#Writespiration #52Words in 52 Weeks @Sacha_Black ‘Who Called?’ #FlashFiction

This flash was written in response to Sacha Black’s challenge to write a 52-word flash based on her weekly prompt. 

This week’s prompt is to write about a character who is terrified Isn’t it amazing what can be done with just 52 words? Why not join in?

Who Called?

A gush of chilled fog pushed open the sliding door.

The dark shadow morphed into a cloaked figure.

You sent for me?” The voice was a hollow echo.

I shook my head fiercely.

He smiled, blood dripping from his fangs.

“Then who?” he asked looking around the compartment at the sleeping passengers.

****

Was that chilling enough for you?

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Today is All Hallows. Find out What Happened at Eyre Hall on That Day #HalloweenBooks

Yesterday was All Hallows Eve, which has come to be known as Halloween. I wrote about how the festivity was celebrated in Victorian England, and what happened on that day at Eyre Hall.

Today’s post is about what happened the following day, November 1st, All Hallows or All Souls’ Day. It is no spoiler that Mr. Rochester is on his death-bed, and is destined to pass away during the course of the novel. However, there is a hint of a big spoiler in the extract. You will be glimpsing an unexpected and dramatic turn in Jane’s life.

Here is Chapter XXIV, which narrates the moment Mr. Rochester’s death is discovered and made known to the residents at Eyre Hall.

Deceased

“Mrs. Rochester! The master is dead! We must stop the clocks and drape all the mirrors in the house, or his spirit will be trapped. He will not be able to leave Eyre Hall, so he will haunt us forever! The windows must be opened and the curtains drawn to let the good spirits in to look after him and keep the malignant out. We must bring ice from the kitchen to put under the bed, or malignant life will crawl out of his mouth and ears.”

Simon had reached the bottom of the staircase, as I stepped out of the library into the hall with Michael. The drawing-room door opened and Adele screamed, “Simon! For goodness sake be quiet, you will wake all the dead in the graveyard!”

John was standing behind Adele looking bewildered, “Mother, what has happened?”

His face white and his expression quite horrified. I rushed to his side, “John, he is at peace at last. There is nothing we can do, except pray.”

“Father!” He shouted, as he pushed past me and rushed up the staircase.

“Wait!” I screamed and turned to Michael, “Michael, go with him! He can’t be alone now!” Michael obeyed at once.

Bishop Templar turned to me and spoke gravely, “Mrs. Rochester, may I suggest we follow John and say some prayers by his bedside?”

“Of course, my Lord, let us go upstairs together.” I took his arm and beckoned to Adele, “Adele, darling, will you come up with us?”

“Not yet, Jane. I can’t bear to think of his lifeless body! I can’t go up now.”

She seemed so distressed that I had no choice but to agree, “Well, wait here. Mr. Greenwood, would you be so kind as to accompany Adele in such a painful moment for her and console her as best you can?”

“Of course, Mrs. Rochester. Come, Adele, let us wait in the drawing-room.”

“Mr. Mason, Annette, will you be so kind as to wait a few minutes while I go upstairs with Bishop Templar?”

“Mrs. Rochester, I would like to go up with you, if you don’t mind.” Annette was looking at me earnestly. I told her Edward was her father. She had just met him, and he was dead, quite a dreadful succession of events for an evening. 

“Of course you can. Are you sure you won’t be too distressed?”

“Quite sure.”

“Then come with us. Mr. Mason, would you kindly wait with Adele and Mr. Greenwood?”

“Of course, madam. Accept my most sincere condolences, and if I can be of any use, please let me know.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

Before heading up the stairs I turned to Simon, “Please see to the clocks. Go down to the kitchen to tell the rest of the household what has happened, and bring some drapery to cover the mirrors, and of course, the ice.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I will tell Michael to fetch the undertakers at Millcote and Dr. Carter.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I understand you worked for an undertaker in London before working at Eyre Hall, is that so?”

He nodded proudly, “Yes, madam.”

“Could you dress Mr. Rochester when…?” Tears came to my eyes, as I said his name. My feet softened and floated, and my hand slipped from the Bishop’s arm. The floor swayed and I lost my balance. I felt rough, sturdy fingers clasp my waist, as I fell backwards and looked into Mr. Mason’s furrowed brow.

“Mrs. Rochester! Are you unwell?”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason. I am feeling a little dizzy.”

“Please, allow me to accompany you upstairs.” I nodded, and he held out his arm for me to cling to. “Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

When we arrived at the top of the stairs, the gallery seemed darker and narrower than usual and the floor was rolling, as if I were walking on waves. Tears were running freely down my cheeks, and I was still having difficulty breathing.

Mr. Mason took my hand in his and squeezed it hard, “Unfortunately, Mrs. Rochester, this is God’s plan for all of us.” I cringed at his touch, which fortunately brought me back to reality.

Inside Edward’s chamber, our son was kneeling down on the floor by his father’s side, holding his hand and kissing it. Annette was kneeling down on the opposite side of the bed, doing exactly the same. Bishop Templar stood behind John with his hands on his shoulders, attempting to comfort him, while Mr. Mason left my side and stood vigilantly behind Annette.

