig and veal, only the very best meat. Father would butcher the animals himself. He didn’t have to, but he liked it. He said he wanted to know exactly where his meat came from and who killed it.”
“Oh, how awful!” Exclaimed Jennifer.
“Oh, do you think so? I suppose young people today have different attitudes to such things. Father was very much a traditional man. He loved hunting, shooting and fishing. He would have been your great-grandfather, wouldn’t he? I keep forgetting we’re related. I’m sorry, my dear, but you don’t quite look like you belong in this house.” Aunt Elizabeth’s voice held nothing but mild-mannered congeniality and her smile never left her face.
James spoke rather aggressively “Well, I’m glad of that. I don’t think either of us wants to belong in this house. Personally, I can’t wait for it to be sold and torn down. The sooner this weekend is over and Jennifer and I get out of here, the better.”
Aunt Elizabeth didn’t flinch at James harsh tone, she just smiled back at him “Well, that’s because you don’t have all the happy memories of growing up here that I have. All finished? Jennifer, can you give me a hand with the dishes? I don’t want to leave a lot of work for Mrs Ponsomby in the morning.”
James went into the Drawing room. The smell of damp wasn’t quite as bad here. He lit the gas fire, which helped to make the room feel cosier and sat down in the large leather armchair and nodded off.
In the kitchen, Aunt Elizabeth was drying the dishes and telling Jennifer about some of the fun times she’d had in the house growing up.
“Emily, your grandmother, and I used to put on revues in the Drawing room, We’d emerge from behind the large curtains in our ballet shoes and dance around to a gramophone record, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. Edgar would watch us. Joshua never did, he was an old sombersides, he used to sit in the Library and read.”
Just then they heard a dog bark outside. Jennifer looked out of the kitchen window, a large dog was on the driveway barking at the house. She heard it’s owner, who was standing on the roadside, calling his dog back.
“Come away from there Duke, don’t go near that house. Come away I said.” The dog whined and reluctantly obeyed its owner and quickly they were swallowed by the night.
“At least that horrible storm has passed over and the rain’s eased off. I didn’t fancy my chances of getting much sleep tonight with that storm about.” Jennifer said turning to Aunt Elizabeth as she was drying the last plate.
“Oh, you have to sleep. In this house, it’s the safest way, my dear. I’m going to make myself a glass of hot milk to take up to bed. Would you like one?” Her smile was warm, but her eyes remained always the same, somehow detached from reality.
“No Thank you, Aunt Elizabeth, I’m going to sit with James for a while before bed.”
James was fast asleep, but she shook him awake. Realising what he’d done his eyes shot open and he jumped out of his chair. “What? how long have I been asleep?”
“Oh, barely twenty minutes. I’ve just done the dishes. Look, James. I don’t think Aunt Elizabeth is quite right in the head. One minute she’s telling me about how nice it was growing up, then she says something quite strange about this house. She said that you have to sleep because it’s the safest way. What do you think she meant?”
“Don’t worry about it. She must think we were born under a haystack or something if she thinks we’re going to fall for her tricks. She’s trying to scare us. If we leave this house, before the Sunday afternoon, we forfeit our share of the inheritance. She’ll get the lot. She’s a crafty old devil. Don’t trust her and don’t accept anything she gives you. She’s full of tricks.”
“She wanted to make me a milky drink to help me sleep. I said no.”
“That’s my girl. Don’t be taken in for a second. I’ve moved your things into that Mauve room next to me. I’ve taken the blue room next door. We’ll have a shared bathroom so I can keep an eye on you. Lock your door and wedge a chair under it.”
As James was giving instructions to Jennifer, he realised that Aunt Elizabeth was standing in the doorway carrying a saucer with a steaming glass of milk on it.
“I’m just off to bed. I wouldn’t stay up late if I were you. You would be much better off in your rooms. I just wanted to warn you about this house. You may hear strange noises in the night. You may hear a scream, but whatever you do, you mustn’t go down to the cellar at midnight. Ignore the voices, they’ll try to torment you. Goodnight.” She smiled at them and then climbed the creaky wooden stairs up to her bedroom.
End of Part Three.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 06/September/2018
Today’s things are: hay stack, scream, ballet shoes