Special Interlude XII {Part Three}: The Lady of Turnbell


With a bit of convincing, Joy relented to Carina’s request to leave her room and get some fresh air, but only after she had been given a bath and a fresh change of clothes with the help of two other housemaids.

“I can’t have you wandering outside your room in such a state—especially if Lady Edith decides to drop by for tea later,” Joy muttered as she offered Carina a tattered old coat that luckily still fit. “Take Susan with you and stay in the backyard.”

Carina nodded as she brushed the damp curls of her hair away from her neck.

“Remember, Maura,” Joy added with one finger raised in warning. “Out of sight means out of trouble.”

‘Trouble for whom?’ Carina wondered as she took the stairs slowly while studying the interior of her new home. ‘At least until I’m ready to make a clean getaway.’

The second floor, where Maura’s room was located, was split down the middle by a twin staircase that led to the floor below, and sunroom, presently occupied by an assortment of wooden and metal toys, dolls and their dresses, and a large reading chair.

‘There are two other children in the house. I suppose these toys belong to them?’

The stairwell led down to a decent size foyer with a large front door. Susan stopped Carina as she headed towards it and turned the girl towards another hallway.

“We’re headed to the backyard, Miss. Best to use the back door.”

‘Right. Out of sight.’ Carina reluctantly allowed the maid to push and prod her in the right direction until Maura finally showed up to lead the way down a narrow hall between a noisy kitchen where a large man angrily chopped up what had once been a chicken while two other maids chattered conspiratorially as they grated carrots or peeled potatoes. On the other side of the hall was a pantry/laundry room where a tearful young maid sniveled and wiped her cheeks as she ironed out a stack of white shirts.

‘How oddly surreal. Perhaps this isn’t a dream or hallucination?’

The Manor’s backyard was filled with flower beds, a relatively well-maintained lawn with a gravel path that led towards a building just out of sight behind the patch of trees connected by clotheslines dangling with fresh laundry.

The “servant’s quarters,” as Maura called it, appeared just as busy as the main house, with men and women, some in shabbier garments than others, headed towards a large grey building easily identified as a stable or barn.

Carina cleared her dry throat and wandered towards the well, half hoping she might be able to lift the chained bucket for a drink but gave up after a few awkward attempts. Susan snorted with apparent disinterest and moved off to check the laundry on the clothesline.

‘Is it really too much of a bother to help a sick kid get something to drink?’

Carian sighed as she turned to lean against the warm stone wall of the well. The weather was pleasant enough. If she weren’t thirsty, hungry, tired, and recovering from her second near death, Carina might have enjoyed being outdoors.

‘Well, anything is better than being trapped in a room where someone recently died.’

Susan appeared to lose interest in keeping tabs on Maura, which served Carina just fine. If the servants cared so little about her, that would provide more opportunities to slip away later when she was better and preferably more physically capable of taking care of herself.

‘But do they ignore me because of my status as a half-blood—or because of Maura’s mother?’

The ghost had been less than helpful in clearing up that particular fact. The only advice she had given Carina was to avoid Lord Josiah at every opportunity, along with Maura’s two half-siblings, the “brutish” Lincoln and “tragedy queen” Sophya. When it came to the topic of Lady Helena, Maura’s mother, the specter had nothing to say.

‘I suppose I can figure out that relationship for myself later.’

Carina glanced over to where Maura had moved on to trampling daffodils in the flower bed. Susan appeared to take no notice as she walked by with a basket full of dry linen. That’s probably for the best. I can only imagine what sort of mess I’d be in if they could see a ghost following me.’

Carina frowned as a buzz and ring resumed between her ears while her knees wobbled unsteadily beneath her. This new body desperately needed proper nourishment, rest, and adequate hydration. She could already feel a cold sweat forming around her collar and running down her neck and chest.

“Are you ready to go back inside, Miss?” Susan asked, carrying another empty basket and apparently taking note of Carina’s complexion.

‘She probably doesn’t want to get in trouble if I fall over and faint,’ Carina reasoned as she pushed away from her resting place.

“Yes, I probably—”

A strange clattering sound came from around the building and grew rapidly louder. It took Carina a moment to realize what she was hearing, having never seen a horse in real life before.

“Oh dear, it looks like the Mistress has returned early today,” Susan murmured distractedly as she set down her basket and quickly moved closer to grab Carina’s hand. “You’ll shift back upstairs to your room quick and quiet like now if you know what’s good for you.”

“Carina!” Maura whispered as she waved a hand through the maid’s chest. “It’s Lady Edith! She’s come back with them.”

Carina glanced from the impatient maid to the grinning ghost and made up her mind quickly. She pretended to stumble while dodging Susan’s hand. The maid hardly had time to react as she also stumbled forward with a sudden “Oh,” after a helpful push from Maura. Carina grabbed a handful of her skirt and sprinted towards the side of the building.

“Mercy me—what—wait Miss!” the maid protested as she spun around and quickly gave chase.

As fast a sprinter as Carina might have been in her previous life, the sickly, feeble body of an eight-year-old was no match for that of an adult. Susan’s feet rapidly closed in behind her. Panting heavily with effort, Carina pumped her numb arms and legs faster as she reached the corner of the building and squeezed between a prickly bush and a cherry tree.

“Carina, duck!” Maura sang playfully somewhere overhead.