The Bishop was speaking, but my heart was thumping so loudly I could not hear what he was saying. The room was hot and the air was thick and putrid. I looked at my husband and gasped. Edward’s eyes were frighteningly open, as if he had seen a ghost, and his mouth was wide open, too, as if he had gasped for air before dying. His face was as pale as death itself, and his chest crushed and lifeless. He had gone. 

Once more I felt my legs bend into the floor. The hexagonal forms on the carpet were sliding into squares as my stomach churned. Michael rushed to my side and I managed to say, “I’m going to be sick,” just before he carried me to the toilet table. When I finished, he took the ewer and poured some water on my hands and I washed my face, then he led me to a chair at the foot of the bed.

I heard the distant voice of the Bishop saying some prayers to bid him farewell and facilitate his transit to his new abode in the Kingdom of Heaven, but I was not sure if that would be his destination. He had not confessed his sins. He had not repented for his misdeeds. He had not made his peace with our creator before dying, and he might not be allowed to leave Eyre Hall yet.

I stood up and turned to Michael beckoning him to follow me. We walked out of the chamber and turned into the shorter gallery and the stairs leading to my chamber, where we could not be seen. His eyes shone in the unlit passage. I reached for his hands, and he pulled me closer whispering, “Are you all right, Mrs. Rochester?”

“Yes, I shall be all right.”

“You look unwell.”

“Michael, please go to Millcote and bring the undertaker as soon as possible. There are many preparations that need to be attended.”

“It shall take more than four hours. Will you not need me here?”

“Simon will attend to matters here, in the meantime. He knows what to do.”

His concerned eyes bore into mine, “But you will be alone.”

“Only for a few hours.”

He moved closer, “Before you go, Mrs. Rochester, promise me something.”

“What is it?”

“Promise me you will not take any of Mr. Rochester’s drops.”

He was right. I had thought of succumbing to the easy comfort of the miraculous drug. I put my arms around him, “Hold me, Michael.”

He spoke into my hair, “I cannot leave, if you do not promise. I saw you looking at Mr. Rochester’s medicine cabinet.”

“You are right, the temptation is great.”

“It is very harmful. Think of John, he needs you, so does Helen… and so do I.”

I pressed my face into his chest, praying I would be strong enough to get through the wake and the funeral without breaking down, or relapsing into the comfort of laudanum once again. It was a pleasant and swift evasion, but I shuddered at the thought of its dire consequences, which I had already experienced. Michael was stroking my hair, waiting for my reply, “Promise me.” He insisted.

I broke away and smiled, “I promise. Now go, and please be careful, Michael. It is very late and there is a full moon. Last month a pack of foxes attacked a farmer.”

He told me he would be back as soon as possible, and I returned to the death chamber. They were all looking at Edward and listening to Bishop Templar’s prayers, except Mr. Mason, whose dark ominous eyes were fastened on me, as I entered the room. We listened in solemn silence to the familiar words of Christian consolation, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”

Minutes later Simon arrived with drapery for the long mirror. He told me he had covered all the other mirrors in the house and had stopped the clocks. I told him to bring the ice and wash, shave, and dress Edward in his best clothes. We all left when he returned to prepare the corpse.

Downstairs in the drawing-room, Adele was still distraught and being consoled by Mr. Greenwood. I excused myself and went down to the servants’ quarters to discuss arrangements with Mrs. Leah.

****

Mr. Rochester’s death represents the end of an era. He was more linked to the rigid 18th century modes of thinking than to the more progressive 19th century social, scientific, industrial, and intellectual advances, which would change Great Britain forever. New times are awaiting Jane and all the members of her extended family. These changes will start immediately, and although it is a change she is ready to embrace, it will be traumatic. The full extent will be felt in books two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall.

I hope you enjoyed the extract 🙂

#SoCS Oct 10/30 The Stranger: A Short Story for #Halloween

This short story for Halloween was written in response to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of consciousness Saturday prompt

This weeks’ prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “strange/stranger/strangest.”  Use one, use ’em all, or just let them inspire you. Have fun!

halloween-outfits

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The stranger: A Disquieting Short Story for Halloween.

Last night I was alone. I’m always alone, until the stranger comes. I was waiting by the unlit fireplace feeling the chill in my soul. My coat was drenched. Water slid down my hair and dripped onto the floor. The front door swung open and footsteps approached. I hid behind the heavy curtains and waited. What was this stranger doing in my house? He swiped his hands across his face, and then grasped the mantelpiece.

‘Where are you?’ He asked. 

I dared not speak.

‘I can feel you,’ he whispered. 

He turned to the window. I shuddered. He pulled back the heavy fabric and stood just inches away from me.

‘Why are you doing this?’ 

Thank God he couldn’t see me either, but I made sure he heard me. I blew as hard as I could. The wind brushed his face and shook the paintings on the wall behind him. They fell instantly. 

‘Can’t we get on?’

I pushed him with all my might. He hit the mantelpiece.

‘Couldn’t you forgive me?’

I kicked the table. It flew across the room.

‘I’m sorry.’

I pulled the lamp off the ceiling. It crashed by his side.

‘I didn’t see you. If I had seen you, I’d have stopped.’

I wanted to tell him how I felt. Alone. Nobody can see me or hear me, and I’m cold and wet, all the time. I’m in hell since he summoned me!

‘Your husband felt guilty, too. He sold the house and I bought it.’

