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Ghost. Chapter Four.

"A young man shot by his brother returns as a ghost to haunt him."
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Chapter Four

Sophie, if you remember, was the baby that smiled at me at her birth, the daughter of my sister Joan. She was six years old now, and had been brought over to the hall with her parents for the ball being held in the main hall. I had already wandered around among the guests and now I had returned upstairs and had sat down on one of the sofas that were placed in the corridors that led to the bedrooms. I thought that being a spirit or ghost, I shouldn’t be able to feel anything, but I definitely had this tingle run up and down my spine when I saw her come along the corridor from the musicians balcony that ran down one side of the hall, albeit, one floor up.

‘Hello,’ she said, stopping in front of me. ‘Are you staying here?’ I quickly looked round to see if she was talking to somebody else, but I was alone, so therefore she was addressing me. I was taken aback but managed to control my features at the fact that she could see me without my actually using my powers to manifest myself.

‘I am,’ I replied, having great difficulty in my speech, not having much use for the tongue over the past years.

‘What’s your name?’ she then asked, her head taking on a slight slant as she looked at me, her eyes bright and full of innocence.

‘Richard, and yours?’

‘Sophie. Have we met?’

‘Once,’ I smiled. ‘It was just after you were born.’ I didn’t want to elaborate any further on that.

‘I thought we had,’ she answered in that small voice that was so full of confidence in one so young. ‘Why aren’t you downstairs with the others?’

‘I’m afraid I don’t mix very well with people. That’s why I’m sitting up here.’

‘Well I suppose dressed like that, you couldn’t really go down there.’ I looked down at my front and was heartily pleased that the gaping hole, bloody and gory, wasn’t showing, just the clean shirt front that I had been wearing when killed.

‘No. I don’t happen to have any other clothes to wear at the moment.’

‘What would you be wearing then?’

‘My uniform of the 12 th Hussars,’ and I could have bitten out my tongue for letting that slip out. It was so easy talking to the first person for many years that I just didn’t think of the problems that could occur from that statement. I tried to cover up my gaffe by asking her questions.

‘What are you doing up at this time of night? You should be in bed.’

‘I know, but I wasn’t tired and I so did want to see all the pretty dresses that the others are wearing. That’s why I sneaked along to the minstrel’s gallery. You won’t tell on me?’ she suddenly asked, her eyes going wide.

‘Of course not if you promise to say that you haven’t seen me either.’

‘Why not?’ was the innocent question.

‘Because I shouldn’t really be here.’

‘But you said you are staying here?’ This caught me for words. This child was brighter than I thought and I was casting my mind around to come up with an answer and I felt rather than saw my salvation.

‘There’s somebody coming! Quick now! Get off to your bedroom before they see you,’ I said in a whisper.

‘What about you,‘ she whispered back, casting furtive glances about her.

‘That’s alright. They won’t see me,’ I grinned as I stood up and ushered her towards the room she was staying in. I should have guessed. The room she was sleeping in was the one where the priest’s hole was where my human body had been walled up. I was relieved that I was able to get her to open and then close the door because there was no way I could do either of those actions. I drifted through walls and doors, I didn’t have to try and open or close them.

Such is the naiveté of children, she forgot our promise of the night before. As there were quite a number a people staying at the hall at this time, the big table was being used for breakfast. The children, as usual, had been delegated to the lower end along with their nanny’s. Even so, her voice was one that carried.

‘Where’s Richard?’ She queried, surveying the upper half of the table. All conversation stopped and though I was sitting there with them, she couldn’t see me at that time. I caught the glances that went between Emily and Joan and the puzzled look on William’s face.

‘Richard who?’ he asked, and all eyes turned towards Sophie at her place nearly halfway down the table’s length.

‘The gentleman I met last night. He said he was staying here but I don’t see him now,’ she answered.

‘There’s no gentleman by that name staying here Sophie, you must have been mistaken,’ replied William.

‘No I was not!’ she said with childish indignation. ‘I asked him why wasn’t he down with you all at the ball and he said that he didn’t like crowds and was sitting out there in the corridor all on his own.’

‘Was that all he said?’ Joan asked, her face now quite white.

‘No. When I asked him about his dress, he said that he couldn’t find his uniform, or something like that.’

