Best played by candlelight only
The Background Story:
There was a silent scream at night, soon drowned in darkness and endless hallways, the fear of the dying woman evaporated when she took a last shuddering breath floating mid air, before her skull smashed unto the marble floor and her neck bent and broke.
They only found Lady Catherine the next morning. A doctor was called, later an inspector. Such a tragic death, they said, so unnecessary and unexpected, but maybe unavoidable. Apparently the lady of the house had gotten up late at night – nobody seemed to know why – and had decided to walk down the staircase. Even though she had carried a candle – the candle and the candlestick were found next to her body – it must have been very dark. Maybe she had stumbled, maybe she had tripped on her long white nightgown, all that could be said was that she apparently fell down the staircase and broke her neck and skull. She must have landed on the edge of the last step…
There was nothing suspicious about her death: she had been a well-loved mother and wife, a grand lady respected among her circles and the servants alike. Of course there was the disgruntled old housekeeper, fired shortly after the accident, who was hell-bent on proving that the accident had been murder, that someone, somebody close to the lady had pushed her down the stairs. But the housekeeper had been sick and old and some say mentally unstable. So her account had been dismissed. The old woman died a few months later taking her accusations to the grave.
Five years had passed since and so had the grief and feeling of loss. Something like a normal life had returned to the old Manor House.
A new young maid was the first to see it: a shadow moving through the hallway. Frozen to the spot she had listened to the fall of footsteps through the corridor: bare feet on cold stone, moving away from her. She dared to breathe again and … a piercing scream… she fainted. The young girl left the next morning, refusing to ever set foot into the haunted house again. That was three weeks ago. Since then barely a night has passed without the ghost making an appearance, even though it was not clear how much of the haunting was actually the vivid imagination of the servants, scared by the story and the already creepy atmosphere of the old house at night.
But then there were bloody footprints on the stairs.
And bloody handprints on the windows.
Lady Catherine’s portrait fell off the wall and nearly caught fire when it slipped into the old fireplace.
Once there was a message, “Husband, mine”, written in black charcoal on the white marble where she had died. Sir William was sure it was his wife’s handwriting.
After three weeks the still grieving husband was convinced: whatever had happened to his wife, had not let her pass on to the other side. She was trapped, now haunting the house, seeking vengeance or redemption or… they needed help, before worse things did happen.
The next day he woke up in blood soaked sheets. That was when he sent the letters.
One psychic replied a few days later: she is on her way.
The host has invited everyone who had been in the house during the fateful night to a séance with a famous psychic and spirit medium. It is time to finally find out what really happened to Lady Catherine. There are secrets and mysteries to discover and each character will have his or her dark past to hide. Who will crumble first? And what will the ghosts have to say? Will Catherine herself make an appearance? Let yourself be guided by the psychic and her assistant – or is it all humbug and fraud? It is up to you to decide, if you are a believer or a sceptic…
Some might go too far to keep their secrets, others might have an unfinished business… there might be weapons hidden in the flat should someone feel the urgent need to get rid of another player.
What? Your character died? That’s horrible! But lucky you: this is a ghost story so your part is not over. Turn yourself into a ghost: ghosts are silent, they do not communicate with the living, but they are allowed to watch and can to try to get in touch with the psychic and her assistant – find a way to do so without talking.
Please arrive dressed as and already playing your character and remember to stay in character all evening.
The organiser best plays the “medium” and leads through the story.
For everyone else: only read your own character description!
One important rule!
You are not allowed to lie, if you are confronted directly with a true accusation. You can deflect, ignore the accusation… kill the accuser… that is up to you. But don’t lie!
This rule does not apply to ghosts. So always remember: ghosts might reveal the truth. Or not…
More Murder Mysteries Plays:
Murder Through Time:
Five plays to stage a murder mystery party at home
- The Psychic Medium (27)
- Charles, the assistant (31)
- Sir William, the owner of the house and host (48)
- Edward, the son (24)
- Alice Victoria, the daughter (21)
- Houseguest Dr Carl Zimmer, a geologist (39)
- Jenny, the maid (23)
- A secret guest (27)
- Arthur, the butler (61)
The Husband: Sir William
He had loved her, even though their marriage had never been an easy one.