I threw a glass jar against the mirror, above the fireplace.The splinters showered to his feet. All turns to silver glass.

‘I’m not leaving. You’re angry, but it wasn’t my fault. You were upset because he was leaving you.”

I flung a heavy book into his stomach. He doubled up in pain. I almost felt sorry for him, but he continued, breathing heavily.

‘So you went out in the rain, walked along the lonely country road, and I ran you over.’ 

I needed to silence his feverish mind, so I threw the kitchen knife. The blade brushed his ear and sunk into the bookshelf all the way down to the wooden handle.

‘Perhaps you’re right. I deserve to die. Then you’ll forgive me at last.’

I watched him pull the knife out of the wall and thrust it into his heart.

I smiled. 

I was free to leave his psychotic mind forever, but I needed a new master.

I wonder which type of stranger will adopt me now?

****

I’ve had all day to think about this story before writing it down (as I looked after my grandchild and prepared Jack o’ Lanterns, etc.).

wpid-edited_img-20151031-wa0025.jpg 

Nevertheless, I must admit. Although most of it did ‘flow’ straight off, I later went back and corrected much more than I normally would for a Stream-of-Consciousness piece. But being Halloween, and being a literary piece today, I allowed myself this small departure from the rules. I hope you don’t mind, Linda, and other participants.

If you’d like to read some of the other responses check out this link.

Find Out What Happened on ‘All Hallows’ at ‘Eyre Hall’ #HalloweenBooks

All Hallows at Eyre Hall, owes its title to the fact that the main events in the novel occur on and around All Hallows. The following two excerpts narrate the events leading up to All Hallows, at Eyre Hall.

When Richard Mason returns to the place where Thornfield Hall had been and Eyre Hall has been erected, he unveils Rochester’s first betrayal to Jane. The existence of his first wife, Bertha Mason’s child born at Thornfield Hall twenty-two years earlier, while Jane was employed there, as Mr. Rochester’s ward’s governess.

Once Jane has discovered Mason’s words were true, that a child was born to Bertha, while she was still married to Edward Rochester and courting her, she decides her husband must be responsible for the child, although he denies being the father. Jane argues that Edward and Bertha were legally married when the child was born.

Here is part of Jane and Edward’s argument as a result of his daughter’s arrival at the Rochester estate. Jane is worried about how the scandal will affect their son, John Rochester, while a  bedridden Edward Rochester appears unaffected. Mr. Rochester is the first speaker.

****

“He (John) will have to live with gossip and scandal, all the Rochesters have.”
“You don’t care when the scandal explodes, because it will no longer affect you. Think of your son, Edward. Think of me. I have endured enough gossip and pain on your behalf. Your first wife, her death, your London life and friends, your solitary visits to Ferndean and the Ingrams, now this other daughter, and God knows what else. I have a feeling there is more you must yet confess to before you are taken by our Lord.”
“You exaggerate, madam.”
“You are selfish, sir.”
“I am tired of this conversation. I need my rest. Leave.”
“As you wish, but she will dine here on All Hallows, and you will come down to dinner to meet her.”
“I shall not.”
“Everyone believes you are her kind benefactor and uncle.”
“Leave!”
“Unless of course you tell me the man who is responsible for her existence, you will be held responsible for your actions or carelessness with your first wife’s wellbeing.”
“Get out, I said!”
“I will carry your burden once more, but you will carry yours, too, while you are still among us. Good morning, Edward.”
“Out!”

****

Bertha’s daughter, Annette, has returned to Eyre Hall with her uncle, Richard Mason. Her visit will bring great distress to all members of the family, and change the course of their future irrevocably. This visit will take place on All Hallows.

However, The next excerpt from All Hallows at Eyre Hall is Chapter XVII, Merriment at the Rochester Arms, which describes a Halloween Party at the Rochester Arms, a nearby inn, which takes place the evening before All Hallows, on All Hallows Eve. John Rochester narrates the party he attends with Adele, Mr. Mason, and Annette Mason, Bertha’s daughter.

This chapter, which is narrated by John Rochester, describes a typical All Hallows Eve Party in Victorian England, and it also narrates vital aspects of the novel. It occurs midpoint in the novel, and almost all the main characters are either present or referred to. 

Snap-Apple_Night_globalphilosophy

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Mr. Mason had invited me to join him and Annette for dinner at the Rochester Arms in Hay, and I asked Adele if she would like to accompany me. Adele seldom leaves the house, now that my father is bedridden, and guests are infrequent, so I was sure the dinner would be an amusing interlude for her. Mr. Raven frequently organizes entertaining banquets on merry occasions, like this evening’s All Hallows Eve dinner, as his father, old Mr. Raven used to.

Adele has always been like a devoted older sister. I love her dearly, and I am overjoyed for her contentment. I wish her to be happy, marry, and perhaps even have a family, although my mother will be very lonely at Eyre Hall once she has left. Adele has told me all about Mr. Greenwood, her new suitor from London, who will be arriving the following evening. She is planning to travel with him to Italy to an encounter with her long lost mother.

Life at Eyre Hall is no doubt dull for merry Adele. My mother is very distracted of late, worried no doubt about my father’s health and immersed in her occupations running the Estate, as well as her absorbing charity work. I often wonder what will become of her, once father was no longer with us. Her life has been so devoted to him, especially in these last few years. I am worried that she will become an eccentric recluse, although I will make sure that never happens, because I will always look after her.

