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The Secret
The Secret

The Secret

Franc68Lorient Montaner

The echoic sound of the wuthering winds blowing had stirred the murklins of the moorland, and the whistling shrieks of the ghosts roaming are heard with the distant howls of the mastiffs. Over yonder perched on the crags of a hillside, overlooking the broad dale lies a seclusive home in Yorkshire that is known, as the Strudwick Manor. The tempestuous weather was foreboding to the events that would ensue thereafter, and the disturbing nature of those events would release the pursuit of a horror that was merciless in its persecution. The English countryside is a place where time is forgotten, and where the phantoms of the past meet with the mortals of the present. There amongst them was an indelible vestige, whose images evoked sudden terror. A terror that had concealed the horrendous secret of a manor.

The manor was located outside of the English town of Halifax and was constructed in the late 18th century. It had belonged to a certain nobleman; whose name was Lord Alfred Strudwick. It was the year 1938, and Richard Berwick had arrived from London, with several of his closest acquaintances in a vehicle. He was an architect and was assigned the task of remodelling the abandoned manor. The characters in this story aside from Mr Berwick were Mr Thomas Cardew, Mr Robert Bracknell and Miss Barbara Hutchins, all of which were involved in the renovation process in some capacity. The manor had a front gateway, and inside its grounds there were imposing griffin statues at the top of the structure enclosed in masonry, along with the stoned walls and the pillars, a peculiar coat of arms, the ruins of crenellations, a crumbled gatehouse that had baluster mullions, carved stonework with inscriptions engraved in Latin, ornate windows, a front façade that was unusual and was encompassed, by the vast castellated edifice covered with the verdure of vines and moss.

Once inside the manor, the visitors could see its desolate and dull appearance that was marked by its lustreless shade of gloom. What was transparent was the obvious neglect of the interior structure that had represented the once illustrious manor in its glorious days of attraction. The chairs and tables in the main hall were dusty and dilapidated, as the ones in the dining hall. They needed refurbishment. The furniture had a verdigris colour due to the specks of rust. The stairway was missing a banister with its coat of varnish, and the wooden planks of the floor would creak upon stepping. The manor had two storeys, but most of the rooms were unkempt and had not been embellished in decades. The fine Persian rugs were torn, and the Oriental tapestries were worn. The dining hall was as well forlorn, and there was a hearth that was without an igneous spark of fire. The parlour was empty of its usual parlance. The chandeliers were barely hanging, and the gallery was devoid of colourful paintings and a semblance of art. The manor had a cellar below that was not in usage. The windows had lost their decorative tracery and fenestration. There was a miasma of despair that was prevailing over the manor and the breadth of its corridors, as if the history of the people that were its residents were intentionally effaced. For what particular reason, that was to be an extraneous mystery to be resolved.

Mr Berwick had concentrated his effort and time on attempting to remodel the most significant parts inside the manor first, then the lesser parts afterwards. He had conversed with the others about his plan and what he had expected to achieve with his inventive design. He was given a budget and he could not afford to extend over its expenditures too much. Thus, with the imposed limits he had been restricted, he began to observe the interior structure of the manor closely. He had a calculated assumption that he could manage to resurrect the previous elegance that the manor had exhibited before its appalling decadence. It was difficult for Mr Berwick to envision this, amidst the reality that was the demonstrative contrariant. There was a lot of work to be done, but the architect was confident in his knowledge that would subserve his abilities.

Mr Berwick was not aware of the full extent of the history of the manor nor its vital attachment to the original proprietor, who had belonged to the Strudwick lineage. He was more concerned with how he was going to remodel the old manor than the mention of its historical relevance. As they were gathered in the main hall observing a painting of Lord Strudwick and conversing, Miss Hutchins had noticed the singular figure of a young girl standing there in one of the adjacent corridors. She was stunned at first then intrigued, by the young girl's presence. She was not even certain that she had witnessed this unique image in its embodiment. The girl who had appeared before her was of short stature. She had locks of blond hair, and her eyes were of a sable hue. What was distinct about her features was her blanched pallor. There was no revelation denoting that anyone was still dwelling inside the manor, and it had been assumed to be abandoned for manifold years.