Like many other marriages theirs had been somewhat arranged: his father had introduced him to Catherine when he was 21, his future wife had been three years older and her rather cold demeanour had impressed him from the very first moment. She drew the attention of the room simply by being there.
William had never liked these shallow social occasions, staged like a play where everyone had pre-determined roles nobody ever dared to challenge: the young girls in their pale-coloured dresses accentuating their virginity and innocence, which stood in sharp contrast to their flirty personality. There were the gentlemen, peacocks in velvet coats, dancing around them like mayflies. The sterner matrons huddled together in one corner throwing disapproving looks towards their young charges, while plotting a better match. They always seemed to avoid the men in black suits, who treated balls and dinners just like business events, discussing the newest developments on the markets. They were the nouveau riche, tradespeople who would not have been invited into these circles was it not for the money and the lack of it in many respectful families of old. There were always the quiet ones, shy and serene young girls and mere boys. They always stood out even though they tried not to.
Catherine was the ice queen, a tranquil statue of marble around which the world rotated. She never even acknowledged the flirtatious young men or the jealous stares of other young ladies. She smiled, but never laughed, she spoke, but never unnecessary words, she was polite but in a way that always seemed superior. In short: William was smitten.
They married in spring, their son was bon 11 months later. A daughter followed, sweeter and more temperate in character, yet without the strength of her mother.
They had lived a quiet life in the countryside, which suited William. Catherine had detested every minute of it and while she doted on her son, it was her daughter who had to suffer the brunt force of the woman’s disappointment. The little girl could never fulfil the expectation and aspirations her mother once had and which Catherine had later projected on her daughter. William should have stepped in, he knew that now, but he had been younger then and childcare had not been his responsibility as head of the family. He should have stepped in when his sweet little girl had to hide a bruise on her face, her golden locks brushed over her purple forehead. He should have stopped it when her small hands started to show red marks where the cane had hid them after every unsuccessful lesson with her mother. He should have put an end to it when his girl nearly died of a fever, because her mother had made her stand in the rain as punishment for some stains on her white muslin dress. He never did. He never said a word. And the little girl turned into a quiet young woman still bearing her mother’s ill will and her father’s silence. Her mother’s death must have been a relieve… She should be married by now, but how could he take away her newfound freedom?
He had always expected that one day he would have a son he could be proud of. But just like his daughter he might have also neglected his son too much. William does not know when his son turned from a happy young boy into this nasty and vicious man, always in a foul mood, cruel with words and a temper that was far too easily provoked. Of course Edward had been Catherine’s golden boy. Maybe William should have stopped it sooner: when Catherine indulged the boy’s every wish and solved his temper tantrums with some sweet treats, a new wooden horse, later even a real one. Edward had been spoiled and over time had become used to the fact that he got whatever he wanted. Of course that changed with his mother’s death. William had better things to do than cater to the needs of a grown-up man who still behaved like a little child – including the tantrums and violent outbursts. Only recently Edward had smashed one of the expensive vases after William tried to discuss his further education. Edward was not stupid, so Oxford maybe, or at least Edward could take an interest in the estate he was about to inherit. To no avail! The attempt to find a match for a wedding failed as well, as Edward had decided he would never marry in his life. William knew better, otherwise he would have suspected Edward suffered from a broken heart…
William has always enjoyed the outdoors, hunting, riding, spoiling his dogs. The most glorious hours were in the early morning, before the household awoke and duty did call: since his early youth William has gotten up before sunset, dressed without his valet and went for a hike through the estate’s large woodlands and only returned for breakfast, his face flushed from crisp morning air and the early exercise.