‘What uniform?’ Joan continued, her hand now trembling as she asked the question of Sophie.

‘It sounded quite silly. The twelve hurrahs.’

Joan dropped her glass and it shattered on her plate and a servant was quickly by her side to begin to clear the debris as she fell back in her chair gasping for breath.

‘What is it?’ William demanded, standing up as most of the others had half risen from their seats at this display. I didn’t rise, but sat and watched what might me a good performance from the elders of the table. Emily’s face too, had gone quite ashen as Sophie uttered the mistaken words of the 12 th Hussars.

‘I’m…I’m sorry,’ stuttered Joan as the broken things were removed and a fresh glass, full, was placed close to hand. She took a long draught before she spoke again. ‘It can’t be…. Oh I don’t know,’ and she buried her face in her hands.

‘Can someone explain what’s going on?’ William asked, sitting down and waving his hand over his empty glass that it could be refilled again. ‘Who is Richard and why are we having this consternation?’

‘I’m… not sure if what I am going to say is right,’ stammered Emily, ‘but…but I think she is referring to your uncle.’

‘Uncle Richard? Uncle Richard? But I never met him! I don’t understand,’ William said.

‘He’s back from the dead,’ whispered Joan, her voice was low, but everybody there had been holding their breath so her words came through very clear to all that were there at the table, as well as the servants hovering in the background. I could feel the shiver of excitement, apprehension and fear that rippled through all those in the hall.

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ William stated. ‘Father said he was posted missing, what, twenty five, twenty six years ago, and they never came up with an answer as to what happened to him.’

‘I saw him the night Sophie was born,’ Joan said in a quiet voice.

‘That was a dream,’ Emily cried, ‘you said so yourself!’

‘I’m not so sure now,’ Joan answered her. ‘What if he never left? We only had Edward’s words that he was called away the night before William was born!’ Her voice had a slight hysterical edge to it, and such was her agitation that I had no problem to slip into her body to put thoughts into her mind for her vocal cords to give voice to. ‘I don’t think Richard ever left us! That he’s still here. Here! In this very house!’ I couldn’t control her body movements from then on which had become very mobile in her belief, and she sat there shaking as William again reiterated that it was all nonsense. I thought that was a good time to demonstrate that I was still there, so I left Joan’s body and sent out a charge of such violence that several pictures came off the walls and a suit of armour at the far end of the hall fell to the floor, the noise horrendous in the immense quiet of the hall.

Everybody jumped at the noise that I had made, even the servants moved back, scared looks on their faces. Two maids and one under servant fled the hall and left the hall that very day saying that they were not going to stay in a haunted house.

As it was, I looked with glee at the mirage of different expressions that crossed the faces of those at the table. With the adults it was from incredulity across to horror, while the children who had followed the conversations at the upper end of the table, were of glee and joy to think that they had a real live ghost to boast about to their friends. These being Sophie, Henry and Thomas, the other two not really understanding what had just passed, that being Mary and George.

The meal then ended in a confused babble of talk that crossed both ends of the table so that I couldn’t pick up on any of the conversations that followed suffice it to say that most of them were convinced that my ghost was actually present there in the Hall.

Sophie was the centre of attention at her end of the table as was Joan at the upper end, those two being the only ones to have witnessed the supposedly manifestations of Stapleton Hall’s ghost. There wasn’t a lot that Joan could say but Sophie milked her story for that it was worth, revelling in her sudden elevation in the eyes of the other three children.

I now had to try to enter someone to tell them my story, but, alas, I was unable to do so at that time. Twenty six years had passed since my death and I was fatalistic enough to think that I might have to wait another twenty six years before I could find someone who would be able to help me. But then I mentally kicked myself, because I had Sophie there that could see me. Maybe she could find the book for me, to find the letter that I hoped would help me to resolve my present position.

So I set myself to tell Sophie of my story, but the best laid plans etc….she left that morning after breakfast with her mother and father and went back off to their home over the hill from our estate. Strange as it may seem, but this was the first time I tried to leave our own estate in the whole of the twenty six years that I had existed in this state of limbo. T’was to no avail. I tramped the whole perimeter of the estate, trying to cross out to anywhere without success. I was a prisoner within the confines of the estate and of the ethereal body or spirit that I had become.