Adele is apprehensive, although excited, about meeting her mother at last, but even happier at the prospect of leaving Eyre Hall for a time and becoming Mr. Greenwood’s travel companion. I am glad that I shall be finishing my studies next June, so I will return home and help my mother with the running of the Estate. She wants me to embark on a political career, but I am not sure if that is what I want to do.

I would like to travel to the United States and be acquainted with the new land and its courageous people first hand. I would also like to visit our prosperous colonies in the West Indies, although my father always told me it was a devilish place, I am sure he is exaggerating. I am also keen to visit Europe, although again, my father has warned me against fickle European women. I knew he had a disastrous experience with his first Caribbean wife, who was Mr. Mason’s sister and Annette’s aunt. Adele’s French mother had also betrayed him, and he had had a succession of capricious and disloyal women until he was fortunate enough to meet my mother and find peace and stability at last.

I long for London society, where I would meet avant-garde artists and poets, like William Morris, Alfred Tennyson or Gabriel Rossetti, although mother would prefer me to frequent social reformers and politicians, like Bishop Templar and Lord Shaftsbury. However, I am not called to being a philanthropist, like my mother, who willingly offers her time and money to needy orphans. I’m afraid I’m a traditional Rochester, like my father. I want to enjoy the privileges I have inherited. I fear I have not been called to repair the world’s injustices, as my mother would wish.

Joseph took us to the inn in our best carriage and waited there with us while we enjoyed the most magical night of the year, the night in which we witness the weakening of the barrier between this world and the other, where the dead and supernatural beings abide. I hoped to be able to get to know a supernatural being I had just met, the stunning and enigmatic woman who had suddenly burst into my life. Since the first day I had seen her strewed on the causeway below my horse, I had felt captivated by her watery eyes. I had never seen such a remarkable looking lady in England. I imagined she took after her aunt, my father’s first wife, and I understood how he must have been spellbound by her striking looks.

I had dreamt about her black almond shaped eyes shining like smoky quartz, and I longed to caress her flawless olive skin and kiss her dense creamy lips. I had never met a Jamaican woman, and I wondered if they were as compliant as I had been told, even though they were Creoles with English blood. I might follow my father’s footsteps, but I would not commit his same mistakes. Even so, I was looking forward to looking into her face once more, just to see if she stirred the same feelings a second time.

The evening was as dazzling as I had expected. We were given a table in the corner, away from the boisterous villagers, with generous helpings of roast duck and plenty of red wine from France. I had hoped to dance with Annette, and so, have the perfect excuse to hold her hand and even squeeze her waist, but in spite of her uncle’s insistence, she refused, due to her sprained ankle. Fortunately, after dinner, Mr. Mason convinced Adele to dance with him and listen to the ghost stories being told, so we were allowed to converse at our secluded table.

I realized that Annette was not the gay, undemanding type of woman I had imagined from her youth and beauty, on the contrary, she was well-read and modest, much like many of the English girls I had met. Of course she was nothing like my fiancée, Elizabeth Harwood. Elizabeth was an English rose, whose transparent skin, coral cheeks, and lips were more exquisite than any of Gainsborough’s celebrated portraits. Elizabeth is beautiful, demure, and sweet, nothing like her ambitious and ruthless father, one of the most feared judges at the Inns of Court, where he would like me to be apprenticed, when I finished at Christ Church.

I love Elizabeth, because my mother adores her, and because her father, Judge Haywood, is determined that I should be his son-in-law. Elizabeth is distant and shy, and although she insists that her greatest wish is to be by my side every day of her life, she does not exhibit any passion when she is near me. I suspect she thinks I am a good catch. I’m an only son, who will inherit a large and prosperous Estate, and she is also aware that our marriage would be very beneficial to me. 

I said I love Elizabeth, and I do, but I am not in love with her, and now, I am absolutely sure I never have been, and I never will be. I have known it since I met her, but I was sure of it two days ago. I have no doubt that there will never be any passion in our marriage, although we will probably be contented and prosperous. I am sure now that I have never been in love before, because I had never experienced such overwhelming feelings towards a woman, until a few days ago when I met Miss Annette Mason.

Annette has a wild, feral beauty I had never encountered. I was on my way back to Eyre Hall, near Hay, when I beheld a magnificent apparition in the middle of the grey wilderness. She was lying on the causeway, wrapped in a crimson cape while a thick mane of unruly black hair was set free, as her crimson bonnet bounced onto the rocky ground. I unsaddled my horse and rushed to her side, and I realized she was quite real and dreadfully hurt. She sat on the ground crying, as a trickle of blood slid down her bruised forehead, complaining of a sprained ankle, painful arm, and aching head.

My first impression had been extraordinary, but as I carried her away from the causeway onto a stile, I was stunned by her beautiful face and perfect contour. I had no idea who such an exotic and beautiful creature could be. Fortunately, I discovered that although we were related, there was no blood relationship, so my feelings were not indecent.

