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Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part Six)

June 07, 2018 05:20PM
In Part Six, the story of the Rosings Ghost is revealed…

*******

–ooooo–


With a solemnity of countenance, Lord Matlock spoke in hushed tones to Pierce, who thereafter dutifully removed the footmen, closing the doors behind them. Lord Matlock stood with his back to the great fireplace, his hands held behind him, his head bowed, while we, his eager audience, sat in silence, afraid to utter a word. I gazed at him in expectation, my heart thump-thumping, unable to bear the silence any longer. He lifted his head ever so slowly, his eyes gleaming in the candlelight, his lips curved in a wicked grin as if he had been touched with madness; at least I thought so.

‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ queried he. ‘I never have done, until I learnt the tale of the Rosings Ghost, and for one moment I might have done. It began one day, when Anne’s father, Sir Lewis de Bourgh, chanced upon a tattered old journal, which was buried in an ancient chest, which was hidden behind a false wall, which had been constructed in the bowels of the manor-house, which had been built by his ancestor Sir Hubert de Bourgh nearly two centuries ago. In this journal, Sir Hubert spoke of the Rosings Ghost, a ghost that appeared during Christmas-tide, haunting this ancient hall and doing evil and vexatious things to ruin the twelve days of Christmas for Sir Hubert and his honoured guests, including the king one year, making Sir Hubert look rather foolish.

‘Be it said that Sir Hubert had done many evil things during his lifetime, such as killing his rivals with poisoned wassail and plundering their castles during the revelry that occurs on Twelfth Night. One Christmas Day, he discovered the Rosings Ghost’s sinister secret – why the ghost bedevilled Rosings during Christmas-tide – he having suspected the truth of the matter, given his own evil doings. The angry ghost threatened that a curse would befall Sir Hubert if he revealed the secret to another. Sir Hubert never told a soul, but he outwitted the ghost by revealing the secret in a journal and by entombing the journal behind a false wall. And the ghost was got rid of that way, never to return to plague Sir Hubert during his lifetime.

‘A great many years later, Sir Lewis undertook to expand his prized wine cellar, and while the workmen were knocking down what they thought was a wall, they discovered a false wall and a secret chamber behind it. That’s how Sir Lewis discovered the journal and the secret of the Rosings Ghost. He claimed he had unwittingly released the ghost from its musty tomb. He wished he had never found the journal and, in a fit of rage, he burnt it, but he swore the ghost lived on, plaguing him for the rest of his life during the twelve days of Christmas. Whenever anything bad or peculiar happened at Rosings during Christmas-tide, he would blame a servant, pointing his finger at the unlucky soul for the strange goings on under his roof.’

Annie gasped, horror struck. ‘I remember one time that papa claimed a footman put out the Christmas candle, and the footman, whom I thought innocent, was dismissed. Another time, papa tumbled down some steps on the great staircase, and he blamed the maid for leaving a branch of holly there, but I never saw the holly. The maid disappeared, never to return to Rosings.’

Lord Matlock nodded at her. ‘One Christmas eve, when it was just the two of us gentlemen – you and your mother having removed to London for the Christmas season – Sir Lewis begged to tell me the truth behind the mystery of the ghost, but I must promise never to reveal it to another person, or I, too, would be cursed to the end of my days. Sir Lewis claimed he was in a dying state – the man always fancied himself ill – and thus he no longer cared about being cursed himself. And so to humour him, I agreed to hear his winter’s tale.’

I scratched my head. ‘But if you tell us, then you shall be cursed.’

‘Pooh! Pooh!’ cried he. ‘I’m not afraid of a curse.’

I sought the safety and warmth of my papai’s arms, my heart thump-thumping with fear and excitement and curiosity and I don’t know what else.

‘Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness,’ muttered Mr Remy, twisting a diamond ring on his trembling finger.

Lord Matlock returned to his story. ‘Sir Lewis and I tossed off a fourth bottle of burgundy as we sat in this very room, before a bright blaze. I thought Sir Lewis was funning me with his eerie ghost story. And that’s how I learnt the sordid secret of the Rosings Ghost, and a chilling secret it was. What a macabre tale! Feeling tipsy, I tottered up the stairs to my bedchamber. Along the way, as I passed through the dark gallery, a rush of cold wind hit me, extinguishing my candle. Of a sudden, a deep, husky growl, like Satan’s own voice, called out to me.’

