Read The Haunting at Hawke's Moor Online

Authors: Camille Oster

Tags: #victorian, #ghost, #haunted, #moors, #gothic and romance

The Haunting at Hawke's Moor (9 page)

BOOK: The Haunting at Hawke's Moor
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Lisle appeared in the parlor. "A carriage is
coming," she said, excitement lacing her voice. Anne couldn't
remember how many days it had been since the vicar came to visit,
but it had been quite a few. Time seemed irrelevant out here. One
day followed another with little variance.

"Who is it?" Anne said more to herself.

Lisle shrugged. "They're still quite far
away."

Rising from her seat, Anne moved to the
window and looked out, seeing the carriage in the distance, barely
looking like it was moving. The weather was gray and cloudy, and
today they would have a visitor.

"It's probably the reverend again. Should I
bake a cake? The time they're taking, it will probably be ready by
the time he's here."

"Yes, why not? It would be nice to have
something to serve."

Anne paced around the parlor, waiting
for the carriage to draw closer. She stepped out the front door as
the carriage started turning. A blond head appeared out the
carriage window. Harry. Anne's heart soared and she rushed forward
as he opened the carriage and stepped down. He wore a blue-gray
jacket and he looked so grown. Still so very thin with youth and
there were blemishes on his cheeks. Anne couldn't stop smiling.
"You came."

"Quite a trek. Where are we, the end of the
world?"

"Just about."

Harry turned and looked up at the
house and frowned. He looked so much like his father, Anne
noted.

"Grim,” he said, his accent cuttingly sharp.
Oxford had changed his voice.

"Well, it is nicer inside. Although we
will have to prepare a bedroom for you." Anne thought with panic,
wondering which of the spare rooms was in shape to house a visitor.
Lisle would have to do the best she could to tidy a room for him.
"Come," she said with a smile. "I am so pleased you're
here."

Harry looked around, apparently less than
pleased to be there. Straightening his jacket, he walked up the
steps to the house. An unaccounted for breeze met him, making his
step waver. "Quite a draft there."

"The kitchen door must be open. It gets
quite windy out here. There is little stopping the wind coming over
the moors."

"Um," Harry said, looking around the
vestibule and taking in the dark wood carving. The distasteful look
on his face only deepened. "I suppose it is a house, which is a
mercy for someone in your position. We must be grateful for
that."

Anne grinned tightly, not knowing how to
respond. Lisle walked into the parlor, carrying the tea service and
placing it on the table.

"Come have some tea. You must be
parched after your journey." Anne sat down by the table, but Harry
didn't join her. Instead, he paced around the room similarly to how
she had waited for his arrival. "I am so pleased you came to see
me."

He didn't say anything, just kept
pacing.

"How is Oxford?"

"Good."

"How long are you staying?"

"I can only stay a day."

"It is a long journey for a day."

"It is a long journey for any reason. I
would say you should sell this place, but I doubt it is worth
anything. It looks practically derelict."

"It isn't ideal, but… "

"Still, considering, it is a bit of a
triumph on your part having this place. Father is getting
married."

Anne frowned. She wasn't surprised, but it
still felt like an insult. It had been Stanford's goal and he'd
casually tore her life apart to get what he wanted. She looked down
at her lap. "Then I will wish him felicitations."

"I'm not sure he cares what you wish."
Harry's tone was dismissive. "Well, at least you have managed to
make an existence for yourself out here. I think it would perhaps
be best that you stay away from London for the next month or so,
considering."

"I have no plans to go to London."

"Good, because it would just be awkward for
all."

That was what she was now, awkward.
For Harry, too, likely an embarrassment. He would have been better
off if she'd died. "Have you seen your father?"

"I dined with his intended's family a few
days ago."

Anne knew what had happened now. Harry had
agreed to speak to her on everyone's behalf. Well, there was no
need. She had no reason to go to London. No one there wanted to see
her. Anne smiled, wondering if Harry would have come at all if it
wasn't for wanting to warn her away. She hoped so, but couldn't
quite fully believe it.

Lisle returned with a sponge cake, placing
it on the table. "I sent Alfie to the Turner's to get us something
to cook for supper," she whispered.

"Good thinking," Anne said, pleased that
Lisle could be reasonable and come through when it was necessary.
Now she didn't have to subject Harry to their usual fare. They had
managed to grow some snow peas, too.

Harry sat down and cut a generous
portion of the sponge cake. "Clementine. Unusual." They had found a
late harvest wild clementine tree and it was the only conserve they
had. "Not bad, though."

"I might rest for a while," Harry said
after he finished his tea.

"I'll show you the way," Lisle said quietly
from behind him, bobbing an awkward curtsy.

"Excellent," Harry said and rose,
placing his napkin on the table. "There were a few rough nights in
London before I left. Some of my acquaintances do tend to let
things get out of hand."

Anne didn't quite know what he meant
but smiled contentedly as she watched him walking
upstairs.

 

Harry spoke much of his friend's antics
during supper, describing the young men's revelry. The amusement
shone through as he spoke of it. He had found a group of friends,
it seemed.