Yesterday, on my way back from my visit to Bishop Templar, I decided to stop by the Rochester Arms, in the hope of another chance meeting with Annette. fortunately, she was dining with her uncle, who beckoned me to sit with them. I needed little persuasion to join them and find out more about the mysterious dark beauty. So far, I have discovered that her name is Annette Mason, and she has come all the way from Jamaica to pay her last respects to my father, who has been her generous benefactor since she was a child. Her parents died when she was an infant, and she was brought up in a convent school, where she is now a music teacher. She was staying with her uncle at the Rochester Arms, waiting for an invitation to Eyre Hall.

At a surprisingly late hour, while we were still eating, Michael delivered a message from my mother, which Mr. Mason, read and replied to immediately. I offered Michael a glass of ale, which he declined with the excuse my mother had insisted he should return with the answer to her message at once. I appreciated Michael, on duty all day, so obsessed with my mother’s wellbeing, like a sentinel. It reassured me that he was always so efficiently and faithfully by her side, especially now that my father was so ill.

The news Michael brought could not be better. We would all be dining together once more at Eyre Hall the day after tomorrow, All Hallows. Annette and her uncle would be staying as guests for some days. I was so besotted by her that the news was music to my ears. I was determined that she should be my mistress, as soon as possible. I had to have her in my arms, and I imagined it would not be a difficult feat while she was staying at my house. Tonight I had to let her know how I felt and find out if she felt the same. Mr. Mason had insisted I return today to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve with his niece, and I had naturally accepted the invitation, once more.

Mr. Raven had prepared a great feast. Everyone was eating, drinking, dancing and singing while a group of musicians played delightful songs with the aid of the German flute, an English guitar, a whistle, and a hammered dulcimer. There were at least a dozen spit-roast hogs and plenty of ale and rum for everyone. 

After eating the meat, we ordered a Halloween cake. Adele suggested we cut a piece for mother and take it back to her. Each piece of cake had a button with a message for the coming year. Adele found a blue button, which meant she would be making a journey. Annette received a yellow button, meaning she would be coming into money. I discovered a white button, signifying I was to get married in the coming year. Mr. Mason got the worst one, I’m afraid. He got the black button, which predestined him to remain a solitary bachelor.

Mason naturally dismissed it with a huff as a heathen superstition, but the rest of us were very pleased with our buttons. My mother’s uneaten piece obviously hid the red button, meaning she would find her true love in the coming year. I wondered nostalgically if my demanding, short-tempered father had been the love of her life, and whether she would remarry after his death. I adored my father, but my mother was too young, beautiful and marvellous to live an isolated existence at Eyre Hall for the rest of her days.

I asked Annette to accompany me for a walk around the inn to observe the other divination practices taking place, which she had never heard of in Spanish Town. I reminded her that fortune-telling was practiced on this magical night to peep into the year ahead. Most young people were interested in marriage divination. So as we wandered around, we saw groups of young boys apple bobbing while girls ate and peeled apples in front of a mirror by candlelight, in the hope of getting a glimpse of their future husband.

Other groups were telling stories about ghosts and witches, who visited the earth on this night to bring messages to the living. Annette told me many of the native people in Jamaica were very superstitious and carried out black magic and witchcraft by casting spells on naive people, usually involving chants and animal sacrifice. She did not look favourably on these practices and was surprised that English people should believe in such things. I told her it was like a childish game for us.

Annette told me about how she missed the beauty of her country, the purple red skies at sunset and sunrise, and the fury of the wind in the autumn. She remembered the closeness of the moon with its dazzling moonshine and the millions of stars that covered the skies like a glittering dome. She explained how the plants are brightly coloured and smell sweeter than honey, and how the sun shines brightly every day, melting away the cold and sadness.
She asked me if I had ever visited her island, and I promised to do so, as soon as I could. She described her colonial mansion with ample verandahs all around the house overlooking the ocean. When I told her it sounded like paradise to me, she said that was what my father had said. I did not want to displease her, so I smiled, although I was surprised by her words. My father had always spoken very negatively about her country, calling it “the hellish West Indies”, but I was determined to travel there sooner than later. Annette had already convinced me of its beauty.

I told her about my mother’s plans for my future, and she told me I was lucky to have a mother who loved me and cared about my expectations. She congratulated me on my engagement, but I hastened to let her know how I felt about her. She looked surprised, even shocked, saying that we were related and should not even think about a romantic attachment. Although she added that she would like to be my friend, because she liked my company. That was enough for the moment. I apologized, not wishing to contradict her. I knew she liked me, and I would have plenty of time to seduce her while she was at Eyre Hall.

When Adele and I left the inn, on our way home, she told me she was very annoyed with me for leaving her alone with Mr. Mason for such a long time. She thought he was a most tedious companion. I apologized and promised to make it up to her by being especially amiable to Mr. Greenwood.

When we arrived, Simon opened the door and asked us if we wanted anything from the kitchen. We told him we had eaten enough food for a week and went straight up to bed. As we passed the library, Michael appeared in the hall and told us that my mother had fallen asleep. He offered to carry her up to her bedroom, mentioning that she had had an upsetting argument with Dr. Carter regarding my father’s health, so Adele offered to spend the night in her bedroom, lest she should have a nightmare.

