When I wasn’t watching the children play and grow, I spent time looking over the shoulder of William while he was at his desk in the study. This was a definite no go zone for female members of the family as this was where all the business of the estate was handled, and not for female ears. It was fast becoming a financial nightmare for William. The income coming from the harvests and sales of livestock was nowhere coming up to the expenditure that the Hall was having to keep up the standard of living that we had known for years. Now it had been a known thing that there was still booty from our great grandfather somewhere in the Hall, but Edward, for whatever reason, had not imparted this knowledge to William. This therefore was the cause of his present state of despair. It broke my heart to watch him pace the study to try and come up with some, if any, solution to the financial ruin that was facing him and the family. I knew that my father, Cecil, had been tight lipped about where our money had been hidden, and the knowledge had only been passed down to the eldest son, hence Edward knowing of the priest’s hole and the secret panel that led to it. But it appears that in my desperate attempts to drive him out of his mind caused the very problem that was now facing William, that in his growing dementia with me, he failed to reveal the source to William. So in part, I was causing the fall of the house of Stapleton.
It hurt me to watch William, secretly make deals in selling off portions of our estate so that other members of the family wouldn’t know. But I was proud of the way he conducted himself in this adversity, keeping his chin up and letting the family still have their balls and dances, hunts and all members of staff to see to their every need.
It was so depressing for me that I stayed away from the study and tried my damndest to make contact with my grandchildren. I helped Henry as I did William in his horsemanship, fencing and shooting and that of Thomas. I could sometimes enter their bodies and try to impart knowledge in these fields of endeavour, but was unable to push them further into looking back into the past. Here I felt was the answer though it might seem strange, but I felt that uncovering my death might prove to be the salvation of the family fortune. How I felt this, I cannot say, but that is what I kept striving for whenever I could enter someone else’s body, that they should look to the past.
I watched the children grow up and meet girls as they became of age, and one by one get married, but still could not make contact with any of them. Henry was a very robust fellow and was sought by many, him being the future Earl and was soon hooked by a young lady from the provinces. It was not a choice that I would have condoned, but William was so took up in the problems of the estate, that he didn’t take the proper care in having his say in the choice of bride for Henry. Clare thought she was just the right person and gave her blessing, much to her chagrin later on. I never did find out why Sophie and my sister Joan didn’t appear for the wedding, but in the circumstances, it was just as well for even I had never seen a girl get tipsy, especially the bride. Her name was Grace Cadbury, an old school chum of Sophie and really had come up to the country to catch George, but settled for Henry.
Thomas was almost the opposite of his brother in that he was more reticent and never ever looked in the best of health, but had a far better intellect and was content to spend his time in the library and study and never really mixed with members of the opposite sex. Mary was more like Thomas in temperament whereas Elaine and Anne were more like tomboys.
Then came the news that made my heart soar. It was at the depleted breakfast table that Emily, now the widow, received a letter from Sophie. She was coming home, that is, to her family house across the fields, back to the bosom of her family on the death of her husband. Husband! It was the first I had heard that she had been married, and it was pleasing to hear Emily reiterate what had happened to the poor lass. She had married a man from the city, of good family, but, there had been some fracas outside the Houses of Parliament and he had been trampled by a police horse.
They’d only been married a scarce six months, and so she was now coming back to where her roots lay. Her father, having lost his cabinet post in a shuffle had returned to Wetherby with his wife in between Sophie’s marriage and subsequent widowhood. But now she was coming back, and I think I was the most delighted of the company at the table though my exuberance wasn’t noticed by those present. I hoped that we would still be able to communicate and I fretted about the Hall until the day came when she visited us. Her face was still as lovely as she was when I last saw her ten years before. I could see the strain that she had been under and my heart went out to her, not just for the loss of her husband, but the fact that I knew that I too had lost her. She was a grown woman now and I’m sure that she wouldn’t have the acumen and susceptibility of the child I once knew, and this proved to be the case. I tried my best to make myself appear to her, but to no avail as she settled in the old room that I knew so well. I actually had tears come to my eyes when at dinner that night, her first question was if anyone had made contact with me. That broke the ice, but there were still sceptics among the family, so the whole meal developed into the mystery of my disappearance, some for me being a ghost, others not. For once, my powers seemed to have deserted me and I couldn’t make my presence known by moving objects either on the table or having pictures falling off walls.
