Letter VII [Unsent]
Oct 19, 17--
How I tremble! This letter is smudged already, and it is my third time attempting to write to you. I implore you to forgive the state of the paper; I feel that I must go on if I am ever to relate the events that happened in the early hours this morning.
I had forgotten to draw my curtain, as I customarily do, the consequence of which was that the moon – full and bright on this fine night – came in her course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked in at me through the unveiled panes, until her glorious gaze roused me. Awakening, I opened my eyes on the solemn beauty of her silver-white disk and, still half-asleep, I sat up and stretched out my arm to draw the drape across and restore darkness when –
Good Lord in Heaven above – what a cry!
The night – its silence – its rest, was rent in twain by a curdling, helpless scream that echoed throughout my chamber. Every hair that I possess stood on end! The widest-winged condor on the Andes could not have sent out such a curdling shriek from the cloud surrounding his eyrie.
My pulse stopped – my heart still – my outstretched arm paralysed. The scream died and was not renewed. I know not how long I waited, breathlessly, certain that something must follow. No; stillness returned; there was only the distant noise of rushing wind that finally settled, and, as I continued to listen, the Chateau became as hush as a desert. It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.
I left the bed once, found my legs shaky and the floor cold, and then returned only to find myself too agitated to lie back down and arose again. I wrapped a shawl around myself, took a turn about the room, longing for smelling salts, all the while continuing to strain my ears – fearful of hearing that same noise again and yet desperately listening for it. Finally, the moon declined; she was about to set. My restless reflection concluded, although it had sounded far too real, the sound was most likely a product of my sleep-addled state. I confess, I have not slept well since I arrived – I find the castle too drafty, too estranged, too foreboding, to derive any comfort from residing in its walls. Reminding myself of my unreasonable temperament of late, I was persuaded to return to bed but, as I crossed the room to sink beneath the covers once more, something caught my eye outside the window.
It was a solitary figure on the lawn below. A young girl, unmoving, her body wholly turned away from my window. She was only a little thing, and since I had encountered no child here so far, I thought her – for just a moment – a ghostly being, or else another conjured figment of my imagination. Then it dawned on me that this might be the young Mademoiselle, my new ward, somehow returned in the dead of night and locked outside. I called out to her thrice, but each time the wind whipped my words away.
I donned a pair of slippers and padded out of the room, down the corridors and the huge wooden staircase where every board seemed to creak and groan no matter how light my steps. Since I had had no means of relighting the candle I went to bed with, I navigated my way in the half-darkness partially by touch, and it look longer than I would have liked to reach the arched doors that opened to the back of the property. I found these unlocked and partially ajar. The air was refreshingly crisp outside but far too chilly to linger in. I made my way over to the little girl who thankfully remained in the same spot I had first seen her. The dew had come in anticipation of the dawn, and I felt the dampness seep through to my feet instantly as I walked across the grass. The young Mademoiselle turned, standing before me in her little frilled nightgown with her pink bare feet and the golden glow of her curls. She looked intensely grave, and I have never had such a sense of losing an advantaged acquired as when she addressed me with reproach; "what are you doing?"
I was taken aback by the irregularity of it all.
"I heard a scream," I found myself explaining, although I could hear my own uncertainty. "Did you?" A new thought dawned on me. "Was it you?"
She pattered over to me and stretched out a little hand imperiously – "I'm cold, Madam, will you take me inside?" I noticed then that she was shivering and, admonishing myself, picked her up and carried her indoors.
We met Madam S------ coming down the staircase, also still in her nightwear. Now I wonder what had roused her. I hastened to explain what had happened – omitting the scream but mentioning I had awoke suddenly and spotted the child on the lawn. The housekeeper made no comment on my story but took the young child from my arms, bidding me – in a very reproving voice – to return to my chamber until the sun had properly risen. Feeling unfairly rebuked, I nevertheless did so but have felt too confused and indignant to rest and have spent the time since scripting this letter.
Now, dearest friend, what would you say to all this? I am afraid you would see fit to chide me too after such a silly account. The more I go over my tale so far, the more preposterous I find it. There are certain mysteries left – why was the child outside? Indeed, when did she return to the castle at all? – I was not told a word about her return being expected. Yet these may have perfectly innocent explanations and I fear that I have put myself out of sorts and in a dreadful disposition for nothing more than the hysteria that sometimes prevails upon my sex.
I am resolved – I shall dress in preparation for the day and think no more of this foolishness. Pray, do not concern yourself on my account dearest Hannah; writing this letter has let me make sense of it all and I am no longer quite so perturbed.
With love, a somnolent –
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