Read THE RIDDLE OF RAMSEY HALLS Online

Authors: Pippa Hart

Tags: #horror, #suspense, #mystery, #spirits, #gothic, #mother, #victorian, #ghost, #english aristocracy, #english regal

THE RIDDLE OF RAMSEY HALLS (2 page)

BOOK: THE RIDDLE OF RAMSEY HALLS
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“No… it’s not
the Jones’. I mean I’ve been hearing fragments of discussion,
accusations floating on the breeze,”

“You appear to
be babbling once again,” I threw down the queen of hearts.

“Babbling eh?
Not at all, not ever. I’ve been hearing rumours and great
supposition about the love life of that old boss of yours,”

“Rumours about
Sir Collins?” I watched as he thumbed down the jack of spades with
a cheeky glint in his eye.

“That’s right,”
then he went silent as he thought over his next move, his cards
fanned out before him.

“Well? Aren’t
you going to elaborate?”

“Hmm?” he
looked up with one wonky eye. “Oh, yes. I mean no, it’s all
ghoulish tales, mere speculation and idle gossip I presume,” and he
went quiet once more.

I stared after
him, waiting for him to explain but he never did. Of course he
didn’t need to because everyone knew the stories. Looking up to the
crescent moon I watched as the rain began to fall, the drops
shimmering in the white light.

“Just one game
tonight if that’s ok,” I hoped he wouldn’t be angry at me for
leaving him once again.

He regarded my
face with close scrutiny, looking for signs of my thoughts.

“Yes I suppose
that’s quite alright,” he squinted to see his cards better. “But
don’t let that family suck your soul away. They’re energetic
vampires I tell you, they leave everyone around them ashen and
grey,”

I’d heard his
ramblings before and knew what he’d say next.

“They have a
great history, the Collins. Through the ages they’ve been known to
be dark ones. It’s how they made their fortune,”

“Yes, yes I
know grandpa,”

“But it’s
true,
” he protested with his arms going rigid by his sides,
his great rubbery cheeks rippling in anger.

“I know it’s
true,” I placed down all my cards. “I know everything there is to
know about Ramsey Halls. I died there didn’t I? I’m out by the
way,”

He looked at me
with fire in his eyes. In all our years of playing together he had
never lost a single game to me. But unbeknown to him I was hiding a
few spare cards under my petticoat.

“Well done
darling,” he bowed his head. “It’s about time,”

CHAPTER 4

“Ow mummy it
hurts. It hurts
so
much,”

Little Adam was
refusing to leave his bed. The stomach cramps had begun in the
middle of the night and worsened with every passing hour.

“She did it,”
he cried. “She poisoned me again,”

“Who poisoned
you?” Lady Collins patted his forehead to check for signs of a
fever.

“Mildred. I
keep telling you she comes at night and tries to kill me,”

“Son…. Adam.
What have I told you about telling tales?”

“But I’m
not
lying. She’s real I promise,”

But Lady
Collins was feeling uncomfortable about her son’s constant fibbing.
There was something about it that was so….. What was it? Realistic
maybe? Tangible? The woman couldn’t quite figure out what troubled
her so much, but there was something behind his stories that was so
monstrous that he couldn’t’ have made them up himself.

“And so this
Mildred is she in the room now?”

“No. I keep
telling you she only comes to see me at
night
,”

“Oh yes, so you
keep saying,” she fiddled with the edge of her lace cuff. “And what
is it she poisons you with? Are you not sure you ate too many
berries from the hedge outside?”

“It’s not
berries Mummy! It’s something really really bad. It smells like the
marzipan Aunt Lottie puts on the top of her cakes,”

And at that
Lady Collins’ spine went stiff and she had the strongest compulsion
to stand up and back away from her son. There was no way he knew
what dangerous poison smelled like marzipan.

“Who told you
that?” she was walking backwards, bumping into the little boy’s
toys as she stumbled.

“Told me what?”
Adam’s face was confused as he cried through the pain with his
hands clutching at his stomach.

“Who told you
that cyanide smells like almonds, like sweet marzipan?”

“What’s that?”
he cried harder, his cheeks burning up a dark pink.