I had noticed my mother behaving somewhat strangely since I had returned. She looked absent and lost in her own worries. My head was spinning from the noise, the rum, and the exhilarating evening I had spent with Annette. But the sight of Michael carrying my mother upstairs, with her arms and legs hanging limply around her pale day dress, and her auburn hair dangling loosely off her shoulders almost swiping the stairs, surprised me for its beauty. They were like two characters in a fairy tale acting out the final scene. Michael held her firmly and climbed the stairs nimbly, his eyes bursting with devotion, while Adele scolded them both for being up so late. I suspected, even in my dazed stupor, that Michael was in love with my mother. Although the idea did not displease me, I pushed it away from my thoughts as absurd. It was Annette’s visage that would haunt me all night long.

****

Tomorrow I’ll be including an excerpt of what happens the following day at Eyre Hall, on All Hallows.

There’s more about  how Halloween has been celebrated over the centuries here

 There’s more about Halloween festivities at Eyre Hall, including some spooky stories the servants told,  here

By the way, if you would like to read the rest of All Hallows at Eyre Hall (US link), and UK link it will be on offer for a special reduced Price of 0.99 cents or 0.99 pence, for a limited time, until 2nd November.

The Sin-Eater in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall #HalloweenBooks

Spine-chilling Characters in Real Life and Fiction: The Sin-Eater

Sin-eaters really existed from pre-Christian times to the end of the 19th century. They were summoned to the bedside of a dead person, with the objective of absorbing their sins by eating and drinking food placed on the corpse’s body, thereby enabling the deceased to continue his journey to afterlife in a sinless manner.

Many sin-eaters were beggars, and the custom was carried out in different parts of the British Isles, including Yorkshire and Wales, until mid-19th century. The last Sin-eater reportedly died in Shropshire, in 1906.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is not a horror story, but there some sinister characters and events in the novels, which are set in Victorian England. Last year leading up to Halloween, I wrote a post about a spine-chilling Sin-Eater, Isac das Junot, who appears in All Hallows at Eyre Hall.

If you would like to read an extract of Junot’s visit to Eyre Hall in All Hallows at Eyre Hall, follow this link. If you’d like to read an extract of Junot’s visit to Eyre Hall in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, continue reading this post.

Chapter XIX – Junot Returns

Some things had changed since my last visit to Eyre Hall, but most had remained unaltered. Dawn had not yet broken, and I could see candlelight coming from her window. I presumed the widow was having breakfast in her room to avoid the hordes of fake mourners who would soon be flooding into the drawing room. 

I stood before the unlocked door and kicked it open. A gust of wind and snow swirled into the hall. A maid screamed and ran through a door and down to the servant’s quarters. Was my presence so disagreeable that they were so easily frightened? Could they see what I saw? Could they see the sins I had absorbed and feel the evil I carried?

The house was still. The guests had not yet arrived, but I could smell the corpse upstairs. I supposed he was in Mr. Rochester’s room. Another sinful meal awaited me.

I was about to walk up the stairs when I heard a stuttering voice behind me. I recognised the terrified, long–limbed servant I had seen last year.

“I’m afraid Mrs. Mason cannot see you.” 

I turned, parted my chapped lips and showed him my sharp grey teeth. “I have come to see Mr. Mason, you idiot.” My hollow voice reverberated in the empty hall. “So announce me to his widow, unless you wish yours to be the next funeral.”

He jumped back and babbled some unintelligible words. I managed to decipher the last three. “Please leave, sir.”

“Will you be responsible for Mr. Mason’s permanence in this house as one of the undead?” My voice rumbled across the hall.

******

This time, Jane not only allows Junot to carry out his macabre ceremony, but she also has a conversation with him. Why would Christian Jane allow him into her house? Part of her conversation with him can help us understand her reasons.

When Junot asks Jane, “Why do you not fear me?”

Jane replies:

“Because I know that good and evil are two sides of the same coin, just as happiness and sadness, and beauty and ugliness are all part of our nature. There is no good without evil. Each of us has both. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. You chose evil, so you make the rest of us your opposite: good. Why should I fear you?”

“You are unwise not to fear me,” I said as we walked into the same room I had entered the last time. The corpse was laid out, dressed, and blackened. The smell was the most nauseating I had ever encountered. Was he already decomposing? Had his soul escaped before my arrival?

****

The Sin-eater not only claims to save the dying from hell, but also from wandering the earth as ghosts, thereby performing a service for the living as well. Junot also claims to predict the future, and Jane seems to believe that he does indeed have such powers, but does he? Or is he a charlatan?

Surprisingly, Jane believes Junot’s rituals serve a purpose, because she is not willing to take the risk of having ghosts at her beloved Eyre Hall. She also believes in Junot’s powers of divination, which are wound into the plot in each novel.

Jane believes that evil exists as a real force of nature, yet she believes that the power of good is stronger and will therefore finally win the battle, which is why she does not fear him. She also believes in destiny, which is why she believes the future can be seen, because the path has already been laid out.

Junot will reappear again in Book 3 of The Eyre Hall Trilogyy, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, to absorb more sins and make a devil’s pact with one of the main characters.

All Hallows at Eyre Hall US and UK Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall US and UK are both on Kindle Countdown Deal ay 0.99 until 2nd of November.

 

Dressing Up for an Eventful Week

I don’t usually write diary-like entries to my blog, but today is going to be an exception, because I’ve had a strange and eventful week, which I’d like to share with all of you. A lot of work, fun, excitement, and dressing up has been going on…

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My daughter and granddaughter, getting ready for Halloween!

