December 28, 17--

331 20 2

28 Dec, 17--

Dearest Hannah,

What strange occurrences have disturbed my sleep these past few nights. I have been in poor health since the ceremony, with terrible fever that I fear has addled my perception so that I am left confused as to the validity of my sight and the soundness of my mind. I do not mean to cause undue concern, however; I am much better today and the doctor has pronounced my imminent recovery with great certainty compared to his previous concern.

Two nights ago, I slept most of the day and stayed up horribly late with a particular avoidance of looking at the clock so that I could continue reading my book. I recollect in short that, though I was deeply interested in my author, I found myself, at the turn of a page and with his spell all scattered, looking straight up from him and hard at the door of my room. There was a moment during which I listened, reminded of the faint sense I had had, the first night, of there being something undefinably astir in the house, and noted the soft breath of the open casement just move the half-drawn blind. Then, with all the marks of a deliberation that must have seemed magnificent had there been anyone to admire it, I laid down my book, rose to my feet, and, taking a candle, went straight out of the room and, from the passage, on which my light made little impression, noiselessly closed and locked the door. I can say now neither what determined nor what guided me, but I went straight along the lobby, holding my candle high, till I came within sight of the tall window that presided over the great turn of the staircase. At this point I precipitately found myself aware of three things. They were practically simultaneous, yet they had flashes of succession. My candle, under a bold flourish, went out, and I perceived, by the uncovered window, that the yielding dusk of earliest morning rendered it unnecessary. Without it, the next instant, I saw that there was someone on the stair. You will have just cause to disbelieve that there I saw figure of Rosa, floating in the landing halfway up and where at sight of me, she stopped short and fixed me with a terrible gaze that had never afflicted those sweet features in life. The apparition and I faced each other in the cold, faint twilight, with a glimmer in the high glass and another on the polished oak stair below, with common intensity. I felt at once the living, detestable, dangerous presence.

I had plenty of anguish after that extraordinary moment, but I had, thank God, no terror. And she knew I had not—I found myself at the end of an instant magnificently aware of this. I felt, in a fierce rigor of confidence, that if I stood my ground a minute I should cease—for the time, at least—to have her to reckon with; and during the minute, accordingly, the thing was as human and hideous as a real interview: hideous just because it was human, as human as to have met alone, in the small hours, in a sleeping house, some enemy, some adventurer, some criminal. It was the dead silence of our long gaze at such close quarters that gave the whole horror, huge as it was, its only note of the unnatural. If I had met a murderer in such a place and at such an hour, we still at least would have spoken. Something would have passed, in life, between us; if nothing had passed, one of us would have moved. The moment was so prolonged that it would have taken but little more to make me doubt if even I were in life. I can't express what followed it save by saying that the silence itself—which was indeed in a manner an attestation of my strength—became the element into which I saw the figure disappear; in which I definitely saw it turn as I might have seen the low wretch to which it had once belonged turn on receipt of an order, and pass, with my eyes on the villainous back that no hunch could have more disfigured, straight down the staircase and into the darkness in which the next bend was lost.

The first thought I can recall in the aftermath was a fear for my Mademoiselle and so, abandoning the spot of my confrontation, I rushed down the corridor and threw open the chamber door. In the gloom I could see, underneath the white curtain draping, that shrouds the little white bed, a small body in the perfect of childish rest. I drew closer, to view her sleeping visage and confirm against that heart-wrenching dread that had compelled me to the bedside. I did not return to my room that night, instead I took up watch in the armchair where I gently rocked, half-asleep, until the first rays of daybreak.

Yesterday was spent in a fatigued state and retired early. I awoke again while darkness still pervaded and, taking up the candle once more, went in search of a sighting with the dreadful thought that perhaps I could recreate the encounter once again. I walked around once but saw and heard nothing, and thus chastened, returned to my room where I was about to write a letter to you detailing the above when I saw, from my window, someone coming from the rose gardens towards the house. My breathe caught, I thought that it was the same – but then they came through a patch of moonlight and I recognised the shape of Ms. Pennyworth, an English Madam in dedicated service to my Ladyship. I checked the hour; it was three and I could think of not cause for her to have risen so late and, since I was already up, I padded down to the entrance to see if anything was amiss. There I found Madam L--- had already intercepted her arrival and they were speaking in hushed whispers although my impression was that Ms. Pennyworth was angry about something. I did not wish it to appear that I was eavesdropping and so I pulled back into the alcove, as Madam L--- steered the English women back to the staff quarters, and then crept back to my own room once again. It has been an eventful few nights, I do not quite know what to make of them – I look forward to embracing your pragmatism on the subject, for I feel as if I have almost been taken in by my flights of fancy.

Yours truly,

Charlotte B-----

28 Dec, 17--

Dear Mr. Alois M-----,

I ask that you forgive that this message comes unsolicited; I have reason to forgo the propriety of an introduction in favour of garnering a response to a matter that, I am sure you will agree, demands some urgency.

I am under the employment of the Marquis ------- de ----------, as a governess to his daughter. You may be aware that Miss Rosa S------ was also engaged at the Chateau ------- as a maid and that she left her residency a few weeks ago but with no forwarding address.

I have pressing reason to make contact with her; she spoke of you on several occasions as a very kind former Master whom her sister still serves. If you can put me in contact with her sister, or the girl herself, I would be most deeply obliged to you good Sir.


Miss. Charlotte B------

Dangerous LettersWhere stories live. Discover now