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Ghost. Chapter Nine.

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

They all began to talk at once as soon as it sunk in that it appeared that Hugo was correct in his assumption of where my remains were lying. Sophie went to one of the bell pulls and rang for a servant and asked him to fetch six men and some heavy hammers and meet Mr Hugo out by the kitchen.

She took charge and instructed Elaine, Mary, Anne and the children to remain downstairs, except Richard, who as Earl, had the right to do as he wanted. She then went upstairs with Richard, Hugo, Peter and Percy to Hugo’s room where he then opened the secret panel and they all looked at the brick wall with some awe that would soon be torn down to see if Hugo was right. Hugo himself then went down the stairs with a lit candle and opened the panel below much to the surprise of the men waiting down there. There was much whispering by them at seeing this secret staircase and slowly followed Hugo back up to the bedroom. There was much forelock touching as they crowded into the room where Sophie then gave them their instructions. One man to wield the hammer and as the bricks were removed, were to be passed down the stairs to be thrown outside. So one man was chosen for the task of knocking down the wall while the others stationed themselves at intervals on the narrow staircase to pass the broken bricks on down.

‘I do so hope you are right Hugo,’ Sophie said at the first hammer blow to the wall.

‘So do I, so do I,’ he said in a hushed voice. I was yelling fit to wake the dead as I knew he was right. It took several blows to loosen the first brick but that fell inside and couldn’t be recovered, but with that first brick out, the rest were easy to remove as the holding mortar was broken and brick by brick, the hole was enlarged until there was enough room for a person to put their head and shoulders through. That it was a sealed up room was evident and the air became musty after a couple of bricks had come away, plus there was a lot of mortar dust floating about in the air. When the hole was large enough for someone to look through, the man was told to stop and step back for a moment.

‘Now for the moment of truth,’ Sophie said. ‘One of us has to look and see if Hugo is correct.’

‘Let me mother,’ said Richard expectantly.

‘No,’ she said, and Hugo put a hopeful expression on his face. ‘I think it should be Percy,’ whose face took on a look of astonishment. ‘No disrespect to you Hugo, but if Richard really is there behind that wall, I want the room blessed before we go any further.’ So a candle was lit and put into the shaking hand of Percy who mumbled his thanks, not really wanting the honour but was bound to follow the wishes of Sophie. He approached the hole and putting his arm through that held the candle, then put half his shoulder through before putting his head there to look inside.

‘Mother of God!’ came the outburst from him as he quickly withdrew his body and made the sign of the cross directed at the hole in the wall. ‘May the good Lord give that poor being inside the blessing of the church and your protection, and that we may remove his remains for him be buried properly in hallowed ground and that you can then receive his spirit for him to dwell in your house forever.’ Nearly everyone in the room made the sign of the cross and all said amen at the end of Percy’s short prayer.

‘There’s no doubt then?’ Sophie said to Percy as he handed back the candle and brushed dust off his sleeve.

‘Well, there are remains in there, but not until we can remove them will we know if it is Richard or not,’ he replied. So the signal was given to the man with the hammer to continue and clear all the remaining wall that was my first tomb. In thirty minutes, the wall was down and gone and then stood there awaiting further orders.

‘Please wait,’ she told the man. ‘There will be a keg of ale for you all to share once we have the remains brought out, but first we will view them.’ She took the candle and surveyed the small chamber, looking down especially at my skeleton that had been thrown in there to lay alongside the chest that had held my clothes.

‘May God have mercy on your soul,’ she said as she looked down at was left of her uncle, me. Next came young Richard who was wide eyed at the sight of inner parts of the ghost he so vividly remembered. Then all the others in turn looked, some muttering prayers as they did so.

A sheet was taken from the bed and laid out on the floor and then two of the men had to fit themselves into that narrow space to try and bring out my remains in one piece which wasn’t practical, but remove them they did, placing them in roughly the right order on the sheet until all my bones were there for them to see all too clearly. There were still remnants of cloth covering some of my bones of the clothes I had worn when I was murdered. It was then covered up by another sheet and the men were thanked before they made their way down the stairs, their grisly job done for the time being.

‘Percy. Will you see to having a coffin brought up here and have him placed inside and then taken to the chapel?’

‘Of course Sophie,’ he replied and then left the room.

‘What else is there in that room?’ she asked, and Peter took the candle and went inside.

‘There’s a travelling chest that must have been his, and,’ we heard him curse as he hit something as he tried to move around in that small space. ‘There are several other chests at the back wall but I can’t get at them properly. They should all be brought out so that we can see them properly.’

‘Would you give him a hand Hugo please,’ Sophie said, and so he went inside and dragged out my old trunk to be followed by my sword, the tassels still there, faded, but still showed a slight colour. Richard opened the lid to see my uniform that had been hastily thrown in and so it was badly creased, but still had a magnificent look to it as it hadn’t faded in the slightest even after having lain there for so long.

‘There’s four more chests in here,’ came Peter’s voice, ‘but they’re too heavy to lift. We’ll have to drag them out. Can you lend a hand Richard?’ He was only too eager to go inside to see the interior, memorising all that he saw so that he could regale the others later at having seen it all. The faint light from the single candle showed the two others sweating as they tried to pull the first chest out and Richard jumped in to help. Being smaller, he was able to get behind and add his weight by pushing as they pulled.

It took them a good fifteen minutes to get the chest out and into the bedroom where it could be properly inspected. It had an old cumbersome lock on it and they looked round for something which could be used to break or prise it apart.