Sunday 26th was great! I spent the day with my daughter, her husband, and children at the beach, watching the new generation gradually take over. She used to be my little girl, but now she has two children of her own, a job, a car, a mortgage, just like most adults do…

In the evening, I wrote my blog post on The Truth about Halloween.

Monday was amazing. It was the official opening of the Academic Year at the University where I teach English Language part-time, so I dressed up with the Faculty of Arts (called Philology in Spain) Academic Dress, namely a black robe with a short light blue cape or hood, and tasselled cap (the cap is worn by those with a PhD). I had never worn this gown before, but I thought I’d do so at least once, so that I could show my grandchildren in the future… I did feel rather grand!

Waiting for the ceremony, tassled cap in hand!

Waiting for the ceremony, tasselled cap in hand!

UNED Opening Ceremony in Academic Dress

UNED Opening Ceremony in Academic Dress

On Tuesday, on my way to work, I literally waked through an exhibition, in the Orange Tree Patio in the Cathedral-Mosque in Cordoba, where I admired the sculptures, by a recently deceased, international, Cordoban artist, Aurelio Teno, He’s the one who designed and made the Don Quixote sculpture near the Kennedy Centre in Washington.

Quijote Teno

Don Quijote by Aurelio Teno. Kennedy Center, Washington.

Aurelio Teno Exhibition in Patio de los Naranjos, Cordoba.

Foto taken at Aurelio Teno Exhibition in Patio de los Naranjos, Cordoba, Spain.

I also wrote my blog post on Halloween Festivities in All Hallows at Eyre Hall.

On Wednesday I was busy working all morning and all afternoon, at school and college. We rehearsed Stop all the clocks by W. H. Auden, for a poetry recitation at the Halloween Festivities we’re organising at school.

In the evening, I went shopping for Halloween goodies such as hats, stickers, sweets, and ingredients for Halloween biscuits/cookies, with my grandson.

My grandson, the Wizard!

My grandson, the budding Wizard!

On Thursday morning, I made tons of cookies, for my grandson, my students, and colleagues, before going to work. I work afternoons-evenings evenings on Thursdays.

Scary Cookies made by me!

Scary Cookies made by me!

On Friday, we had our big event at school. I teach at an Adult Education Centre, although we have mostly young adults, under thirty. The three English teachers dressed up as witches, and performed the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in English and Spanish. The students also read poems in Spanish and English, and a beautiful short story by Jorge Bucay.

English Teachers with a cauldron, preparing for their act!

My colleagues and I preparing the cauldron for our act!

Performance of the opening cene of Macbeth with the three witches.

Performance of the opening scene of Macbeth.

Afterwards, we ate all the cakes and biscuits we (students and teachers) had made for the occasion.

Halloween biscuits/cookies and cakes!

Halloween biscuits/cookies and cakes!

In the evening, I wrote my Flash Fiction Story for Flash! Friday, as I do almost every Friday.

This morning, Saturday, 1st November, I woke up to a wonderful surprise. This week, I had scheduled a special reduced price book promotion for All Hallows at Eyre Hall, and as a result of my diverse efforts by using Twitter, Facebook, Blog, word of mouth, some paid promotion on Masquerade Crew, and Ereader news today, I discovered had sold 183 books! More than I’ve sold since my book was published in May. I’m overwhelmed, and very excited.

All Hallows at Eyre Hall: The Breathtaking Sequel to Jane Eyre, has also managed to get into the Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store ranking today in three categories!  Best Sellers Rank #26 on Sagas, #29 in Family Sagas, #41 in Historical Fiction. Overall ranking #727 out of over a million Ebooks! Not bad for a debut novel, which was self-published in May, 2014!

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I’m feeling really proud! Did someone cast a good spell last night? Am I dreaming?

Wow, what a week! Fortunately, they’re not all this exciting or busy, or are they?

My daughter and a friend.

My youngest daughter (at the back) and a friend celebrating Halloween in London, last night.

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What can I say? Dressing up runs in the family! We just love it!

 

By the way, All Hallows at Eyre Hall (international link) is on special offer all over the world for the next few days, £0.77 /$0.99 / €0.89. Please help spread the word. I still have a long way to go, but I couldn’t have got this far without your support. A big thank you!

 

Halloween Festivities in All Hallows at Eyre Hall

All Hallows at Eyre Hall, the sequel to Jane Eyre, takes up Jane’s story as Mrs. Rochester, twenty-two years after her marriage to Edward. The novel, which begins on the 30th of October, 1865, is set on and around the AllHallowtide, or the Hallowmas season, a three day period during which Western Christians honour the dead saints, martyrs, as well as all deceased and faithful Christians. The three days of mourning and remembrance are All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’) and All Souls’ Day, from October 31st to November 2nd. The action in the novel continues into the first half of November, but the most significant events occur during those magical and mystical three days. For more information about the origins of Halloween celebrations see my previous post, The Truth About Halloween.

In All Hallows at Eyre Hall, the reader will glimpse at how both the servants and the masters celebrated the festivity of All Hallows Eve, in Victorian times. Jane is the only person who does not participate actively in the festivity, because she is preoccupied with her husband’s health and other added worries. However, the servants indulge in telling stories, making soul cakes, and searching for ghosts, while the younger members of the household attend a Halloween party in the nearby inn and ale house, The Rochester Arms, where they watch divination games, such as bobbing for apples, peeling apples in front of a mirror, and eat Halloween cake.