When she had notified the others, they did not see the young girl who would disappear thereafter. It was a bizarre occurrence and the first of several episodes that were considered of a preternatural origin. Miss Hutchins was still bemused with what she had seen. There was no doubt in her mind that she had descried the image of a young girl. The question that would linger in her mind was, who was she exactly? The thought that there were ghosts in the manor was an unsettling possibility. It was simply something that had to be contemplated, despite the superficies of the ambiance of the manor. The visitors would have to confront a series of seemingly inconsequential events that were inexplicable, but linked to the gruesome circumstances that were indicative of a family's disgrace.

There was a distant storm that was forming after the evanescence of the brumous moors, as Mr Bracknell had stared outside from one of the windows of the main hall. Judging from the few scantlings of evidence that were found about Lord Struckwick in the form of letters that were retrieved in his bed chamber by Mr Berwick, he was a man of confounding mystery and considered an aesthete, who wore the most sartorial clothing at festive revelries. He had a fond predilection for soirees that he would host upon several occasions. There was little that was revealed in these letters about his immediate family, with the exception of the mention of three children, a son and two daughters. What was queer was the fact that he never once disclosed their names. His wife was referred to with a measure of discretion. Her name was omitted as well. It would seem that Lord Strudwick was a very private man, even in his confidential letters of correspondence.

The plot would thicken with the emergence of the letters and the discovery of hidden passages that were marked, as clear entrances and exits from one room on to another. The curiosity of the visitors would peak, with each detail that was uncovered about the manor and Lord Strudwick. The anonymity of this nobleman was only the precursor to the terror that would be witnessed in the manor. Unbeknownst to the visitors, it would be a tragedy that would lead to the stain of a family's repute. Lord Strudwick had amassed a great fortune. However, he had also obtained a number of countless foes and unworthy indiscretions.
All of which would contribute to his downfall and the final act of his madness. He had insatiable caprices and debts that would pursue him until his untimely death. These pieces of information had left Mr Berwick brooding about their relevance.

There was so much that he and the others could discover, about the intraneous secrets of the manor that were waiting to be unravelled. There was a private library still intact that had a vast and heterogeneous collection of books, despite the filaments of cobwebs. Mr Berwick had assigned one of the local inhabitants to tend to the manor, while they were away. A man whose name was Mr Paul Manthorne. During their stay in the area, the visitors would sojourn at a comfortable inn in Halifax. As they had departed the estate, Miss Hutchins once more saw the defined image of the young girl. This time, the girl was looking at them as they were leaving, from one of the windows near the front door entrance. Naturally, this had discomposed Miss Hutchins for a moment, until the car had raught the dirt road leading out of the estate. Apparently, the others did not see the young girl at the window. This would make Miss Hutchins ponder the nature of her appearance along the way to Halifax. There was a luminous ring around the moon that night that was portentous in its representation.

The following morning when the visitors had returned to the manor, they would discover that someone had been inside the manor and it was not the caretaker they had contracted Mr. Manthorne. When asked about who had entered the manor, the caretaker would respond by telling them that no one had entered that he was aware of any forced intrusion. There was eeriness that had been hovering over the moorland that day, due to the intervals of the inclement weather, which was normal for the season. The observant griffins at the front door were imposing in their statues. There were fresh footfalls that were spotted, and some of the chairs in the main hall were moved as well, were the paintings. There were oil lamps that were lit. There was another troubling admonition that was found on the surface of one of the scribable surfaces of the walls, the emphatic words of "Get out!" This was disconcerting to the visitors, for they had not expected this dire welcome. Mr. Berwick had concluded that it was some type of mischievous prank. The question was who had revealed these words? Was it a random act or an indeterminate ploy devised to scare them away?

'Who could have written these words?' Enquired Mr Bracknell.

'Someone must have entered the manor, while we were gone,' answered Mr Berwick.

'Who could it be?' Mr Cardew insisted.

'I don't have an idea of who that individual could be'.

'What if it was written by a ghost?' Miss Hutchins suggested.

'What do you mean?' Mr Berwick had asked with bemusement.

'I would like to know that too!' Mr. Bracknell interjected.

'I don't mean to befuddle either of you gentlemen, but yesterday as we were departing the manor, I saw the image of the young girl that I had seen in the corridor. She was at the window by the front door staring at us'.

'Are you certain about that?' Mr. Berwick was intrigued.

'Yes. I think so!'