Carina followed the specters instructions instinctively and flinched as a branch snapped overhead and slammed into poor Susan’s chest. The ghost cackled while Carina lumbered on, only slowing as she rounded the side of the Manor.


Butler Stevens greeted Lady Helena at the front of the Manor with two footmen who moved swiftly to the back of Lady Edith’s carriage where they removed the strapped parcels of recently acquired purchases.

‘The old bat might have a fusty sense of fashion, but I’m hardly in any position to complain since Josiah has yet to cough up the coin to pay the staff and grocery bill again this month.’ Helena rubbed her temple as she turned to Sophya, who had fallen asleep on the carriage ride back. The stiff arm sling which swallowed up the ten-year-old girl’s right arm stood out against the clover green day dress Sophya wore.

“Lincoln, wake your sister up, please,” Helena murmured as Stevens opened the carriage door and offered his hand to assist her down.

“Will the Lady’s guest be joining you for tea, Mistress?”

“Will you, Aunt Edith?” Helena asked as she turned back towards the roomier side of the carriage where the wealthy heiress sat alone, stroking the mercifully silent little yapper in her lap. “It’s the least I can offer you after helping us a ride to church and then into town this morning.”

“Nonsense, my dear,” Lady Edith replied drearily as she watched Lincoln coax a sleepy Sophya into getting up from her seat. “I’m well aware that you have your hands full with little Maura being sick again. Do let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. My personal doctor is most excellent when it comes to elusive illness and sickness.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to burden you unnecessarily, Aunt Edith. This is just another one of Maura’s unfortunate fits. She’ll be right as rain in a few days, I expect. She was already past the worst of it this morning,” Helena responded with an almost genuine expression of worry.

‘By now, Joy should have removed the body. Hopefully, it’s buried somewhere discreet and far from the Manor. It wouldn’t do to have Sophya or Lincoln unnecessarily traumatized by the sight of Maura’s corpse. I’ll think of an appropriate excuse to give Aunt Edith later.’

“Do remember to take care of yourself as well, my dear,” Edith murmured pitifully. “You’re looking more than a little worn down these days. No doubt that useless husband of yours is to blame, but you must stay strong and healthy for your children.”

‘If strange women would stop showing up at our doorstep expecting me to pay for my husband’s indiscretions, perhaps I wouldn’t have to suffer through your tedious sermons just to earn the extra cash to pay them off.’

“I will do my best, Aunt Edith. I am most grateful—”

“Goodness!” Edith gasped as her little salt-and-pepper dog jumped from her lap to the carriage door and then scampered down the steps with an ear-splitting racket that barely gave Lincoln the opportunity to move out of the little beast’s path. The nasty little yapper barreled past the startled siblings towards the servants as Edith hastily left her seat and carriage in pursuit. “Dusky! Come here, boy!”

Helena rolled her eyes and patted Sophya’s shoulder comfortingly as the girl stared after the dog with quivering lips. “What is it, Sophya, dear? Were you frightened?”

“Helena!” Edith’s voice rang out clearly with sudden disapproval. “Isn’t that—”

‘Oh, Saints! Please tell me they’re not removing Maura’s body now?’

Helena whipped around, nearly knocking Sophya over in the process, and froze as a pale and trembling, but miraculously upright, Maura wandered towards them with sweat dripping off her curled bangs and nose.

“M-mother!” the half-blood whispered hoarsely. “Can I please—have a cup of—water.” The wretched half-blood’s final plea had barely crossed the girl’s lips when Maura slumped suddenly down onto the gravel road beside the startled, wide-eyed servants.

The still howling dog circled past the unconscious half-blood and proceeded to yap at the empty space beside her.

“Oh!” Edith cried out in dismay before quickly rushing to Maura’s side. “Oh, you poor child!”

‘How?’ Helena blinked as the front door opened. A very late and nervous-looking Joy appeared, grasping her apron.

“Will someone shut that stupid dog up,” Lincoln growled as he turned on the first step towards Helena.

‘But she—She’s supposed to be dead!’

Somewhere beneath the storm of cold dismay and disbelief, Helena registered Sophya’s whimper of pain.

“Mother, please!” Lincoln spoke louder now as he moved back to stand beside them. “You’re hurting her.”

Helena looked down and flinched as she quickly released Sophya’s shoulder. The ten-year-old girl stumbled towards her brother and promptly burst into tears. “I’m so sorry, Sophya. Lincoln, will you take your sister inside and get her comfortable. Please.”

Lincoln scowled but then nodded as he took Sophya’s left hand and led her up the steps past the miserable-looking Joy. Helena shot the useless woman a glare before turning to where Aunt Edith was making quite the fuss over a sick half-blood.

“We must send for Doctor Birch at once!” Edith said as she fanned Maura’s face with her hand. “What on earth was she doing wandering around outside in this state?”

“Maura must have snuck out of her room while the servants were busy with their chores,” Helena supplied with a sharp glance in Stevens’ direction. The butler snapped his fingers and waved the rest of the staff inside with the children’s packages before he moved to assist Edith with the unconscious half-blood. Helena watched with cold disinterest as the butler carried her youngest—her most regrettable mistake—back into the Manor.

‘It’s not that I’m heartless,’ Helena thought bitterly as she adjusted the shawl around her arms before following Edith up the steps. ‘How could any mother love a monster who tried to harm their other children?’


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