Sunday, May 19, 2013

(#Epilogue) From the notes of Mr Tom Bennett (lawyer) etc. Wuthering Nights by Summer Day

From the notes of Mr Tom Bennett (lawyer) and visitor to Hampstead Heath, London.
    In the morning, I was called to investigate the business transactions of a certain Heath Spencer and the links amongst his family which allowed him to divide his assets between three heirs. I was alarmed by news of his passing, but not surprised. The Spencers hadn’t made it public and there was no note so it had taken some years for the law to rule that he’d  died “of exposure” in the night. It was all rather strange, since his body was never found.
     Rather than try to navigate the heath on a frosty winter morning, I stopped and parked near the local pub again and decided to enjoy the ten minute walk along the winding, private road that led to the imposing exterior of Hareton Hall. I was due to visit the new owner, Hinton Spencer, a young man who was married to Katarina Hunt. They had a three year old child and were in a hurry to get the documents signed because they were due to leave for America to spend a summer painting abroad. They were taking an extended vacation and assured me they did not care to live at The Hall but did not wish to sell the place, either. It was a simple matter of the transfer of documents that I’d waited some years to finalize. Hareton Hall would then be returned to its rightful owners. 
      It was a grinding walk, starting flat and easy and heading ever so slightly up hill, and then, when the sleet and wet started, down again. I was glad I could see the imposing house in the distance.
     When I finally arrived there was not a hint of movement, save wind across ground, whipping the heather into a lavender mix in the distance. Up close, there was no sign of the housekeeper either whom I’d been led to believe still lived at Hareton Hall. There was no sign of anything. The fact that the owner had gone “missing” had led to many years of legal uncertainty.
     An elderly man, wearing gloves, who looked like he worked with animals, wandered out from the stables, as if from nowhere. He must have been close to ninety years old.
   ‘Is anyone at home?’ I asked.
   ‘Not likely,’ he replied. ‘I’ve just come from exercising the horses…’
    ‘Is the owner here?’
    ‘You could say that, many do…’ he replied enigmatically. He looked at me strangely as he walked into air.
     I wandered around to the side of the house, where the cobwebs grew and the foliage had been left wild, giving the lower floor of Hareton Hall the appearance of being covered in unruly brownish lace. There were windows and doors shut tight and locked. The garages were closed and the stables remained empty apart from one where a door had been left swinging open. The grounds themselves, once manicured, had grown wild and lush with secrets.
   The owner, I thought, the young man I sought, a Mr Hinton Spencer, must have risen early to go riding across the heath with his wife.
    Then I remembered the tales of ghouls and ghosts, the objects seen moving in windows, the people long gone that neighbours reported having seen only days ago. Someone in particular, a young woman with long dark hair who wandered the corridors and played loud music, turning on all the lights during wild, evening parties and lighting hundreds of fire -hazardous candles. I’d assumed the reports were simply jealous neighbours complaining about the noise created by the beautiful young wife, the new Mrs Spencer who’d also had the keys and the run of Hareton Hall. Since the noise always stopped at midnight, there was little anyone could do. 
    I was about to give up, admit defeat and return the copies of the papers declaring transfer of original ownership to the rightful heirs of Hareton Hall, when I saw the curtains in the upstairs window move. A young girl with long dark hair glanced down at me and smiled. I knocked loudly and waited for a long time, but still, no one answered.   
   ‘Katarina Spencer,’ I announced, calling out distinctly, although I knew Katarina would be older now and the woman at the window was barely out of her teens. The downstairs curtains waved and I thought perhaps the housekeeper might be there. I looked up again. The girl who stood at the window was beautiful, otherworldly. The image disappeared before my eyes in a mirage of dark curls, cream lace and ruby cheeks.
     I was convinced the cold, like the heat, could make you see a mirage in the mist yet I waited on the doorstep for a long time. No one answered. I was tempted to look back as I walked towards my car. For the first time in my life I didn’t need proof. I was sure the rumours I’d heard were true, though my notes had many pages missing. As I drove towards The Grange, I was certain the lovers who had once inhabited Hareton Hall, lived there still. The girl had not aged a day since she was last seen alive, more than twenty years ago.

Summer Day is the author of Pride & Princesses, a novel for young adults inspired by Pride and Prejudice and Anne Eyre, a YA novel inspired by Jane Eyre. Follow Summer Day on: