I'm happy to be Hosting the Haunted House Virtual Tour today with the stupendously talented B. Lloyd and V.R. Christensen. Check out their spooky guest post below:
As part of the Haunted House Virtual Tour promoting our ghost novellas Blind and Ungentle Sleep, here is a quick peek into one of the famous houses in ‘mock’ gothic literature (we’re not saying which one it is – you can either guess from reading, or from working out the anagram at the end!)
‘I wonder what it will be like – I have heard so much about it,’ murmured Catherine, as she re-adjusted her fascinator for the umpteenth time.
‘My dear, try not to fidget so,’ her aunt sighed, ‘you quite put my turban out, I do declare.’
She fanned herself with her mighty ostrich-feathered fan and gazed out from their phaeton across the great wide expanse of forest land, that stretched out before them, and over which stormy clouds were already collecting. ‘Should we not have come dressed for more inclement weather?’ she said, as raindrops began to fall; she patiently unfurled and held up her parasol. A bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree, scorching and splitting it in two.
‘Why, aunt – is that not like the scene from Macbeth?’
‘Very possibly, child, but hurry or we shall be late and try not to see any ghosts in the shadows, my nerves won’t stand it ...’
‘Oh, but aunt – see that rock over there – does it not remind you of the promontory from the Mysteries of Udolpho ?
‘It may well be, but there is no time for it now – if we reach our destination without severely wetting our fascinators, I shall be grateful indeed. . .’
Finally they drew up before a long, high roofed building, to all intents and purposes a palace made up of bits of ancient masonry both Medieval and Renascent, and most fitting, decided Catherine, for the seat of a reputed Gothic Hero.
A hunched, spindly-legged figure with nutcracker jaw stood on the steps to welcome them, and limped down to assist them from their phaeton.
‘Eh, welcome then – best get ye indoors ...’
‘Oh aunt,’ murmured Catherine, as the creature turn his back and pushed the great creaking door open, ‘are you sure it is safe? Might he not be some Caliban held prisoner here by a great magician, waiting to draw us in so he may slaughter us and feed upon our cadavers?’
‘My dear, it is the steward and he sustained a fall as a child which caused him so to limp – speak no louder and pray he has not hear you or you’ll hurt his feelings . .’
At this the steward turned and chuckled, much to both the ladies’ discomfort.
‘Nay, now don’t you fret – I ain’t bothered,’ he said.
To Catherine this offered an air most sinister – surely there was something untoward about the ready way he locked the door behind them?
‘Foolish girl, it is to stop it bangin’ in this gale,’ was her aunt’s admonishment when she shared her thoughts.
‘Ay, the wind be summat fearful this evenin’,’ said he, still cheerful.
‘And now – where are the others ? In the ball room already, I suppose?’ continued he aunt.
‘Well, …’ he scratched his head,’ they might be … or else they still be in ‘t living room keeping warm by ‘t fire ...’
‘But of course – I can hear them – let us proceed –’ replied the aunt, but Catherine held back.
‘What is it now, child?’
‘Oh aunt – does it not sound like so many ghouls and goblins, waiting to pounce on us and drain us of our blood’
‘Nonsense child! ‘tis merely the other guests chatting and making merry – a little loudly, admittedly ...’
The steward opened the door wide for them, and sweeping a great bow, did announce them thus:
‘Mrs Fortesque and her niece, Miss Morland.’
‘Ah, there you are, and fresh as roses the pair of you!’ was the hearty welcome extended them by their host; he led them to a party near the fireplace and helped them to most comfy chairs.
Catherine observed several of the guests holding glasses filled with liquid and was anxious lest it be blood and they, vampyrs in disguise after all ...
But if so, they were very lively ones, and chatted and joked and teased in a most aimiable manner; in particular by a Mr Jenkins, a distant cousin of the host’s. This young gentleman gave her no peace as to her fascinator, her costume, her reading habits until she was rescued by her aunt and moved towards the other end of the room. The rain continued to bucket down which musicians and guests combined were almost enough to drown out the din: it lashed against the windows; the occasional bolt of lightning lit up the shadows flirting between the candles – and illuminated the portrait over the fireplace. And nearby, a little apart from the present company, a lady in white and a little cap in a chair, looking up at the portrait, it seemed. Who was she?
‘Come, Miss Morland, have you tried the junket?’ A cheerful voice broke in on her thoughts and she was led to the table by the host, and thence to the dance. ‘My son will join us tomorrow - until then, I fear you must make do with me.’
It was not until much later on that she thought to ask who the lady by the fireplace was – but nobody knew, despite her description. There was some gentle teasing and a suggestion she had seen a ghost – which was immediately laughed at and pshawed by the company.
Catherine remained curious and quite certain as to what she had seen. What if, under all the laughter, there was a sinister secret, waiting to be let out? What if the lady had indeed been the ghost of an unhappy resident – perhaps even their host’s wife, deceased these many long years?
Once the party had dispersed, Catherine and her aunt were shown to their respective chambers and Catherine was left to her own devices – which resulted in her puzzling more and more on the question of the lady in white until, unable to sleep, she took candle and stole downstairs to examine the room once more. The rain by now had desisted, yet still the wind blew through casement and crevice and made a pleasingly gothic sound – added to which the room, now dark save for some glowing ember and her sole candle, acquired a truly gloomy and foreboding aspect.
Slowly, fearfully Catherine approached the fireplace – and saw … nothing save a white cape flung over a chair, with hat on top.
She remained much put out by the lack of phantoms generally and all of the window were far too new. When the next morning she met Mr Jenkins, he inquired immediately if she had slept well and how she was enjoying her visit. She described her experience and resulting disappointing find.
‘Indeed, an untidy household this, and totally bereft of anything so interesting as a ghost,’ he commented wryly, and grinned – with an almost wicked, toothy smile – this time, Catherine failed to notice quite how wolverine his grimace had suddenly become, how very much more pointy his teeth were …
This was one ‘visit’ to a gothic place from literature – if you hadn’t already guessed the place referred to, the place name or book from which it is derived is below – as an anagram; have fun ! And think about your favourite gothic place in literature: what would it be like to visit …
The anagram is: A Baby Green Thorn
Two new places on the gothic lit scene waiting for you to explore here:
Ungentle Sleep by B.Lloyd and Blind by V.R. Christensen