Whoever had written those words on the walls had left a vivid impression on the minds of the visitors. It was beginning to seem creepy, as they spent more time inside the hollow manor. The architecture from outside had been reduced to being a façade of a ruined edifice. It was difficult to know whether or not a person beside Mr Manthorne could have written these words on the walls and be so blatant with the admission. Mr Bracknell was convinced that it was the caretaker, and Mr Cardew thought it was an intrusive thief. Miss Hutchins tried to convince the others that it was the ghost of the young girl. That was something that they had assumed unlikely, but they could not prove that it was done by a person or not. Nor could they blame Mr Manthorne. For the nonce, they had dismissed the incident and proceeded with their plans, for the renovations of the manor.

As the days had passed, another unexpected incident would betide. This time, as they were gathered in the dining hall surveying a small hole that had opened in the roof, causing a leak to enter, Miss Hutchins would see a dark shadow swiftly pass the corridor. The men were occupied with the leak to take notice of this dark shadow. Miss Hutchins would follow the shadow into the corridor, until it had disappeared into its walls. There was a lone mirror that was hanging on one of the walls. Slowly, Miss Hutchins stopped and had looked directly into the mirror. Suddenly, the wax candles that were underneath the mirror were lit, and deep breathing became audible. The shadow then manifested into three shadows of young children, who had ebony eyes of utter dread.

Naturally, Miss Hutchins would scream in fright. The men hearing her vociferous scream would scurry to her side. She was visibly shaken. When the men had arrived the images of the children had disappeared.

'What happened Miss Hutchins?' Asked Mr Berwick.

'The children. I saw the faces of the children!' She had replied.

'What children are you talking about?' Mr Cardew was interested in knowing.

'The Strudwick children I think!'

'Where did you see them?' Mr Bracknell enquired.

'In the mirror!' Miss Hutchins emoted.

'I am afraid that I don't see anything!' Mr Berwick confessed.

'Am I the only one who sees the children? Am I going crazy then?'

'No. I would not suggest that. The manor has a creepy feeling to it that could be perturbing to the mind'.

'Then you think I am conjuring these images in the back of my mind?'

'Those are your words, not mine Miss Hutchins. Perhaps it would be better, if we left the manor and returned tomorrow. There is not much we can do for the remainder of the day'.

'I agree!' The others concurred.

Within the week they would have sufficient money provided to contract the necessary people for the remodelling to be performed, and the added furniture to be installed. It was decided that within two weeks, they would hire the people to assist in the renovations. Miss Hutchins who was an interior designer was the person, who would be in charge of the decorations of the manor. Mr Berwick and the other men were in charge of restoring the quondam elegance of the outer layers of the manor. It was significant that they could make the Strudwick Manor eventually regain its stately appeal and design. It was a tall task to effectuate, but the architects and the interior designer were extremely proficient in their abilities. They were chosen due to their credentials and were highly recommended. Miss Hutchins was still affected by her encounters, with the supposed ghosts of the Strudwick children. Yorkshire was an immense place full of boundless mysteries and tales.

The previous night had rained and there was a dampness of dew that had penetrated the finew of the casements of the windows, and cause the leak in the dining hall to spread on that morning. There was no electricity in the house as they had walked along the opaque corridors, noticing the decaying wood of the panel of the walls, with only the casual light that had flashed from the nearby moors and the torchlights they carried. The wind had still persisted in its peculiar sound, as a reminder of where they were situated. In spite of these abnormalities, they were able to walk through all of the rooms and places of the manor whilst conducting their observation. Mr Manthorne was relieved of his duties, until Mr Berwick had summoned him of their departure. Before he had left the manor Mr Berwick was interested in knowing, about the history of the Strudwicks. Mr Manthorne's answers would be ambiguous in his disclosure.

'Mr Manthorne, you who are from this area. What can you tell me about the history of the Strudwick family?'

'What exactly do you wish to know, sir?'

'Who was Lord Strudwick?'

'I myself have never met any relative from his direct family. I hear that they live elsewhere in England. As for Lord Strudwick, I am afraid that I can't reveal to you anything, except that he had his fair share of enemies, sir'.

'And his children? What can you tell me about them?'

'You mean Sara, Michael and Eve?' He had paused for a moment, as if the memory of them had deeply made him pondered.

'Those poor children were doomed from the beginning. They never had a chance with their demented father'.

