The Painting of Mrs. Ravensbrook

 The UNEDITED / SHORTENED VERSION of the shortstory

Written by LAURA CHOUETTE | Genre: Horror


Chapter 1 - Ravenscourt Manor

 

Winding along the narrow dirt road the bare, dry branches of the mighty oak

trees stretch out to each other directing the warm, gold shimmering sun

rays to beam in stripes on the pathway. The heavy wooden wheels of the

black coach twist and turn the dust and dry autumn leaves in spirals high

up into the air. Reflecting, Emilia thought that this late autumn afternoon

was more like a cold, dreary summer afternoon. The north of England had

clearly not seen a single drop of rain in weeks and there was a heaviness

in the air, like, Emilia thought, the early hours of the morning in London,

when the city sleeps and the streets and alleyways are empty, and the only

movement is the occasional stray cat and the hovering of isolated clouds of

fog over the River Thames. A stifling sadness clouded her thoughts like a

dark shadow that blurred out any pleasant memories. She always loathed

leaving Mayfair and was feeling a little homesick.

 

Neighing unruly, the two black horses pulled the coached across small

wooden bridge. Below, the river's waters shone like liquid crystal in the

dim sunlight of the evening. Emilia turned her gaze to the wayside where

she caught sight of the knee-high stone sign post with the barely

decipherable inscription "Ravensbrook".

 

The weathered sign had, over time almost completely faded the artfully

engraved letters of the long-established family name. Dark green ivy

creeping over the dull grey of the stone had almost obliterated the sign

of the aristocratic family. Emilia felt an unexplainable cold shudder. The

dirt track narrowed heading to the high rugged stone wall whose splendid

grandeur looked out of place in this rural countryside of New Haven County.

It was as if this idea had sprung from the builder on a simple whim. Mr

Ketwick, the coachman, pulled up in front of the wrought-iron gate and sat

in silence making no attempt to ascend.

 

Emilia cleared her throat clearly puzzled by his behaviour. The coachman’s

sharp gaze remained glued to the gate as he explained, “I don't have the

key for the gate, Miss Watford," adding, "but don't worry, Mr. Finchley,

the butler will be here any moment.” he added. Emilia turned to him smiling

weakly, "are you sure?" she asked uncertain. The coachman looked at her

reassuringly, "Yes Madame, I telegraphed ahead shortly before your train

arrived in New Haven. Mr. Finchley is aware that it is no more than a half

an hour to Ravenscourt Manor from the station.”

 

The sound of footsteps followed by the crunching sound of the rusted lock

confirmed his words and with a creaking groan, the gate swung sideways,

allowing a glimpse of Ravenscourt Manor that was in the shade of the old

oak trees. Emilia tried to spot the butler at the gate, but could not see a

soul. “Magically disappearing into thin air,” Emilia thought, suddenly

feeling the harsh cold against her cheeks. The sun was rapidly fading and

the surrounding woods were bathed in a menacing darkness. You never

experience complete silence in London, she thought to herself, but here -

not only was there a stillness of sound but it seemed as though time too

had stood still. The only sound to be heard was the soft, steady wheezing

of the two horses. How dreary the estate appeared in the dim light of dusk

she thought as her curious gaze wandered up the ivy-covered facade of the

mansion. The building was completely lost in the middle of the huge trees

under the seemingly endless sky.

 

Her thoughts turned to her Aunt Amy lee. On previous visits her Aunt had

gleefully lapped up her accounts of events in London whenever she visited

her, begging her to tell every detail and not miss out one bit of gossip

and her Aunt would listen eagerly while she sipped the herbal tea that

smelled of marzipan. She was sadly aware of why her aunt Amy lee had sent

for her on her deathbed.

Looking up at the house, her thoughts were interrupted by the eerie feeling

that she was being watched.

 

 Scanning the building for the secret observer she noticed bars on the ground floor – bars that had not been there before.

“We had a recent break in Madame.” the coachman told her catching her observant eye. A sudden movement coming from

the far window of the top floor caught her attention and she froze.


It was the figure of a woman with skin so pale it almost glowed in the dark, the female figure stood motionless.

Emilia had an unexplainable feeling of fear as she looked up at the woman transfixed.

The loud clatter of her luggage being hauled down from the coach broke her thoughts and she stepped down from the coach straightening up her long grey coat. “May I ask you something Mr. Kentwick,” she asked rubbing her cold hands together, “just how poorly is my aunt?”

 

He shifted from foot to foot clearly uncomfortable as she continued her questioning. ” Uncle Robert, wrote me most concerned.

Is she as bad as he believes her to be?” The coachman turned his head towards the entrance of the house,

“Aye, Madame,” he said picking up her cases and heading for the door. Once again, Emilia glanced up to the bedroom window. 

Only this time, the pale figure of Mrs. Ravensbrook was no longer to be seen. 

The complete version of the shortstory will be soon available.

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