But his words
weren’t heard as his mother dashed from the room, bustling down the
hallways with her skirts bunched up into her balled fists.

“Where’s the
governess?” she was screaming down the stairs.

Sir Collins
looked up from the great hall below. He had his letter opener in
his hand and a sombre look on his face as he tore open an
envelope.

“What have we
got here? A case of the hysterics?” he glanced back to the
envelope, adjusting his glasses as he sniffed.

“Where’s the
governess?”

“How should I
know?” Sir Collins was reading the letter in front of him with
great interest, his lips pursed as he concentrated on the scrawling
script.

“It’s Adam.
He’s been poisoned,”

The bald head
swivelled towards Lady Collins, her husband’s eyes wild and
staring.

“Poisoned?”

“He says he’s
been poisoned with
cyanide,

“Oh nonsense
woman, don’t believe a word that boy says. He probably read about
the stuff in one of your old Penny Dreadfuls. You know the ones you
hide
so well
under your bed,” he sneered as he returned his
gaze to the letter.

Then he walked
away, with his large galumphing footsteps sounding through the
house. Meanwhile Lady Collins had started to cry, her silent tears
falling onto her dress. She sighed as she worried about what to
do.

“Yes…. It’s
just his imagination,” she spoke out loud to convince herself.
“Nothing in it at all,”

~

I was sat in
the attic waiting for the sun to go down. Looking out through the
tiny window with the criss crossed pewter, I remembered how much I
used to love the sun. Feeling its warmth on the first day of spring
used to warm my heart with the promise of the coming summer. Now it
did nothing but irritate me as I waited for it to disperse across
the moors, just so I could hide under the cover of the stars.

“Why do you
always look so sad?” a little girl’s voice floated across the
beams.

“Because I am
sad Mathilda,” it was a simple answer.

“But why?”

“Because……” I
trailed off not wanting to explain further.

Still looking
out the window I watched a flock of ducks fly into the clouds,
their shape a distinct arrow on top the horizon.

“You never talk
much,” Mathilda huffed and slumped into a wicker chair. “If we’re
going to spend eternity up here we may as well be friends don’t you
think?”

I didn’t
answer, just kept looking out.

“And what is
your fascination with my brother?” she wasn’t quieting down any
time soon. “Why do you love him so much?”

“I just
do,”

“Why?”

“Never you
mind,”

At last I
pulled myself away from the window as twilight began to fade the
skies.

“Why won’t you
tell
me anything?” she was throwing one of her girlish fits
again with her feet banging on the floor.

“Don’t do
that,” I flicked up my palm and pointed a finger. “They’ll hear us.
They’ll come investigating again like before, remember?”

And how could
the girl forget, for it wasn’t that long ago when a whole troop of
investigators had traipsed up here with frightening electrical
implements. They were supposed to detect us, feel our energy but
they only served to annoy us, make us hurl them across the attic.
And so Mathilda stopped kicking, feet planted on the floor as
though they were glued.

“Sorry,” she
whimpered. “I don’t want them back up here,”

“Neither do I,”
and I walked with gentle grace across the floor, a skill I had
learned after many years of existing on the other side.

“Won’t you
teach me how to do that?” Mathilda asked as she watched me.

“I will do
soon,”

“Alright… Well
say hello to Adam for me,”

“Yes of
course,” and I was gone.

CHAPTER 5

While
approaching Adam’s room I could hear the merriment that was
occurring downstairs. The laughter was so loud it almost eclipsed
the sound of glasses clinking together as the group of men
cheered.

I hated it when
they came because it always signalled the last Thursday of every
month. That only meant one thing, The Happening was taking place.
Not many people knew of The Happening and it was certain that most
people wouldn’t want to. It portrayed the worst side of humanity,
the seedy underbelly of the rich and decadent world of the
aristocratic deviance.

It was on these
nights that I’d watch the goings on from high above. I’d look down
with utter derision as the men before me cast their spell of evil,
their intentions treacherous to God. I never wanted to watch The
Happening, but I knew to ignore it would not make it disappear. I
had to learn more about it stop it, had to study every detail if I
was to demolish it.