I tried again that night and for the several nights that she stayed at the Hall, without any success. I followed her about like some puppy dog and was surprised that she then struck up an affinity with Thomas even though he was two years her junior. I did my best to bring them closer together such as making a book fall between them in the library so that both would attempt to retrieve it at the same time. Silly tricks like that but was pleased that my machinations worked, for they then began to seek out each other’s company. I couldn’t help him when he rode over to the old Wetherby place, which was now the Spencer’s home, but did my best when she visited the Hall.
I like to think that my active part, if you could really say that in the proper context, was part and parcel of them becoming engaged and getting married two years after her return from London.
William and Clare were quite happy with the many suitors that called upon Mary and Elaine so these two over the next two years were married. Elaine was first to a Peter Winthrop, then Thomas to Sophie and later, Mary to one Sir Harold Cholmondley. So it was another two who left the home, well three actually, but he didn’t leave home. Clifford, Emily’s husband died and was laid to rest in our family vault. Sophie was now living in Thomas’s quarters in the Hall. Anne went and got married to an impoverished young pastor by the name of Percival Younger who became our cleric to see to the spiritual well-being of the family.
Though family members were leaving, we still had quite a full house most of the time with guests, if not attending weddings and funerals and later christenings, came to the hunt’s during the season and other balls that were held quite regularly. Some of these guests were startled to see me, or parts of me appearing and disappearing which fuelled the desire of many people to be asked to stay in the hope that they might get a chance to meet the ghost of Stapleton Hall.
But all this was taking its toll of the health of William, now in his forty sixth year, but looked nearly sixty with his white hair brought on by his constant worry of the estate’s finances. Acres were disappearing and it cut me to the quick that there was nothing that I could do to help him, though with my two nieces being married off, did ease the burden somewhat, along with the sale of some of the horses and dismissal of two of the ostlers. It hurt him to do this, I could see that much and my heart went out to him, but there was nothing I could do to ease the pain he suffered when he told those poor two men they had to leave. I was so proud of him to take on that onerous task himself when he could so easily have had the head groom do that unpleasant duty.
Oh what a joy it was to enter, for the first time, the nervous body of Thomas on the morning of his wedding, to feel his apprehension at this, possibly the most important moment of his life. I enjoyed myself so much through the wedding ceremony, that I stayed with him as he and Sophie retired after the day’s celebrations. He was such a bag of nerves as he shed his clothes in his dressing room and donning his nightgown, that it took a great deal of my power to keep him calm as he went through to the bedroom to find Sophie already in the marriage bed, waiting for him. She being a widow, albeit of only six months of marriage, knew what was to happen, and she did her best to help Thomas. While she calmed and led his external body, I controlled his inner body and enjoyed the process of consummating the marriage
It was at the moment that bodily fluids were emitted and enjoined that Sophie uttered the words that I never thought I would ever hear again.
‘I love you Richard,’ she whispered at the point of release of both the human bodies. I heard it very clearly, but to my relief, Thomas did not. I knew then, that it was I, and not Thomas that impregnated Sophie at that very moment. We writhed on the bed for a few minutes more before their bodies parted and I could now feel the inner calm stealing up on Thomas as he lay back and began to force me out of his body. I just had enough time left to turn his body over to that of Sophie and whisper in her ear.
‘We’ll name our son Richard.’
‘That we will Richard darling.’ Now I know he heard these words, but they way they were said could be taken two ways, and as he sank back onto his side of the bed, I sadly left his body, but could see from the satisfied smile on Sophie’s face that I instinctively knew that she knew to whom she had been making love.