I blurted out, ‘What did it say?’

As if he were possessed by a supernatural being, Lord Matlock’s countenance turned sinister, and he uttered in a loud, measured tone, ‘Holes. Holes. Holes. BEWARE OF HOLES.’

I shuddered with fear. ‘What did you do?’

Lord Matlock stood defiant, with folded arms. ‘Pooh! Pooh! says I to the strange voice. I’m not afraid of you and your deuced holes.’

My eyes became round as saucers, wondering how my avô could be so brave.

‘Boom! My right foot crashed through the wooden floor, startling me at first.’ Lord Matlock held onto his right leg. ‘I lifted my foot out of the hole, telling myself that the old wood floor must be rotten with age.’

‘The ghost did it,’ I half-whispered with terror.

Lord Matlock waved me off. ‘I never told Sir Lewis about my nocturnal visit with the strange, evil voice. When I passed through the gallery in the morning, nothing was amiss. A ha! says I. I had imagined it in my drunken state. At Christmas dinner, Sir Lewis and I imbibed ever so many glasses of tokay, for he had the best wine cellar in Kent. After I bid him good-night, I climbed up the stairs in my tipsy state, and as I passed through the dark gallery, the strange, evil voice spoke to me again in a loud, measured tone. “Holes. Holes. Holes. BEWARE OF HOLES.” I convulsed with drunken laughter. Pooh! Pooh! says I. I’m not afraid of you and your deuced holes. And nothing happened to me, until…the next morning at breakfast, I discovered that my newspaper had holes in it. Can you believe that someone got a pair of scissors and cut out holes in the very articles I wished to read? What insolence!’

‘The ghost cut the holes,’ suggested I.

‘Nay,’ replied Lord Matlock. ‘But I daren’t tell Sir Lewis about my mutilated newspaper. Poor Pierce would’ve been dismissed. When the footman served me my egg, and I cracked the shell, I discovered a yolk-less egg, as if the golden goodness had been scooped out of it. A hole inside my egg? How could that be? But I daren’t complain about it and have the footman dismissed. I then placed a slice of buttered toast on my plate. What the deuce! I held up the toast, peeping through the hole in it. Surely someone was playing wild tricks.’

I jumped from my papai’s lap. ‘The ghost played you tricks.’

Lord Matlock shook his head at me. ‘That evening, when we dined, everything I ate had a small hole in it: my roast beef, my brawn, my mince pie. What could be nibbling at my food? A huge rat? But drunk as I was on Sir Lewis’s excellent port, I didn’t care a jot about the holes in my food. I bid Sir Lewis good-night, and as I stumbled my way into the dark gallery to reach my bedchamber, the strange, evil voice greeted me yet again. “Holes. Holes. Holes. BEWARE OF HOLES.” Pooh! Pooh! says I. I’m not afraid of you and your deuced holes. On the succeeding days of Christmas-tide, I ate hole-y food and got drunk on wine. And each night, the strange, evil voice greeted me in the dark gallery. “Holes. Holes. Holes. BEWARE OF HOLES.”’

‘Oh, my. Oh, my,’ muttered Mr Remy, crac-crac-ing his knuckles.

‘One day,’ Lord Matlock continued, ‘it being a fine day for sport, I set out in my hunting-coat and with a rifle-gun. I crossed the meadow, ready to shoot hare, when suddenly my foot sank into a muddy hare hole, and I fell on my seat of honour, ruining my new sporting dress. Oh, hang it! I’ll blow you to atoms, Mr Hare, says I. It took two men to pull me and my muddy boot out of the hare hole – what an odd thing it was, and how silly I looked, covered in mud.’

‘The ghost put the hare hole there,’ reasoned I.