'What do you mean demented?'

'Don't mind me, sir. I seem to have a bad habit of prying myself in the matters of others. That is all the history that I know of them. It has been centuries. If you will excuse me, I have to return to the gatehouse'.

'We shall continue the story on another occasion. You are free to go Mr Manthorne'.

Mr Berwick had suspected that Mr Manthorne the caretaker of the manor was keeping quiet, about the life of the Strudwick family. Why was he so hushed about this topic? And why did he pause, when speaking about the fate of the children? That was something that had confused Mr Berwick in his thoughts. Lord Strudwick had appeared to be a contentious man, and after reading the letters, the impression that Mr Berwick had of Lord Strudwick was that of a man who was of a particular rodomontade. Mr Berwick would dismiss the oddity displayed by the caretaker and concentrate more on the renovations, but as time would progress, so would the unexplained phenomena that would occur in the manor. The suspicion would transform into a gradual apprehension that would wield dominion over the visitors. Their presence was being perceived by the watchful eyes of the former residents of the manor, who time had vanquished to the misery of their bereavement.

The feasibility of wandering ghosts in the manor would start to manifest plainly, with each unnatural episode and encounter. The times were evolving, but stories of the undead roaming the Earth have remained ingrained in the susceptible minds of people, who believe in these accounts narrated. Mr Berwick was with Mr Bracknell and Mr Cardew outside, looking at the commanding structure of the manor in front of the griffins, when suddenly they had heard a spine-chilling scream coming from inside. It was Miss Hutchins, who was terrified when they had reached her. Her large blue eyes were full of sheer dread. It was as if she had witnessed the unannounced presence of a spectre of some kind. She was shivering in absolute fright and had repeated the same thing to the men, which was that she had seen not one—but three apparitions manifest again.

'Are you certain that what you saw Miss Hutchins was truly ghosts?' Mr Berwick enquired.'

When she had managed to regain her composure, she uttered, 'If what you call ghosts are spirits that wander this manor, then yes—they were ghosts!'

'What did they look like?' Mr Cardew had asked.

'They were small children—but I cannot forget their piercing eyes'.

'What was so special about their eyes?' Mr Bracknell insisted.

'Their eyes were white and were pouring blood'.

'I can only imagine the dread you must have experienced Miss Hutchins,' said Mr Berwick.

The fact that there were mysterious phantasms that were roaming the manor would seem enough to detract them from their initiative, but Miss Hutchins wanted to continue. It was her obligation and she needed the money. The men had promised to not leave her alone in the manor and she would be accompanied at all times. What was revealing was that she was the only one so far, who had descried these ghosts in person. She would not be the last. There was a gripping silence amongst them for a minute, as they contemplated the incident that had rattled Miss Hutchins. It was then interrupted by the screeching noise of pestiferous rats that were gnawing at the planks of the floor beneath them. The shrieking sound of bats was heard coming from the cellar. Mr Bracknell was foolish to open the door. When he did, the black bats came rushing out into the corridors flapping their wings. They would discompose the countenance of poor Miss Hutchins, who would faint.

When she had recovered, the trauma of seeing the bats had evoked more petrification in her eyes. Immediately the door to the cellar was closed, and the bats were removed from the manor. Miss Hutchins was taken back to the inn at Halifax by Mr Cardew in their car. It was doubtful that she would return anew, due to her possible predisposition. Mr Berwick and Mr Bracknell who had remained behind were extremely puzzled by the occurrences in the manor. First, it was the daunting aspect of the griffins, then it was the surreal appearances of the apparitions, the untamed rats, and finally the horrible bats. It was the manifestations of these apparitions that mostly began to concern Mr Berwick. Quickly his project to renovate the house was becoming more occupied, with discovering the haunting nature of the manor which was troubling to say the least.

Mr Berwick was eager to resolve the enigma of the ghosts. He could reason in his mind the explicable terror that was seen in the form of the rats, the bats, the wind, the moorland. Neither he nor Mr Bracknell could fully understand with lucidity the apparent personification of these phantoms of the manor. It was implausible to fathom, such weird coincidences. What was established to them was the distressing reality of their predicament. What they could not know was the irrepressible evil that was attached to Lord Strudwick. He alone would command instant fear and retribution. The manor was only a horrid representation of the perversion of his abominable acts committed. Its isolation and ruination were the cause and effect of one man's uncontrollable avarice and illimitable dominion.

