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Authors: Sarah Rayne

The Silence

BOOK: The Silence
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Table of Contents

Recent Titles by Sarah Rayne

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Recent Titles by Sarah Rayne

TOWER OF SILENCE

A DARK DIVIDING

ROOTS OF EVIL

SPIDER LIGHT

THE DEATH CHAMBER

GHOST SONG

HOUSE OF THE LOST

WHAT LIES BENEATH

PROPERTY OF A LADY *

THE SIN EATER *

THE SILENCE *

 

 

* available from Severn House

THE SILENCE
Sarah Rayne

 

 

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

    

    

First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9 – 15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital

an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited.

Copyright © 2013 by Sarah Rayne.

The right of Sarah Rayne to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Rayne, Sarah.

The silence.

1. Haunted houses–England–Peak District–Fiction.

2. Horror tales.

I. Title

823.9'2-dc23

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8248-6 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-474-5 (trade paper)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-397-6 (epub)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

ONE

Edinburgh,

8th March 20—

Dear Emily,

It seems that after all these months Stilter House can finally be sold. At last! I know probate can take a long time to obtain, but I had begun to think those solicitors were deliberately dragging matters out.

However, I think that before we put the old place on the market it would be as well to get the furniture removed. Aunt Charlotte had several very nice things, and I wondered whether we could ask Brad West’s wife – widow, I should say – to take a look at them. You remember her? She recently moved to Oxford and has a small antiques shop there, so she would be a good person to consult. Also, family is family, and I dare say Nell has found things difficult since Brad’s death. It would be nice if we could put a little business her way.

Fondest love,

   Margery

Edinburgh,

12th March 20—

Dear Emily,

I’m glad you agree about arranging for Nell West to provide valuations for the contents of Stilter House. I’ll write to her at once.

I don’t think we need worry over what Charlotte used to say about the house. She was always a touch eccentric and given to imagining she saw things. I always thought she simply needed stronger reading glasses.

And even if there was ever anything in Charlotte’s stories (and nothing will ever convince me there was), Nell would only be there for a day or two.

I hope your leg is better – although that new treatment sounds very odd. I wish you would trust conventional medicine more. Do remember how much money you spent with that peculiar man last year, who claimed to have healing hands, and left you with ingrowing toenails and the poorer by £500, to say nothing of his being so very
familiar
with you during the massage part of the procedure.

   Margery

Edinburgh,

13th March 20—

Dear Nell,

I wonder if you would be free to undertake a small commission in the near future?

You may remember Brad’s Great-Aunt Charlotte, who lived in Derbyshire? Brad used to spend some of his school holidays with her at Stilter House. Sadly, she died last month, although she was 95 so it wasn’t entirely unexpected, and vigorous and utterly
compos mentis
to the last.

I’m executor of the estate, together with Brad’s other aunt, Emily, and one of those house-clearance firms will be clearing everything out. However, the solicitors suggest a professional appraisal of the contents first. Is this something you could do? The estate will cover your fees and travelling costs, of course, and if there’s anything you think you could sell in your Oxford shop we could arrange that.

I enjoyed the photos you sent of Beth. She has a strong look of Brad, and I shed a tear on his behalf seeing the likeness. Those wretched motorways, so dangerous, and he was always such a good driver, it still angers me to think what happened to him.

If ever you and Beth can visit me, you would be given a very warm welcome, but of course it’s a long way up here and my house is on the north side of Edinburgh.

Much love to you both,

   ‘Aunt’ Margery West.

Nell read Margery West’s letter twice. Was it a genuine offer or was it Brad’s aunt trying to help her a little? She remembered Margery, and although she had never met Charlotte, Brad had often talked about staying at her house in Derbyshire for school holidays. He had been taken to see ancient caves in Dovedale and the Blue John Mines, which he had loved. But best of all, he used to say, was the discovery of a piano at the house and Charlotte arranging music lessons for him. It had been a revelation to learn how to make music for himself, he had said. After that first time he had always thought of the house as magical.

Nell stared thoughtfully out of the window of her shop, which looked onto Quire Court. At this time of the morning fresh spring sunlight lay in chequered patterns over the quiet old stones. It was not a time when ghosts might be expected to be around, although any ghosts that walked through the court would be civilized and polite ones. If Nell had believed in ghosts she would never be worried by the ones that might haunt Quire Court. But there were other kinds of ghosts . . .

She read Margery’s letter again, and the memories of Brad flooded back, painful and intrusive.
I’ll never forget you
, said Nell to Brad’s memory,
and I won’t let Beth forget you, either. But I don’t want you walking in and out of my mind, just when I’m starting to put my life back together – just when Beth’s getting used to having no father – just when I’m starting to be so very happy with Michael.

She would accept Margery West’s request. Beth deserved even this small contact with her father’s family. She had only been seven when Brad died, and photographs and handed-down memories were no substitute for the real thing. It left such a blank if a child did not know one half of its heritage – you had only to read about adopted children seeking their birth parents in later life. And Brad had talked about Great-Aunt Charlotte with so much affection and gratitude that Nell would like Beth to see the house.

‘I’ve written to accept Margery’s offer,’ she said to Michael that evening. ‘It’ll only mean two or three days, and Beth’s school breaks up for Easter next week so she’ll come with me.’

‘How about the shop?’

‘If I drive up to Derbyshire early on Sunday morning, Henry Jessel at the silversmith’s next door would look after the shop for Monday and Tuesday,’ said Nell. She hesitated, then said, ‘How tied up are you with College things? Would you like to come with us? The house is in the Peak District – it’s a gorgeous part of the country.’

‘I don’t think I can manage it,’ said Michael. ‘There’s a lot of end of term stuff to deal with.’ He did not say it, but Nell felt him thinking that to accompany her would be an intrusion into Brad’s world, and that he had no place there.

So she said, ‘You’ve got the new Wilberforce book to finish, as well.’

‘I have, and I suspect,’ said Michael, ‘that I’m running out of things to write about Wilberforce. There are only so many things a badly behaved cat can get up to in the space of thirty-five thousand words for eight-year-olds.’

‘Did C.S. Lewis run out of Narnia tales?’

He smiled at her. ‘No. But I’ll stay here with Wilberforce – the fictional one and the real one. Where exactly are you going?’

‘It’s a small Derbyshire village called Caudle Moor. The house is called Stilter House, and it was built for a Ralph West. 1900 or thereabouts. Margery West sent me a copy of the deeds of the house and some of the early paperwork – builders’ estimates and architects’ reports and stuff like that.’

‘Stilter’s an odd name for a house,’ said Michael, glancing at the large envelope on Nell’s desk.

‘I think stilt can be an architectural term. Something to do with pillars or piers.’

‘It’s still curious,’ said Michael. ‘I like Caudle, though.’

‘It’s an old name for a medieval posset,’ said Nell, who had looked it up, guessing Michael would light on the name. ‘A kind of egg-nog.’

‘Did you hear that, Beth? You’re going to Egg-nog Village for Easter.’

Beth, who had no idea what a posset or an egg-nog was, but who loved new words, beamed.

‘I think,’ said Michael thoughtfully, ‘I might send Wilberforce on a visit to a tabby-cat aunt who lives in Egg-nog Village.’

‘Aunt Tabitha,’ said Beth, at once.


Yes.
Where’s my notebook. Let’s work that out now.’

After Michael had left and Beth had gone to bed, Nell explored the contents of Margery West’s envelope. There was a slightly dog-eared photocopy of the title deeds, and Margery had included copies of the initial building orders and architects’ reports. ‘Which might be useful in dating some of the contents,’ she had written.

Nell unfolded the first of the letters, which was from someone called Samuel Burlap.

Dear Mr West,

I have made time to look at the land you have purchased, which is known locally as Acton Field. I have paced it out myself, east boundary to west, and north to south, and it is some three-quarters of an acre, which I believe will do very well as a site for your house. The ground slopes steeply in places and there are, of course, still parts of the old Acton House that stood there. But we can demolish what’s left of that, and if we site the house on the crest of the land you will get a view over Pickering’s Meadows that will be something beautiful, such meadows being a sight to behold of a summer morning.

Mr Archibald Filbert of Derbyshire is preparing plans for a house and they will be ready in one month. He is a good architect, although a bit modern for some folks. What I recommend for your house, sir, is good Derbyshire stone and clay bricks, together with sound, properly weathered, English timber.

You will recall that the extension I built at your workplace in Derby two years ago was mostly in stone, and how very pleasing it was when finished.

BOOK: The Silence
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