‘On Twelfth Night, what do you think happened?’ Lord Matlock peered at me, but I shrugged at him. ‘The miscreant who had carved out holes in my food had the audacity to dig a big hole in the centre of our monstrous twelfth cake, a cake that weighed over one hundred pounds. It looked as if a hare had burrowed in there. Can you believe? But being in liquor, I cared not if Cook were dismissed. The revelry of Twelfth Night having ended after mid-night, I tottered through the dark gallery when the strange, evil voice called out to me. “Holes. Holes. Holes. BEWARE OF HOLES.” Pooh! Pooh! says I. I’m not afraid of you and your deuced holes. And I went to bed. That night I dreamt of Satan sticking his pitchfork into the twelfth cake.’

‘Mamma,’ cried Anne. ‘Remember when papa flew into a rage one Christmas season, and he threw our twelfth cake against the wall. He said the cake was the work of Satan. Oh, how I wept, and you sent me to the nursery. I wonder now if the cake had been ruined by the ghost, and papa wished to conceal it from us.’

‘How ridiculous, Anne.’ Lady Catherine rapped her walking-stick on the floor. ‘Sir Lewis had a bad temper and not because of a ghost. He was for ever destroying things or ridding us of servants or stumbling about in a state of drunken madness.’

Lord Matlock snapped his fingers. ‘Drunken madness, indeed. I took my leave of Rosings. How glad was I to be on the road to London where a man can get food without freakish holes. But on the way my carriage hit a monstrous hole in the road, and the wheel tore off. I almost died in this horrible accident when the carriage overturned; I know one of my footmen did. I woke up in my bed several days later, bruised and broken and suffering from wild deliriums. Night after night, on doses of Laudanum, I dreamt of the Rosings Ghost, and I blamed it for my misfortune. “Holes. Holes. Holes. BEWARE OF HOLES,” the ghost would chant in my troubled sleep. Little did I know then in my feverish, grotesque state, that Sir Lewis had died. A month later, when my brain was set to rights, I thought on the ghost and whether it really existed. Nonsense, says I, having concluded yet again that it was purely drunken madness. Surely there is no Rosings Ghost.’

‘Of course there is no ghost,’ remarked Lady Catherine.

Lord Matlock chuckled. ‘Oh, but I see the doubt in the rest of your countenances. To prove to you that there’s no ghost, I shall reveal the secret of the ghost to one person in this room, and then you shall see this notion of a curse is ridiculous. Come here, Pierce.’ He motioned to the doomed butler.

‘Please, my lord, I beg you not to tell me the ghost’s secret.’ The butler grimaced but obey his lordship he did.

Lord Matlock took hold of the reluctant butler, and he whispered to him, while I, overcome with curiosity, wished more than anything to know the dark secret. Dare I ask about it? I changed my mind, however, on seeing the butler turn as white as a ghost upon learning what must have been a terrifying secret.

‘Heaven help me!’ The butler crossed himself ere he sank into a chair, burying his head into his lap, his hands atop his head. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

‘Be it said, the curse turns the person’s hair snow-white.’ Lord Matlock tugged at the white hair on his head.

‘My papa’s hair was white to the end,’ exclaimed Annie.

‘Be it said, the curse makes the person’s eyes cross now and then.’ His lordship’s eyes crossed, and he shook his head to put himself to rights.

‘My papa’s eyes crossed on his deathbed. I thought it the queerest thing,’ Annie half-whispered in a tremulous voice.

‘Oh, mother. Save me! Save me!’ muttered Mr Remy, who forthwith began to drink down a goodly amount of water.

‘Be it said, the curse attacks the person with gout now and then.’ Lord Matlock limped to and fro as if he were in great pain.

‘Bless me!’ Annie wrung her handkerchief. ‘My papa suffered from gout before he died.’

‘Be it said, the curse pinks its victim with a mark on the palm of his hand.’

Annie wrinkled her brow. ‘Papa didn’t have a marked hand when he died.’

‘A ha!’ Lord Matlock raised his finger in the air. ‘My hair has turned white – so be it; my hair is old. I get cross eyes when I least expect it – so be it; my eyes are old. I get an attack of gout now and then – so be it; my feet are old, and poor man’s plaister always cures me. And the marked palm? How absurd. No one shall ever pink me. Mwahahahaaaa!’