When they had returned to the inn at Halifax that evening, they were concerned with the well-being of Miss Hutchins. They would discover that she was still relatively affected by the incident back at the Strudwick Manor, but she was willing to return to confront her fears with her longanimity. Mr Cardew was not that convinced that it was a good idea. In the end it was Miss Hutchin's decision to make. They had left the manor in the care of Mr Manthorpe. Mr Bracknell was insistent on placing the blame on the caretaker. Simply, he did not trust the man. He had no solid proof of the caretaker's involvement in the strange occurrences at the manor. It was more of his intuition and disquietude he had when he was around him. This was not sufficient to warrant their distrust in the caretaker. Nor could they find his replacement that was willing to endure the peculiarities of the manor.

The incidents would be more and more unpredictable. Although there would be a precedence, it was impossible to know what would ensue thereafter. Mr Berwick could not afford to hire people for the renovation under these dramatic circumstances, knowing that the manor was haunted. This was his unforeseen dilemma. Nevertheless, he was compelled to continue ahead with his project and commitment. He could not be dissuaded by this unexplained phenomenon. The others had cooperated and were determined to finish the project on schedule. There was no conciliatory effort made by Mr Berwick to convince them. They had all believed in the task they were given and were to be paid handsomely for their service. There was a fair dispensation of money attributed to the completion of the renovations. The issue with the ghosts was something that they would have to overcome, if they were to ultimately be successful in their endeavour.

The morning had brought the typical, unstable weather upon the moorland that was covered with heathers and brackens, as the wuthering wind blew afresh a restless roar. Mr Berwick who was from London was not accustomed to these sudden fluctuations in the weather. The rain had not bothered him. Instead, it was the persistent wind that had rarely ceased to unsettle them. Once at the manor, they had spent their effort on finishing their architectural designs for the renovations. They were near completion in their provisory task. Mr Berwick had a clear concept of how the renovations would be accomplished. Mr Bracknell was worried that few men would dare to enter the manor, if they were told about the phantoms present. They would have to hire men from outside of the area, who were not aware of the haunting nature of the manor.

There was a local parish that had an Anglican Church that was located within Halifax. Mr Cardew had recommended that the rector there bless the house. It did not seem like a bad idea to the others, but could this extricate the influence and presence of the ghosts that had resided in the Strudwick Manor? To what degree could they even know the evil that was lurking in the corridors and halls of the residence? Before they headed towards the manor, they had stopped by to speak to the rector in charge of the parish. His name was Father Alister Barnes. It was somewhat awkward to make such a request to the rector, but they were curious to know if they could be rid of the influence of the ghosts at once. They could not afford any more disruptions or contretemps to limit their access to the manor's progression. Mr Berwick and Mr Bracknell had entered the church, while Mr Cardew and Miss Hutchins remained in the car impatiently. They found the rector collecting prayer books from the pews. He was the only person inside.

'Good morning Father, I hope that our unannounced visit has not been intrusive upon you.'

'Not all gentlemen. What can I do for you?'

We had introduced ourselves and shook hands, 'My name is Richard Berwick, and this is my colleague Robert Bracknell. We came here Father to make a small request'.

'What type of request are you seeking gentlemen?'

'We are wondering, if you could bless the manor that we are currently in the process of renovating'.

'What manor are you referring to?'

'The Strudwick Manor,' replied Mr Berwick.

For a moment there was hesitation in the eyes of the rector. Mr. Berwick had the sense that the rector knew about the history and haunting nature of the manor. The rector was silent at first, then he responded, 'I am afraid that I cannot be much of a service to you, gentlemen'.

'Can I ask you Father your reason?' Mr Berwick had enquired.

'I shall be leaving the area and shall be gone for a week.'

'How can we convince you to change your mind Father?' Mr Bracknell interjected.

'I have the impression Father, that you know the secrets about the Strudwick Family. What happened in that manor and to the children?' Mr Berwick insisted.

'I don't think you want to know the truth', he replied.

