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Spirit of Augusta Manor
The night was black and the rain, pelting down along her forehead increased with every cautionary step she took. Janelle White was a small woman; her skin was fair and her hair dark. It blended in with the night sky and her thin face was all you could see. She had been walking for hours, kicked out by her former fiancé and accused of cheating with the doctor. She was fond of the doctor, Mr. Clarence, but their relations had been limited to her conveniently frequent episodes of illness in which she would be admitted unto his care. But, Janelle knew better. In, fact she was smarter than her fiancé deemed her.
The light from the house in which she had come had dimmed in the distance and now it was completely extinguished from her naked eye. Her delicate heels had caused her ankle to twist and her soft whimpering was lost with the howling wind. She turned the corner on what seemed to be the third hour and saw a small light. A lighthouse, she thought, for she was near the sea. Or, perhaps, it was a passerby who had been caught in the rain and was scurrying home. Her ankle stung up through her thigh but her pace hastened, and a house came into clear sight. She knew there would be no use stopping and yelling; she was close, but not that close. The pain from her numb fingers surpassed the burn in her leg and she decided to pursue the journey.
As she approached the lilac-lined walkway of the ivy-laden manor, she noticed the ornate front door that harbored the deep glow she had seen from the road. The cherry finish of the door could be seen by a single lantern overhead, and the glass cut-outs hid features of the entryway from being too clear. Her hands were undoubtedly frozen by this point, but she was able to generate some life out of her wrist to tap on the door. As she stood, shivering, with wet clothes, she wondered what lay behind the door. Was the outside a false pre-tense for what was inside? After all, the house lay secluded on a mountaintop. She saw her breath in front of her face as the door continued to remain shut. She saw no movement behind the door, though her face peered inside. Maybe they did not hear me; perhaps I should knock again, she thought. And, as she lifted her limp arm up to try again, the door suddenly opened and she squinted from the light of the parlor.
Her eyes dilated and she could now make out the figure of a man who stood stiff at the door. He was a tall man, lanky even. The uniform he wore was polished and his cheeks blushed a scarlet red. His eyes, however, did not match the glimmer that resonated from his warm face. They were a dark grey, almost black and they stared blankly. They do not judge, thought Janelle, but they do not feel. She concluded that the man was the butler, perhaps a caretaker.
“I’m sorry to bother you at this late hour, sir”
“Well, yes, it is rather late, now is it not”, he whispered. “What business do you have disturbing the household?”
Janelle had spoken too soon, for now the man’s eyes judged as though she were being put on the stand. She felt silly; her clothes were drenched and her hair, she imagined, had come undone with the inclemency of the night. She did not know how to respond, but her tone was more desperate now.
“If you please, an accident has occurred---”, she was interrupted.
“What kind of accident Madam. Surely it must be of great burden on your being for you to venture all the way up to Augusta.
“Augusta”, she questioned.
“Yes, Augusta, that is the name of this residence”, he said. “But you have yet to answer my inquiry”.
“Sir, if it is not of too much trouble, may I be let in”, she begged. “Cannot you see that I am shaking and that my hands are a dark shade of blue”?
The man stepped back and without saying a word, invited Janelle into the mansion. She slowly stumbled in, her ankle still ached. Her eyes were immediately drawn up towards the chandelier that hung from the tall ceiling. The staircase leading up to the second floor was long and the steps matched the door she had been captivated by.
“This way, if you will, I rather not have to clean the water from the floor”, scolded the man.
She looked down and saw the intricate tiling that lay beneath her shoes. The house was beautiful and everywhere she looked she perceived the opulence of its owner. She followed the man slowly down a dark hallway that led to a library. Books lined the walls and there was a single chair in the middle of the room. The man motioned for her to sit down and offered to get something for her to dry herself with. He departed the room only to return in what seemed to Janelle like seconds later. He handed her a towel. It was warm from the house and he prepared her a cup of tea from a tray he had brought.
“Thank you”, she replied as he handed her the gold-lined cup.
The man’s voice was softer now as he explained, “As you may have noticed, I am not the owner of this estate. The owner is in his room up the stairs. Will you wait here while I retrieve him?”
Janelle nodded. The man once again departed and Janelle was left alone in the library. She could hear the rain turn into hail as it crashed against a nearby window. She set the teacup down on the adjacent table and lifted her dress slightly to see her ankle.
“Swollen”, she cursed.
She dropped her skirt and her head lifted to see another man approaching. Thinking it was the owner; she stood, but stumbled back into the seat. The man rushed to her assistance and eased her back onto the cushion.