That is also how he discovered his dead wife: Striding down the main staircase to head out into a bright sunny morning he found her, already cold and stiff at the bottom of the staircase. Her white nightgown had slipped upwards to reveal her now bluish legs and thighs. The blood beneath her head had dried into a brown crust sticking to the marble floor and her hair like glue. William collapsed next to her and for what felt like hours he did not move. He did not cry either. The doctor later said that it was an entirely natural reaction, considering the shock. For days he had felt numb only vaguely remembered anything else but her lifeless eyes staring towards the ceiling – grey now instead of a sparkling blue. Only days later he began to remember the details: the neck that was bent in a strange angle, the candle stick further up on the staircase – a family heirloom, both his son and his daughter owned one of two copies. He never dared to ask himself how it might have gotten there… It made no sense dwelling on this: the physician and inspector had both ruled it an accident. Only the old housekeeper Ms Smith had made a fuss. She had been very devoted to Lady Catherine, so William did understand her pain, but her accusations went too far. Over and over the old woman had complained that someone had killed her mistress, that someone had murdered the good lady… in the end he had no other option, but to fire her. She was clearly mentally unstable. Nonetheless it was sad to hear that she died only a few months later.
Curiously enough after his wife’s death and first dragged along by an old friend, Sir William discovered that he liked London after all, especially the music halls, one in particular, the Grand Duchess where he met its notorious star: the beautiful Miss Lydia Garnett. Her performance was unlike anything he had ever seen before. After the first night he sent her flowers, after the second chocolate and champagne, after the third he asked the proprietor for a private meeting – he had heard rumours about these things. They had dinner together, she put a hand on his knee. No woman had ever done something like this before. And she kissed him on the cheek to say goodbye. He sent her a golden necklace and cheered loudest whenever she performed. After a month she became his lover, after three he established her in a private apartment in London. A year later she stopped performing, speaking about marriage instead. Dear lord, William is more than intrigued, more than aroused, he might indeed be in love. But how could he marry her? A former music hall star? Not much better than a prostitute? That was a huge step and would surely cost him deeply. Not that Sir William was particularly concerned with his own standing in society, but he still had an unmarried son and an unmarried daughter and of course their father’s behaviour would also reflect on them and their prospects for a good match as well. He just needed to wait a little longer, find a place in society for daughter and son and then he was free to do as he pleased. But Lydia was pushing and her patience was running thin. The young lady had quite a temper…
The spirit medium: Beth
She only got the letter two months ago when she met her older sister Susan for the first time in years. Apparently it had been delivered to her parent’s address. The old woman must have been confused to have it sent there. She must have known that Beth was no longer on speaking terms with her family. So it was pure luck that the letter Ms Smith, her old nanny and governess had written shortly before her death, finally reached Beth after all these years. Apparently Susan, the eldest of five girls and the only one apart from Beth who never married and now cares for her elderly parents, had found the letter and kept it, hoping that Beth might one day return, that maybe their parent’s would one day forgive their wayward child and welcome her back with open arms.
Beth never came back, but Susan found her sister in a newspaper advert: the famed psychic visiting Bath. And so she had come to the performance. Beth had recognised her straight away. They had smiled at each other over the faces of the crowd and later they talked over a glass of spiced port. Susan would never understand and Beth would never go back to her old life among the rich sugar merchants of Bath. But they promised to see each other again one day. That was the first surprise, the second was the famed letter. And that changed everything!
“My dear child,” Ms Smith had written, pouring all her desperation and fear into one letter. It had been years since they had spoken, but letters had been exchanged until the day Beth left her family home. Ms Smith had found a new home in the Manor House after Beth’s family had to let her go, struggling with financial difficulties and a declining sugar price when Beth was only 11. Lady Catherine had saved Ms Smith from destitution by offering her the position as housekeeper and so the old woman had become very fond of the lady, even though Lady Catherine had been very strict and often rude to other servants. Ms Smith had loved the lady, she wrote, and could not let the family get away with murder. The housekeeper had apperently been on her last round through the building when she saw Lady Catherine at the top of the stairs and someone sneaking up behind her. She did not see the person, just a shadow. She had wanted to shout a warning, but was too late. The person hit Lady Catherine over the head with something that looked like a stick. The lady fell and the housekeeper ran, afraid of what she had just witnessed.