‘I don’t think this is fit to be fired again,’ said Richard as he pulled an old smooth bore pistol out of the trunk. ‘The barrel is narrow enough I think.’ He passed it to Hugo who inserted the barrel into the hasp of the lock and gave it a twist. The lock broke and they were then able to remove the broken piece and lift up the lid.

There was an almighty collective gasp from the four of them and one from me as the opened lid revealed that the chest was full of gold coins. I’d been lying there with a fortune and hadn’t known it.

‘Oh my God,’ breathed Sophie. ‘I heard about the family fortune when I was a little girl, but nobody had ever found it.’ Richard was down on his knees and running his hand through the shiny gold pieces and let them trickle through his fingers.

‘You know what this means to the estate mother?’ he asked, his eyes shining as he looked up at her.

‘Yes. It’s saved. Oh how I wish we’d found it much sooner and then your father might still be alive,’ she whispered, tears coming to her eyes and beginning to flow down her cheeks.

‘I’ve never seen the like before,’ said Peter in an awed voice.

‘Spanish doubloons,’ commented Hugo, ‘and made from pure gold by the look of them.’

‘And there’s another three chests in there,’ exclaimed Peter. ‘What if they are as full as this one?’

‘Then this family will never be in need again,’ she said fervently. ‘Peter!’ Sophie said, rising up from her knees and closing the lid. ‘Get the men back up here and have them carry this and the other three chests to the master’s room.’

‘Certainly,’ he said, and promptly disappeared back down the hidden staircase to look for them.

I was certainly miffed at them paying more attention to the chest of gold than of my remains that they had originally gone looking for, but, it was only human nature I guessed. I was just a pile of old bones while they were looking at their future and that of the estate, but I was miffed all the same.

There was a knock at the bedroom door and in came Percy followed by four of the men who been handling bricks, carrying a crude coffin which I hoped they would change later for a more decent one that befitted my notoriety.

The bottom sheet was lifted up and my bones deposited into the coffin which really only needed two men to carry and so the other two were detailed to get the chest that was there in Hugo’s room to Richard’s room. Sophie went along with them because it was open and so Richard, Hugo and Peter were left behind to instruct the men to get the other three chests out from the priest’s hole and get them along to Richard’s room.

I didn’t bother following the coffin because I knew where that was going, so I followed these other chests as they were finally put down next to each other. One of these was surprisingly lighter than the others and it was guessed that it didn’t contain any gold bullion. Percy had gone down with the coffin and so it was just Peter and Hugo that were there along with Richard and Sophie.

‘Thank you gentlemen. Today’s efforts and especially yours Hugo, will not go un-noticed and we will see that everyone is suitably rewarded, but I think that these three other chests are for the eyes of myself and the Earl only, so we would be most obliged if you would retire and we will go into further details over dinner.’

There was nothing else they could do, especially by her making the reference to Richard as the Earl, they had to withdraw and let them open and inspect the contents in the privacy of his room. I wasn’t asked to leave as they didn’t know I was there and so I stayed and watched as Richard used the pistol barrel again to break the locks on the three remaining chests. Two of them revealed their contents to be much the same as the first one, full of gold pieces but the third one only contained paper, and it was this one that took much time for them to study and go through.

There were many letters and documents that had been written up to nearly two hundred years ago. Some were signed by King Charles the First. These were for Land grants in the family’s support in the Royalist cause during the Civil War.

A few by Cromwell in reference to the support he’d received from certain members of the family. It appeared that one Stapleton or another had fought on both sides just to ensure that one of them would benefit from whoever won. Those that were signed by King Charles the Second were of land grants in Jamaica. A lot of these documents were deeds granted to the family that amounted to many thousands of acres. In terms of monetary value, they were incalculable and all it would need was for a member of the family to go Jamaica and claim that land with these signed documents that themselves were worth a lot of money to whoever possessed them.

I wished that I had known of these before I was murdered for it could have made all the difference, but it seemed that the secret of these documents and the gold were a secret that was only handed down from the Earl to the eldest son and the first hiccup had occurred between Cecil and my brother Edward. The second hiccup was that he failed to remember in his haste to kill me that he had walled up the family fortune with my body and had no means of recovering the gold and such like without revealing my body to the world. It was what is now know in the modern world as him being in a Catch 22 situation. What with me driving him mad and him knowing that he couldn’t get at the gold, he couldn’t even reveal the secret to his son and therefore had almost doomed the family to financial ruin.

Dinner was a gay affair though it was tainted by the discovery of my remains, I became a part of history as of that night as they were more concerned over the future of the family with the finding of the gold. Richard and Sophie did not tell them of what and how much that had been found but assured everybody that they didn’t need to worry any more about how the estate would survive and that they would all have a share.

It was dispiriting to see that for nearly sixty years people had sought to solve the mystery surrounding Stapleton Hall’s ghost but to find that now I had been found, I was almost forgotten in that first night of discovery. But such is life for the living, the dead are dead and there’s nothing anybody can do to try and bring them back.

Though low in spirit for myself, I was pleased that the family fortune had once again been restored and that I would finally be placed with the rest of my family and I just wished and prayed that they wouldn’t place my remains next to that of my brother Edward.

The official interment took place a few days later and I must say it was a nice turn out to place a body in the vault of a man who had been dead for over sixty years. There even were a few tears and I heard one of the young girls ask if it was the end of Stapleton Hall’s ghost as she shed a flood of tears, and what better epitaph could anyone want when she said, ‘He was such a nice ghost.’

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