Alfie had brought a knuckle of lamb back and
it was the richest meal Anne had had for quite a while. Harry ate
with the gusto of a young man and Anne spent most of the time just
watching him as he talked about his life and experiences. He was
most disappointed that she had no claret and Anne apologized. Yawns
soon took him in the absence of more diversion and he excused
himself.

Retiring to her room as well, Anne sat by
the fire for a moment, still so very happy he was there. It felt as
if she'd been waiting for this. But he was leaving in the morning.
She didn't want to face that, return to the utter solitude of her
life. Perhaps she needed to get some claret to serve for when he
came again.

A stomach full of rich food, her eyes soon
tired and she drifted off.

 

The sound of a slight shift of a body
woke her. The fire still spilled a mellow light across the room,
not quite reaching into the darkest corners. The sound seemed as if
it had come from the chair opposite her. It took a moment for Anne
to realize all was not as it should be. Her heart clenched
uncomfortably. "Not now," she said with a wince, fearing another
episode of panic and dread.

Holding her breath, she listened, convinced
she was hearing the sound of another breath. She grimaced with
fear. It sounded like someone was in the room with her, but there
was no one there. Maybe she really was losing her mind.

No, she had to hold it together.
Closing her eyes, she wished it all away. Harry was here; these
were just silly notions she had. Probably her own breath echoing
off the walls. She couldn't give into this stupid and relentless
fear.

"Leave," she heard softly. It sounded
like a breathy exhale, the lowest timbre of a voice. Another creak
was heard as if someone rose from a chair, and she startled. It was
the wind; she was sure of it. Houses creaked and wind whispered.
Even Lisle has said she'd heard whispers as wind fought its way
inside sills and cracks.

Swallowing hurt as her mouth had dried
and she felt chilled to the bone. As much as she told herself it
was her imagination, she couldn't really bring herself to fully
alleviate the fear. It had sounded so clear, as if there had been a
person there speaking to her. Fear gripped deep inside her gut, but
worry surged, not for herself, but for Harry.

Forcing herself out of the chair, she left
her room and walked down the hall, stopping to listen. There was
nothing, just the emptiness of the house and the distance ticking
of the clock downstairs.

As she had done so many times in her
life, she opened Harry's door and checked on him. He lay fully
asleep, his face away from her. Listening intently, she surveyed
the room but found nothing there.

It was just her mind playing tricks
again. If she had any money she would consider spending some time
in a sanitarium to regain control over her fears and emotion, but
that wasn't an option.

Returning to her room, she snuck under
her blankets and pulled them high—high enough to cover her ears.
Her feet were cold and she tried to rub them warm. Curling up
tightly, she closed her mind to anything outside of her immediate
space. The sounds didn't matter. Houses creaked, wind
whispered—that was just what it did. It would all be fine as long
as nothing happened until morning, when Harry would be on his way,
away from any madness or danger in this house.

 

In the morning, after breakfast, Anne walked
Harry out to his hired carriage waiting outside. "It's been so
lovely to see you, Harry. It's a shame it is such a short visit,
but maybe that's for the best."

"Yes, I have to get back to Oxford. I can't
be traipsing all around the country with impunity. And then there's
the wedding. I don't get a single breath of peace," Harry said.
Anne could tell he was itching to get away as much as she was
itching to have him gone, but for other reasons.

He turned to her. "I am glad you are in a
tolerable position," he said, looking down at her. He'd grown so
tall. "I suppose it is good for you out here. No one to judge
you."

"That is a benefit," she said.

"I don't like it though. It's an eerie
house. And ugly. You feel as if someone is watching all the time.
Maybe it's that girl." So he had picked up on the unease in the
house too, she noted.

He embraced her and Anne took a moment
to savor it, draw in the scent of him and remembered what it was
like to have a young child seeing her as one of the most important
persons in the world. She wasn't that to him anymore, and maybe
that was as it should be. As a young man, he had a life of his own
to forge. "It has been so good seeing you. Promise you will write.
I want to know what occurs in your life," she said when the embrace
broke apart.

"Surely there can't be any mail out
here?"

"It goes to the nearby village where they
keep it for us."

"I will try, but as I said, I don't have a
lot of time these days."

The springs of the carriage shifted as
he stepped up and closed the door. Anne placed her hand on his on
the door's edge. She wasn't sure if she'd see him again anytime
soon. He was eager to get away, back to Oxford and the excitement
of his life, and she wanted him away from the house and its
dangers. Still, her heart ached to see him so eager to
depart.

The memory of the voice during the night
returned, the one telling her to leave. Maybe it was time to
concede what everyone said—that there was something very wrong with
this house.

On one hand, she wished she could step into
the carriage with Harry and be away from here, but she couldn't. He
had no means of supporting her and it was unfair to ask him to.
None of this was his fault.

Instead, she turned back to the house,
which looked muted and dark in the pale light of the morning. The
message had been clear. Whatever it was, wanted her gone. Well, her
desperation was enough that it would take more than a few
whispers.

Chapter 11:

BOOK: The Haunting at Hawke's Moor
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