As they were departing the church, the rector had told them that he would come with them, but only this one time. They left the parish grounds and reached the manor, whereupon Father Barnes began to bless the manor from outside and inside. He was somewhat intimidated by the statues of the imposing griffins. He had heard about the disturbing rumours of the manor being haunted. Lord Strudwick was a man that had stirred fright in the local denizens of the area. As they had entered the manor and the rector had gone from one place to another sprinkling holy water, there was an eerie howling that had resounded from the moorland. Mr Berwick and the others would be waiting at the front door with anticipation. They had heard the howling of the mastiffs. There was absolute silence with the visitors. It would be interrupted by the impact of the horrific scream of the rector.

Mr Berwick and Mr Bracknell ran towards the location where the rector was at, whilst Mr Cardew and Miss Hutchins remained behind. When Mr Berwick and Mr Bracknell had raught the rector, he was stone dead. His eyes were totally plucked from their sockets by two ebony ravens, who had perched over the rector's body. It was a gruesome sight to witness. Both of them were shocked to see what had transpired. This was only the precursor to the ineffable horror that was awaiting them. As they were observing the situation with the rector, there was an anonymous knock on the front door. Mr Cardew had answered it, and it was Mr Manthorpe, who was standing with a pair of black mastiffs who were on a taut leash. Yes, the same ones that were apparently howling from the distance. Neither Mr Cardew nor Miss Hutchins could know what was waiting for them.

'Mr Manthorpe what are you doing with those menacing mastiffs?'

He had smiled with a wicked grin, 'I come to feed the dogs, sir'.

'What do you mean feed the dogs? There is no food her,' said Mr Cardew.

'I think he means us', replied Miss Hutchins who was blanched in fear, sensing what was about to occur.

There was a selcouth look in the eyes of Mr Manthorne that was that of a possessed madman, with a cruel indifference that was demonstratively transpicuous. He spoke no more words of utterance to them. It was then that he had released the huge mastiffs on them, and they had savagely attacked Mr Cardew. Miss Hutchins who was supposed to be the next victim had managed to escape to where the others were at in one of the corridors. The mastiffs would kill Mr Cardew, as he lied on the floor listless in a pool of blood. Once the others had heard the alarming commotion, they immediately saw Miss Hutchins in a hysterical state of mind, unable to pronounce the horror that she had witnessed. They asked her what had happened to cause her uncontrollable reaction so abruptly.

'Miss Hutchins what is going on?' Asked Mr Bracknell.

She had stuttered for a moment as she trembled, before she was able to tell them, 'Those bloody mastiffs have killed Mr Cardew!'

'What mastiffs are you talking about?' Mr Berwick ejaculated.

'The ones at the front door!' She shouted.

Mr Berwick had grabbed a sword that was hanging in the main hall, and Mr Bracknell had grabbed one that was also hanging. It was not a gun, but it was the only weapon that they could utilise in their defence. Miss Hutchins was nigh. When they had confronted Mr Manthorne, he was seated in one of the chairs in the dining hall dishevelled. There was a bluster that had entered and swayed the torn draperies. The loyal mastiffs were by his side. It was a disturbing scene. In one part of the manor was the dead body of Father Barnes, and in another part was the dead body of Mr Cardew. They were baffled to see the calm caretaker with the mastiffs. Mr Berwick and Mr Bracknell held firmly on to their weapons, uncertain of what to expect from Mr Manthorpe's behaviour. Why would he be a participant to the death of Mr Cardew? What would cause him to be so cold-blooded? They had demanded answers from him.

'What the bloody hell is going here Mr Manthorne?' Mr Berwick raised his voice.

The caretaker had grinned before he said, 'You should have never come here to the manor Mr Berwick'.

'What are you talking about?'

'The manor. You see it has a history that neither of you will ever understand. It has a life of its own. There is a presage that you failed to realise'.

'What are you hiding from us? It is about Lord Strudwick?'

'Clever you are Mr Berwick. Yes! You see Lord Strudwick brutally murdered his children in this manor'.

'But what does this have to do with you?'

'Everything. You see Lord Strudwick had an illegitimate bastard son that was my kindred. Now you see, how I am related to Lord Strudwick'.

'It does not answer the question. Why have you done all of this?'

'Because I cannot have an outsider take possession of the manor, for it belongs to me!'

'Did you kill the rector?'

'Nay! He was killed by the evil of the manor. I have told you that it has a life of its own'.

'Have you gone mad?' Asked Mr Bracknell.