The slightly adapted excerpt below is part of Chapter XIV, and occurs downstairs, in the servant’s quarters, as they prepare for the ghostly night. Beth, one of the maids, narrates. The other servants taking part are Christy, the younger, undermaid; Simon, Mr. Rochester’s valet; Michael, Jane and Adele’s valet; and Mrs. Leah, the housekeeper, who also appears as a young maid in Jane Eyre. Towards the end of the extract, John Rochester, Jane and Edward’s son returns from the inn with Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ward, and Jane’s pupil when she first arrived at Thornfield Hall to be her governess. Dr. Carter, who is mentioned in this excerpt, also appeared in Jane Eyre, as Mr. Rochester’s surgeon.

***** 

Simon suggested we should tell stories of ghosts in preparation for their coming in the evening, and we all agreed. He started by telling us about the ghost he had already seen this very morning in Mr. Rochester’s bedroom. His was the simplest and shortest story, but he was such a good storyteller, we were all mesmerized by his tale.

“I was closing the master’s curtains and collecting the dinner tray, when the strange events happened. The master’s eyes were bloodshot and wide open. He was possessed by a spirit…”

Simon’s eyes bulged, and his fingers drew shapes in the air, as he put on the slow, theatrical voice he used when he told us his stories.

“He pushed the bedclothes away, stood up, and started speaking. His voice became low and powerful, and strange words in another tongue, like a chant or a prayer, started coming out of his mouth. When I spoke to him he ignored me, as if he didn’t hear me or see me. He walked straight to the mirror. I was quite surprised, because he hasn’t walked in months. He stood in front of it and continued speaking, as if he were conversing with someone. Then it happened, I looked into the mirror and I saw something, which was not his reflection…”

We gasped. He stopped speaking and looked into our eyes, one by one, making sure we were horrified, before continuing.

“I saw something monstrous shining from the mirror, and the whole room lit up, as if lightning had struck.”   

When he finished he turned to Michael, “You went into the room next with the mistress. Tell us what you saw, Michael. Did you see the ghost?”

“I saw a man who is sick and dying. He was standing in front of the mirror with a candle in his hand, saying he had to burn himself to purge his sins before he died.”

We all gasped again at the image of the master in such a guise.

“Go on! What did you see in the mirror?” screeched Christy.

“Mirrors are where spirits hide during the daytime to come out at night with the stars.” Sentenced Simon with authority.

“There was nothing in the mirror, save his own reflection, the reflection of a withered, sick, and remorseful shadow of a man.” Added Michael, coldly.

We gasped again, this time with horror at the idea of our solemn and respected master in such a pitiful situation.

“I don’t think it is your place to speak of your master in such undignified terms.” Sentenced Mrs. Leah most gravely.

“It is what I saw, what we both saw, Mrs. Rochester and I.”

Mrs. Leah shot a daggered look at Michael, “I am the only person here who knew the master when he was a younger man in good health, and I can assure you that he was a great man. It pains me greatly to see him in his current condition.”

Next it was Christy’s turn. She told the story of the Gytrash, an ancient legend her grandmother once told her about a huge wild dog, half spirit and half animal that roams the moors at night in search of human prey. He is especially keen on stalking solitary travellers on lonely roads on stormy nights.

“So this tale is about one such traveller, an uncle of mine, who was on his way home on foot after a visit to my father, his brother. He heard footsteps, as if an animal were creeping up behind him and started running, the animal ran too, and my uncle tripped over a stone and fell. Nobody knows what happened, but the next morning they found him lying on the ground. They thought he was dead, but he was breathing, so they carried him home, and he never spoke again. His spirit had gone. He never ate, drank, or said a word until he died ten days later, without even blinking an eye in all that time. My father said the terror had killed him, and my mother said the Gytrash had taken his soul.”

After telling the stories, the sun had set completely. We lit all the candles, and I helped cook prepare the cakes for the soulers. We put them on trays to be taken out to the back door. Cook said we should also leave some around the house for the souls who might come during the night. Leah frightened us all by saying that all the candles and fires should remain lit all night, so the souls could find their way around the house.

Simon went up to accompany Dr. Carter on his daily visit to Mr. Rochester, and Michael went up to kindle all the hearths and replace the waning candles. Leah said she was tired and retired to her parlour. The rest of us stayed up late eating soul cakes, drinking cook’s brandy, and telling more ghost stories in the hope of seeing something bloodcurdling to talk about the next day.

Strange things happened at Eyre Hall that evening. Later that night, Simon said Mrs. Rochester had seen a ghost in the library, because Dr. Carter, who was with her, had rushed out of the house, pale as death, mumbling something about devils in the hearth. After that, Leah spent the night walking around the downstairs rooms, saying something sinful was going to happen that night.

Then Miss Adele and Master John arrived, making so much noise they would have frightened the souls away. Leah came down quite distraught and bolted her parlour door, the rest fell asleep, but I had drunk so much brandy, I was feeling too excited to sleep, so I went upstairs with the last wick of a candle and saw plenty of weird things.

*****

If you would like to read the rest of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, it will be on offer for a special reduced Price of 0.99 cents or 0.99 pence, for a limited time, over the Halloween weekend.