Now that it was accepted that there was a ghost at the Hall, I was surprised at the number of people who claimed to have seen and some even hearing me moan as I traversed the corridors at night. Poppycock! I never did moan, well not since I had been able to see to the despatch of Edward. I did roam the Hall as I had nothing else to do, but I didn’t really encounter anyone who had actually claimed to have seen me.

It was four years later that Sophie spent another night at the Hall. This was another christening celebration, that of William and Clare’s fifth child, Anne. It was amusing to sit at the dinner table when all members of the family were there and hear the story retold of that last breakfast that they’d had together.

‘Have you seen him yet?’ was the first question asked as they sat down, this coming from Mary.

‘No, but I hope to tonight,’ she replied.

‘Can I come too?’ was a chorus from the other children.

‘No! If you all come he probably won’t appear, so let’s wait and see. I’ll ask him if you can come to see him, alright?’

‘Oooh, to think we might see a ghost tonight,’ Elaine squealed as she hugged herself.

‘If he’s real,’ Henry scoffed. I nearly boxed his ears for that but I was also looking forward to the later hours because it was obvious that she couldn’t see me already sitting there at the table and hoped that her mind would be more receptive then.

I wasn’t wrong. It was difficult because she was so agitated in wanting to see me that her mind was way off my plane which made it impossible. The other children didn’t help by their constant interruptions to see if I’d appeared or not.

She was rather disconsolate as she gave up her wandering of the corridors of the Hall waiting for me to appear. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a voyeur to watch a ten year old child undress, but that was the time when her guard went down and I was able to make myself appear before her. She gave a little scream and made a useless attempt to cover her half nakedness that had no appeal to me whatsoever.

‘Do not be frightened,’ I said to her as she scrambled for a dressing gown. ‘I’ll turn round so that you can make yourself presentable.’ This I did until she was able to speak in a low and shaking voice. ‘I’m presentable now.’

I turned to see her sitting on the edge of her bed clad in this gown that covered her small body.

‘I’m sorry to startle you as I did, but I was unable to make contact with you earlier you were so…so tight in your mind and thoughts. You’re not the child that I met four years ago so it was more difficult, as it is with people who are older. Do you mind if I sit down, I’m very tired of walking up and down waiting for your guard to drop so that you could see me?’

‘Oh, I’m sorry. Please do.’ She patted the bed next to her but I opted to take the chair that was closest to her, keeping my distance because I didn’t want any physical contact at this point.

‘I was there at dinner when you talked to the others.’

‘Oh, I hope that I didn’t upset you with what I said. What did I say, I can’t remember?’

‘Nothing to worry about,’ I laughed, ‘but I’m not always visible to just anyone. It’s just that we seem to have some sort of affinity to each other. I think it’s because I was there when you were born. You saw me then and smiled at me, so I really was the first thing you ever saw.’

‘I don’t believe it!’ she gasped, her eyes wide in her amazement. ‘What was it like?’

‘Gruesome. I don’t want to see that again,’ I grinned at her.

‘I don’t believe you,’ she gushed. ‘tell me more!’

‘No. I’ll let you find out for yourself when you’re older. With your husband I hope. But I will tell you that your mother saw me that evening. She believes it was a dream, but I was there to look after her, I didn’t want to lose her as I lost Caroline.’

‘Caroline? Who was that?’ I was just about to tell her when the door to her room burst open and the other children came in.

‘Is he here yet?’ Elaine burst out.

This intrusion broke the connection I had established with Sophie, and I saw her eyes scan where I was still sitting, but I knew that she could no longer see me, much to my disappointment. I saw the tears well up into her eyes as she turned to the others and screamed at them that I had been there, but their intrusion had broken the spell. She then cried at the loss of contact and I grieved with her for not being able to tell my story. I was fated not to tell her either, for they left the next day and when I did see her again, I was unable to make contact, which I think was because of her immersion in another world that I couldn‘t comprehend. Nor Joan, my sister in fact. Wallace obtained a minor post in Lord North’s cabinet, so the whole family moved to London.

I was desolate at her removal from my sphere, but she still had had the time to convey the basis of what we had said before the interruption of the others. So I spent a few more years in frustration of not being able to tell my tale, but I had to occupy my time by looking after the family as it grew. As they grew healthy, I watched the decline of my son William.

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