Sir Collins was
sitting in his favourite armchair by the fire, the one with the
shiny leather and the brass buttons that held the supple upholstery
together. I always imagined it was rather like his body, the skin
stretching to hold together its troublesome weight as it sagged in
the middle. And the seat’s complexion rather matched the man’s with
its claret red exterior.

He was there
now, a drink in his hand and a pungent odour beneath his nostrils.
Yet as ugly and unhappy as he always looked, he was now wearing a
subtle smirk as though he was in possession of the most priceless
and astounding secret. He leaned back further in his chair, the
front of his hair becoming floppy from the sweat on his brow.

“Old chap,” he
called to a man who was sat across the fire from him. “Are you
quite done with that album?”

“Oh yes. Sorry
Sir,” and the scrawny man with wiry hair almost fell to his knees
in fear as he carried the leather bound photo album to the host of
the party.

Somewhere
behind him played Beethoven’s ninth on a wax cylinder. It was Sir
Collins favourite and he tapped his foot as he flicked through the
pages.

“Yes, very
nice,” he smacked his lips together.

Then his pupils
dilated as he turned the next page.

“Good gosh,
this fellow, he is sublime. Who
is
he? I must know who this
boy is at once,” he bellowed across the room.

The man known
as The Curator was mingling with a group of men who were enthralled
by his conversation. Leaning in with baited breath, they hung off
his words as though they gave them life. The man himself however,
didn’t need their raptured attention because he was amusing himself
quite enough with his tall tales. When he heard Sir Collins he
turned his head, his lacquered hair staying in perfect place as he
moved.

“Coming Sir,”
his voice was high but arrogant.

He slicked his
hand over his black, stiff hair and walked with a bounce over to
the host. His hips were swaying as he walked, a gait he had often
practiced in front of the mirror. And his eyes were fixed ahead as
though he was locking onto a target.

“Yes Sir. How
are you liking this evening’s collection?”

“It is
marvellous,” Sir Collins guffawed. “Just terrific but tell me,” he
held up the album. “Who is this boy?”

The Curator
looked down at the photograph that was placed inside the red,
velvet sleeves.

“Oh, why he is
a French boy. Came all the way from Paris, Montmartre if I’m not
mistaken,” he traced his finger down the photograph as he gazed
with adoration. “He is a perfect specimen,”

“And will he be
here tonight?” the old man’s palms were already sweaty at the
thought.

“Ooooh… he
might be,”

“You’re always
one to tantalise me,” Sir Collins winked.

He wanted to
find out more about the boy, was so desperate to find out his age,
but the old man from across the fire interrupted him.

“I say Collins,
will your boy be finally joining us tonight?”

“As a matter of
fact he is. There’s a first time for everything,”

And I wanted to
scream. How dare he treat little boys as though they were objects
in a collection? Who was he to ruin little Adam’s life when he
could be mine? There had to be a way out for him. If he stayed in
this house a moment longer he would feel a pain so tremendous it
would never leave him.

Hurrying
upstairs I found his mother in the corridor outside his room. She
was amidst a hushed conversation with the governess. A young girl
name Sarah who was as lovely as she was oblivious.

“He says
someone
poisoned
him,” his mother was still unnerved.

“Well that
can’t be,” Sarah clutched at her chest. “Who could ever poison a
little boy?”

And they became
silent as they listened to the ruckus that was emanating from
below.

“Is Sir Collins
having another party tonight?”

“He is,” his
wife clenched her jaw as she spoke.

“Is it true?”
Sarah was almost too scared to ask and she had to choke the words
out.

“No,” Lady
Collins shook her head in denial. “It can’t be,”

And she hurried
away, leaving the governess alone in the hallway with only the
meagre flame of her candle. As I approached, I watched as it danced
before me, the small lick of fire trembling in my presence. Sarah
saw it move, sensed the panic rise up within her as she felt my
gaze. Then she ran from me, her breath visible in the chilled air.
I waited until I heard her footsteps reach the bottom of the stairs
before I approached Adam’s door. I knocked three times like always
and then entered.

“Go away,” he
shouted upon seeing me. “You’re bad, you’re
evil
,”

“No sweetheart,
no. That’s not the case. I’m trying to help you,”

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