'Perhaps I have mister, but it is too late for all of you'.

'Too late? What are you planning on doing with us?' Mr Berwick insisted.

'It is not what I shall do to you, but what they will do to you!'

He then released the minacious mastiffs against Mr Berwick and the others. Miss Hutchins had scurried away out into the corridor, whilst the men fought against the mastiffs with their rusty swords. The powerful mastiffs were too much to handle for Mr Cardew, who would regrettably succumb to their ferocious bites and die afterwards. Mr Berwick had managed to fend off the mastiffs and escape their massive jaws. In the corridor he had grabbed Miss Hutchins, who was cowering in a ball out of apprehension and led her in the vicinity of the front door, hoping to flee from the manor and the clutch of the mastiffs. The mastiffs were on the pursuit, and they soon reached the front door. It had seemed that the fate of Mr Berwick and Miss Hutchins was tragically sealed.

Mr. Manthorne had ordered the mastiffs to kill them, but something of a preternatural force would thwart the mastiffs' attack. It was then that the heavy chandeliers had fallen on the mastiffs, killing them instantly. Something or someone had caused the chandeliers to fall. It would be no mere coincidence to an untoward predicament. Then three spectres had appeared from the surreptitious shadows of the Stygian corridor. It was the three Strudwick children who stood in front of them, with their sable eyes of dread. They had come for Mr Manthorne. They would not permit him or the mastiffs to kill the others. Sensing what was happening, Mr Manthorne tried to escape, but would be attacked by some of the wild bats that were still in the cellar. The door to the cellar had opened allowing the erumpent bats to emerge amain. Mr Manthorne swung at them and had tried to defend himself, but he would gradually fall on to the floor and succumb to his serious wounds in death. His face would be covered in the scarlet hue of blood.

Mr Berwick and Miss Hutchins were spared for some reason unbeknownst to them. The once haunting images of the small Strudwick children would terrify them no more. It was the first time that Mr Berwick had seen them. Miss Hutchins was the only one to have seen them previously. The ghosts had uttered no words. They merely stood there watching. It was impossible to forget what had occurred on that day. The shutters would flap back and forth as the windows would open wide, bringing inside a strong birr that was released. The children would disappear then into the whistling whispers of the wind. Mr Berwick had realised that their appearance was to serve as a warning, for anyone who wanted to dwell in the manor. They would not be welcomed. The dreadful eyes of the children had penetrated deeply, into the minds of Mr Berwick and Miss Hutchins. Their warning was to be heeded by the remaining survivors.

The implacable horror was drawn to the inimical force of evil that was conjured by Lord Strudwick upon his death. Mr Berwick had discovered that he was a practising warlock in his life centuries ago, and he was involved in a satanical perversion of an unprecedented malevolence, whose sins were embedded in the unyielding terror that had haunted the Strudwick Manor. The portentous presage that was looming over the manor had remained intact for those individuals, who durst to defy its ghostly residents. The poor children were innocent victims of their father's tyranny and were trapped with the evil of the manor. Lord Strudwick had cast a malediction before his death. They were never given a proper burial by their rapacious father. They would have nameless headstones for countless decades. However, Mr Berwick upon discovering that fact would proceed to engrave their names upon their grey headstones, Sara Strudwick Basildon, Michael Strudwick Basildon and Eve Strudwick Basildon.

Mr Berwick and Miss Hutchins would never return to the Strudwick Manor. The rumours of their encounters with its haunting nature had halted any potential renovations. The horrendous consequences that they experimented were incomparable to any known phenomenon, and the deaths of their fellow companions, including the rector was difficult to dismiss. The manor would be left unattended and abandoned for the rest of the 20th century, amidst the eldritch clouds or the unholy remnants of the twilight above the landscape of the crags and moors, where the river flows the currents of stammel blood ever and anon. Yorkshire would then be covered in the hoariness of the snow brought, by the hypenemious gust that left behind the sparkling icicles upon the boughs of the ash trees rimed. The kinsfolk say that they can see the strange silhouettes of beings that cast their reflection upon the arrival of dawn. It is said that the dead are never truly dead, and that from amongst the patch of blossoming blooms of spring wend upon the wuthering winds that blow, the otherworldly ghosts of the Strudwick children.

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About The Author
Franc68
Lorient Montaner
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13 Mar, 2024
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