He raised his arms in defiance of the curse, his crazy laugh ringing in our ears, and there, on the palm of his left hand, the mark of an ‘X’ dripped a few drops of blood onto the cuff of his white sleeve. Seized with terror, Mr Remy let loose a shrill scream that shattered the water glass in his hand. Whereupon Annie screamed, as did I. How my blood turned cold with dread! How my body shuddered so violently! And how I wished for my papai to save me from the curse! I buried my head into papai’s chest, quaking with fear, but my papai shook with laughter, which bewildered me.

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ complained Lady Catherine, rubbing her sore ears. ‘Brother, you are frightening my guests with your ludicrous story.’

‘Ludicrous?’ Lord Matlock scoffed at her, pointing to his marked palm. ‘I’m cursed for the rest of my days. The mark shall come and go. Some days it’ll disappear; other days, I’ll need to wear a glove to hide it. I beg you not to worry, my sister. I shan’t reveal the ghost’s secret to anyone else, nor should Pierce ever utter a word. But you need to take care.’

Lady Catherine humphed.

Lord Matlock’s countenance turned sinister, and he uttered in a loud, measured tone, ‘Holes. Holes. Holes. BEWARE OF HOLES, and the return of the Rosings Ghost.’

‘Pooh! Pooh!’ cried she.

–ooooo–


Snug in bed, I gazed at my hero, astonished at his pluck whenever the ghost had tried to frighten him.

‘Meu avô, you were brave to tell the ghost’s secret to the butler. Are you sad that you’re cursed?’

‘Nay. A mark on the palm of my hand doesn’t bother me. Look! It has faded away, perhaps to return when I least expect it.’ He showed me his reddish palm, where the mark had been rubbed off.

‘I’m cursed with brown skin.’ I frowned at my hands. ‘I can’t rub the brown-ness away.’

‘You must wear your brown-ness with pride,’ advised he, ‘just like I’ll wear this mark on my palm with pride, because I had the courage to face the ghost, and I didn’t let it dictate how I should live my life.’

‘Meu avô, I think Lady Catherine and the rector Mr Collins are vexed by my brown-ness.’

He humphed. ‘It takes a brave person and a liberality of mind to accept people as they are.’

‘You’re brave.’

‘Oh ay!’ He winked at me.

‘My papai and my mamãe and my puggy and my cousin Annie, and oh yes, Mrs Collins, are brave then,’ remarked I.

He arched his brow. ‘What will you say now, whenever you meet someone who isn’t brave about your brown-ness?’

I shook my finger at him. ‘Pooh! Pooh! I’m not afraid of you.’

My avô laughed, and he patted my cheek.

‘I don’t think Lady Catherine is brave.’

‘Tut, tut. You must promise me never to judge someone when you haven’t tried to understand them first.’

‘I promise. But why does she hate me?’

‘Listen to me, child. Lady Catherine is struggling to learn how to love you, just as I did when I first met you four years ago. There’s a tug-of-war going on in her brain.’

‘Tug-of-war?’

My avô held out his fists, each tugging at the same imaginary rope. ‘One side is love, and the other side is fear.’

‘Fear?’

‘You are everything she doesn’t understand, everything that challenges her own beliefs.’

I paused to consider this. ‘She needs to understand me.’

‘Indeed. So which side of her tug-o-war will win? You must help her love win by being a good and respectful child.’

‘I’ll try to behave well.’ I squinted at him, for a new thought had come into my head. ‘Was Sir Lewis bad?’

My avô paused. ‘Well, he wasn’t always honourable. My child, it’s time for me to take my leave. My travelling companions and I shall be gone at daybreak, and so I must bid you farewell now.’

‘I’ll bet you a ha’penny that I’ll be up at daybreak. If you look up to my window, avô, I’ll wave good-bye.’

‘Done! I’ll take your bet.’ He kissed me on the cheek. ‘Well, then, good-night to you.’

‘A bênção meu avô.’ I kissed his hand to bless him.

And he sprinkled magic dust into my eyes to make me fall asleep.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part Six)

RobinElizabethJune 07, 2018 05:20PM

Re: Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part Six)

LorenaJune 08, 2018 01:38AM

Re: Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part Six)

RobinElizabethJune 08, 2018 08:53PM

Re: Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part Six)

Michelle AnneJune 18, 2018 05:44AM

Re: Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part Six)

RobinElizabethJune 18, 2018 02:46PM



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