It’s strange how hauntings begin. One imagines they happen because of some dreadful, violent act, the sudden spilling of blood and taking of a life, but this is not always the case. The worst haunting are those of love turned to hate, when anger and misery eats away at the soul and strips the spirit of its most human qualities. But the young know little of such things and Kitty never imagined, as she set off that first morning, that she was about to become entwined in a nightmare from which there was no waking.
Kitty Morgan carried the small bundle that was made up of all her worldly possessions round the back of the house. Despite the warm weather she felt cold and nervous as she tapped on the door. She had just reached her sixteenth year and after much negotiation on her parents’ part, she was offered the job of live in maid at the Nesbit house. It was one of the finest in the district and she knew she was lucky to get taken on there, but this was her first time away from home and she was already missing her family. Her knock was answered by a stern-faced old woman, who stood eyeing her from head to toe.
“Well, what do you want?” She asked.
“I’m Kitty Morgan, Mam, I’m supposed to start work here today,” Kitty said.
“Ah, Mary’s girl,” the woman’s face brightened when she realised who Kitty was. “I was in service with your mother years ago. Come in girl and sit yourself down, I’m Joan by the way.”
It was a relief to find the old woman’s sour looks belied her true nature and within minutes they were chatting away like old friends. Kitty was to have a room at the top of the house and next door to Joan. It was a thrill to have a room of her own and so unlike at home where they were packed in like sardines. Once she had unpacked her few belongings Kitty went down to the kitchen.
“There’s just the two of us to run this whole place,” Joan told her. “So you’ll have your hands full fetching and carrying.”
“I’m no stranger to hard work,” Kitty assured her.
“I dare say you’re not,” Joan smiled. “Not if you’re anything like your mother.”
The hours flew by as Kitty was taught what her duties entailed. There were just two people living in the house, Joan informed her, a man she called The Mister and his young sister Ruth.
“You’re about the same age,” Joan said, opening a door on the first floor. “This is her room.”
Kitty was dazzled by what she saw. She had imagined a room such as this, but only in her dreams. A heavy wine, brocade quilt covered the bed and sunlight gleamed off the polished mahogany furniture.
“Have a look in here,” Joan whispered, opening a wardrobe.
Kitty gasped at the rainbow of coloured dresses hanging inside.
“Miss Ruth has over twenty evening dresses,” Joan stroked the rich fabrics lovingly, her own thoughts mirroring those of Kitty’s.
What they wouldn’t give to have just one of the fine dresses.
Both brother and sister were out at a local fair and wouldn’t be back until that evening. It would be Kitty’s job to help at table and she was anxious for her first glimpse of her new employers. She worked in the kitchen beside Joan for the next few hours, helping prepare the food for the evening meal. Her heart began to beat faster when she heard the sound of horse hooves on the yard outside.
“They’re back at last,” Joan’s face was flushed from the heat of the stove as she brushed a lock of hair from her face. “And about time too. The dinner would have spoiled if they’d been any longer. Run up and help Miss Ruth change,” she said to Kitty.
The hallway was silent as Kitty climbed the stairs. She tapped on the door to Ruth’s room and waited for her order to enter. The young woman sitting at the dressing table was as lovely as her surroundings.
“Hello, who are you?” Her blond curls bounced as she turned and surveyed the new arrival.
“I’m Kitty,Miss.I’m the new maid.”
“Someone my own age at last,” Ruth dazzling blue eyes filled with delight. “You have no idea how boring it’s been with only Joan to talk too. Come and help me with my hair, Kitty.”
Ruth talked non-stop as Kitty brushed and piled the hair in to order, so by the time she was finished she knew most of what there was to know about her new mistress. Later, in the dining room, she saw her new master for the first time and she was taken aback by the difference in the pair. Anyone who didn’t know them might mistake them for an unlikely married couple. John, the brother, was a big fellow and would have passed for handsome were it not for his eyes. They were small and set deep in to his face giving him a mean and watchful look. Perhaps it was this that caused the local girls to shy away or it may have been something more primeval, a sense of danger that warned of things to come. Still, he seemed content with his lot, according to Joan and the love he showered on his sister could not be faulted. Ruth was fourteen years his junior and tiny compared to her brother. Their mother died shortly after giving birth to Ruth and when their father passed away ten years later it was left to John to take the place of both parents, a job he did well and without a grumble. Kitty saw very little of him as the weeks passed. He worked on the farm most days and came in to the house only at meal times. Ruth on the other hand, became a good friend and the young girls were forever whispering and sharing secrets. Joan had to scold Kitty on numerous occasions and remind her that was there to work and was not a guest in the house. And so the months passed. Happy, carefree months filled with wonder for the young Kitty until He came. It started out innocently enough. It was lambing season and both Joan and Kitty were run off their feet providing meals for those hired on to help at that busy time. One night, as she served at table, she heard John tell his sister.
“I took on some gypsies today to help out. There’s not as many able bodied men about since the war and they seem a decent lot.”
Gypsies, the young girls stole fleeting glances at one another, how romantic.
“They’re parked in the field behind the orchard,” John continued. “There are three men, a father and two sons and a woman I take to be the mother.”
“Do they have horse drawn caravans?” Ruth asked.
She had only ever seen gypsies in books and expected them to live up to her imaginings.
“They have, but that’s no business of yours Miss,” he scowled at his sister. “You’re to keep well clear of them, understand?”
“Yes, John,” Ruth pouted. “I was only asking.”
“That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to hear stories about you hanging around there.”
“I won’t,” she winked at kitty.
The lure of the gypsy camp proved too much and later that night when John was gone to the pub, Ruth came down in to the kitchen.
“Is it all right if Kitty comes for a walk with me?” She asked Joan.
“Yes, a bit of fresh air will do her good,” Joan nodded at Kitty. “Off you go.”
The girls were soon running hand in hand across the fields and out in to the orchard. Using the trees as shields, they crept closer to the wall dividing them from the gypsies and hid behind the bushes. The air was cold and a fierce fire blazed in front of the caravans. There were two men and a woman huddled round the flames. The girls watched as a door opened in one of the caravans and a man stepped out. He was huge and the wooden steps groaned under his weight as he climbed down. His hair fell in coal black curls to his shoulders and despite his size he walked with graceful, panther-like movements towards the small group.
“Let’s go back,” Kitty urged.
She had a strange feeling in her stomach. It was unlike anything she had felt before and she longed for the safety of her room.
“No,” Ruth hissed. “I want to see his face.”
“Your brother will kill us if he finds out,” Kitty hoped this would break the spell.
“I don’t care,” Ruth said, louder than intended.
Her voice carried in the still, night air.
“What have we here?”
They looked up from their hiding place and in to the blackest eyes they had ever seen.
“I’m Ruth, from the house,” Ruth stood up, pulling Kitty with her.
“Won’t you come and join us ladies?” He waved towards the fire and his watching family.
“No, we have to go back,” Kitty said.
“We have time,” Ruth turned and glared at her.
“Let me help you,” he leaned over the low wall and scooped Ruth up in to his arms.
Her squeals of laughter echoed as he lifted her over and placed her down beside him.
“There’s a gate further down,” Kitty said, when he turned to her.
She turned and ran down the length of the orchard and by the time she got to the campfire Ruth was sitting beside the dark gypsy and gazing up in to his eyes. The family were friendly enough and at any other time Kitty would have thought the whole thing a wonderful adventure, but not now. Not when she saw the look on Ruth’s face as she stared in adoration at Rory, the man who would destroy her life. No one could have predicted the meeting would lead to a chain of events so horrifying in their cruelty that they would linger on for decades and reach with searching fingers from the silence of the grave.