“Careful”, he warned.
“I’m sorry—I believe that my ankle is twisted”, she half cried.
He bent down and lifted her dress to reveal her feet. He removed her shoe and cradled her foot in his palms. Janelle became very uneasy at his actions and instinctively pulled away, but he held a tight grasp.
“Sir, are you the owner of the house”, she asked.
He chuckled, “No, I am the owner’s son, but when my father passes I will presume ownership”.
“Oh”, she said.
The man saw the uncertainty in her eyes and said, “My name is William Augusta”.
Augusta. Janelle recalled what the butler had said about the home being called Augusta and returned the young man’s kindness.
“I am Janelle White”.
“Madam, what has happened to you tonight; your ankle may be broken”.
“Yes, well—just an accident”.
Unlike the butler, William did not question the premises of said “accident” and continued with his amateur examination. He yelled to the butler, whose name Janelle learned was Arthur, to fetch a pillow.
“Here you go, master”.
“Why, thank you, my father should be down soon”.
Janelle was silent as William propped her foot and stood up. William was just about to continue with his dialogue when Janelle’s attention was transferred to the footsteps coming from a doorway she had not seen upon her entrance into the library.
“Father”, said William.
Mr. Augusta approached his son and rested his hand on his left shoulder.
“So, this has awoken me”, he inquired.
“Yes, sir, this young lady’s name is Janelle. Janelle White”, said William.
“Ms. White, to what do I owe the pleasure; we seldom have guests”, Mr. Augusta mocked.
Janelle could see that Mr. Augusta was not like his son. Though they looked alike; blue eyes, long eyelashes, full eyebrows, jet black hair, and sculpted features, their attitudes towards Janelle were different.
“Sir, I am very sorry to intrude at such late an hour, but I have nowhere to go”, she pleaded.
“Nowhere to go”, he teased.
Just like the butler; questioning, she thought. But, she retracted the thought quickly seeing as he had the right to know why she had come to his home.
“My fiancé, well… former fiancé has shut his door to me”.
“Are you guilty of a crime? Infidelity”, he probed.
“His accusations are that of me and the doctor”, she stuttered, “He thinks I have had relations other than business with Mr. Clarence.”
“Ahh, I see”, his questions ceased as he scrutinized her figure.
“Father, though I am not a professional, her ankle is without a doubt swollen and she cannot return back into the night”, interjected William.
Janelle was surprised by William’s swiftness to let her stay, but was thankful he felt in such a way. Mr. Augusta walked circles around the chair and a small smile cracked across William’s face.
“Joseph Augusta”, said the father.
“I beg your pardon, sir”, puzzled Janelle.
“That is my name Madam; it would be in your best interest to learn it”.
“Yes, sir”, she obliged.
Mr. Augusta called for Arthur, “Kind sir, would you do the honor of taking this lady to Clara’s former room; she will stay the night with us, and will see the doctor in the morning”.
“Father, I am sure that Arthur is tired, just as you are. I would be happy to escort Ms. White.”
“Very well; goodnight Ms. White… do sleep well.”
“Thank you sir, you as well”, replied Janelle without looking up.
William waited until he heard his father’s footsteps reach the last stair before he spoke to Janelle.
“We should get you to sleep; you look far too weathered for a woman your age”.
“Thank you, sir”
“Please, call me William, and for what are you thankful”, he mused.
“I am grateful for your generosity”.
He nodded his head as he helped her from the chair. Once he stabilized her arm around his neck, he escorted her out the door from which she assumed Mr. Augusta himself had come. The room in which he quickly illuminated held a large bed. The walls were painted with a deep forest green, and the black drapes were tightly drawn. To the left of her, was a dresser. A mirror was at the head of the drawers and she gasped at her appearance. William ignored this and set her on the bed. He rustled through the drawers and produced a night dress.
“This should suit you well”, he said.
He laid the gown next to her legs and left to return with more towels and warm blankets. He left the room for a moment so that Janelle could change, but came back to turn the bed down for her. He again helped her atop the high bed with respect for her ankle.
“Would you like a candle to sleep with”, William asked.
“Do I need a candle? I enjoy sleeping in the dark”, Janelle responded.
“Indeed, but, you may find that this room is darker than your mind is capable of handling”, he whispered.
“But, my mind will be sleeping”, retorted Janelle.
“Yes, it will; forgive me, sleep safely”, he cautioned.
William blew out the candle with one small breath and he quietly shut the door. Janelle nestled under the covers that William had pulled to her chin. What did he mean, “sleep safely”, she wondered. She was sure that the darkness would become familiar to her in a few moments. She closed her eyes and tried to avoid thoughts of James, her fiancé. She was emotionally exhausted, but her mind wandered, keeping her awake. She opened her eyes to a room that seemed darker than before. Scared, she shut them again. She had finally centered her thoughts and was almost asleep when she heard a noise. The sound of rings sliding across a hanging rod. She opened her eyes, but she was facing the door by which William had departed. The noise was coming from the opposite side. She turned slowly and quietly wondering if her beating heart could be heard in the next chamber. The curtains! The curtains that had been closed shut were now opening. On their own?, she thought, impossible. She allowed for her eyes to peer over the tops of the blankets. The room certainly was not dark anymore. She shuffled her body up so that she was sitting. It was then that her eyes could see the light of the full moon. She looked closer to see a garden. The lilacs that she had seen upon entering the estate were there along with what she could see as red and white roses. Maybe a draft?, she reasoned, as if trying to maintain her own sanity. She wiped her eyes with her hands and ran her fingers through her hair. She looked one last time out the window, but this time she saw the figure of a woman just standing among the flowers. She held in a cry of terror as to not disturb Mr. Augusta once again. She grabbed for the candle on her night stand and the wax burned the top of her hand. She fumbled for the matches and put a flame on the candle’s wick. Forgetting about her ankle, she swung her legs over the bed and jumped to the floor. Disoriented and now in pain, she collected her overcoat. It was still wet from her journey, but she put it on anyways. She calmed herself and took four deep breaths before opening the door. She had no idea where she was going and the candle, she knew, would burn out fast. She remembered the motions and directions in which William had gone, and was confident in that. Left down the hall, right when you reach the library and through the door to the parlor, she repeated. But, the woman was not in the parlor, she was in the garden. Janelle limped along the tiling she had once admired and she subconsciously led herself to a door that led outside. She turned the knob and stepped out onto the cool concrete. The rain had not let up since she was last outside, but her focal point of worry was upon this woman who she had seen. The flame from the candle she was holding was extinguished by the water. She dropped it, as it was of no use to her anymore. She was now led by the light of the orange moon. She was surprised at how easily her eyes adjusted. She walked through the flowers, grimacing in pain with each step. A welcoming glow awaited her beyond a small white gate she unlatched. As she tiptoed closer to the light, she saw the outline of the woman. She became startled and her heart resumed its heavy beating, but she continued to move forward; almost as if she was being invited in. A spirit?, she thought. That was the only logical explanation she could muster. The woman had her back turned towards Janelle.
“Excuse me”, Janelle called.
How silly it is, she thought, to call out to a ghost. She strained her eyes to see in the rain and saw the woman turn around. The next thing she knew, she was face to face with the apparition.
“Who are you”, cried the woman.
“I— I am Janelle… Janelle White; who are you”, she stammered.
“Who am I”, laughed the woman, “Why, my dear I am Clara Augusta, the witch who haunts Augusta Manor”!
Frightened, Janelle started to move back, but the witch followed. Her eyes became wide and she shrieked wickedly. Janelle screamed and tripped to the ground on the candle that she had dropped. She did not know where to go. The witch circled her trembling body in the air and Janelle began to feel lightheaded and delusional.
“My husband killed me because he did not agree with my beliefs of the supernatural”, she wailed.
Janelle, now paralyzed with fear stared into the witch’s eyes. Her throat became dry and she could not speak. She felt a strong hand upon her shoulder blade. It was William.
“Janelle, get inside”, he shouted.
Janelle, with his help, got up and scurried into the house. William ran after her, slamming and locking the door. Janelle stood, blank-faced, and did not blink. William answered the questions that her eyes asked.
“My mother, Clara Augusta; that is who you saw. She was a witch. She performed séances, and believed in the supernatural. My father had no choice other than to kill her.”
Janelle sat in disbelief, her heart was still beating, and she felt like it was going to burst out of her chest at any moment. She blinked, her gaze still on William, and she took her last breath.
Frantic, William called for the doctor. When he arrived, he pronounced Ms. White dead. Under the circumstances William had provided, he concluded that she died of a heart attack. The stress of the night and what she had seen had overwhelmed her to the point of death.
“William, what are you going to do”, asked the doctor.
William looked out the window. He rubbed his chin.
“He never believed in her powers…”
“Put her with the rest, doctor.”