Ms Smith hid in the shadows until she was sure the murderer had left. She wanted to help, but as soon as she knelt next to the lady she knew that all help came far too late: Lady Catherine was dead. Next to her, covered in blood, was a candlestick, a family heirloom, one of two pieces passed on to the children Edward and Alice years ago… She should have called Sir William then and there, but went to bed instead. “I cannot explain my actions, but with the utter terror I felt that night,” she wrote in her letter. “I was sure the police would investigate, but when they ruled her death an accident I had to come forward. Yet, nobody listened, nobody wanted to hear the truth.” There were other things Ms Smith had witnessed that night: the daughter of the house had come home very late using the servants’ staircase – drunk. The houseguest Dr Zimmer had also been awake quite late at night and at one point Ms Smith had seen him walk through the gallery. She had tried to tell, but even the young master, Edward, had not listened.
Apparently Ms Smith had died shortly after sending Beth the letter, asking for help, the death of her mistress still an unsolved mystery. And Beth made a decision: she would solve the murder. She just needed a spark to ignite the flame and so she sent her assistant Charles to play the ghost that had not yet made an appearance.
Beth – who never uses her real name in performances – was normally called after “real” paranormal occurrences. Still half of her performance was theatre and staged. No ghost rattled on doorknobs and blew out candles to impress a terrified audience, but that was what people expected. Her assistant Charles was good at staging those things. But in all her cases the initial fear of the dead had been real. Sometimes it was just superstition, but often enough Beth felt something else: it was like sinking through the floor, a pull that nearly made her vomit, the light-headedness and ice-cold breath on her skin… a ghost pushing through. In these cases it did not need a trigger, just her being there was enough to lift the veil. On other occasions she had to summon the ghost, it cost a lot of strength as it involved ripping a whole into the fabric of reality. The ripping was tiring, but far more exhausting was holding both ends together, not to let go entirely. Only once that happened and it flooded her with so many images, voices and demands that she had collapsed on the spot. It took her weeks to recover.
Until today Beth dreads ripping the veil, afraid to loose control. But it would be necessary in this case. There had been no ghost at the old manor house, just her clever assistant Charles, sneaking in at night and leaving ghost-traces wherever he went. His last, his biggest stunt had been the master of the house himself. How he managed to put a sleeping draught into Sir William’s drink and soil his sheets with pig’s blood while the man was sleeping was indeed a masterful miracle. What would Beth do without her skilful assistant? She will need him more than ever to solve a mystery that had haunted her old nanny until the day she died.
Charles of course does not know why she asked him to play ghost. He thinks it might be money, but she told him not to take any, so maybe some sort of revenge. He does not know much about her past, but suspects some deep unsettling mysteries. How disappointed he would be to learn that Beth was nothing but the disgraced and disobedient daughter of a sugar merchant, too poor to arrange the marriage of yet another daughter. Beth had been destined to become a governess in one of the grand houses. But as a girl she had always been different, often in a dreamlike state, seeing things no one else could. Her nightly terrors made her an object of mockery in her school, giving her the nickname Loony Betty. It did not get better when she returned home, with a father eager to send her off to her first assignment as soon as possible. He loved his strange little girl, but was convinced that all she needed was a stable environment in a good house to finally set her straight.
Le Chevalier saved her. He was a staggeringly beautiful and impressive man in his early forties when Beth first met him. Beth and Susan had gone to London, a farewell treat for Beth before she was set to go to Yorkshire. Beth saw the advert, Susan did not want to go, but Beth begged. It was her special day after all….
He picked her from the crowd. He knew! Susan protested, but Beth entered the stage as if she had been destined to do nothing else. He asked her to sit on a chair and blindfolded her eyes. Then he told her to envision the veil. She saw it, thin and grey, half light, half shadow. He took away the blindfold and Beth nearly screamed, had not the Chevalier put his warm left hand on her back, so that the only sound that left her lips was a stifled gasp. A woman as greyly lit as the veil itself was floating mid-air. “Mary,” Beth said. “Her name is Mary.” A woman in the audience started sobbing. “Mother?”
“Well done,” Le Chevalier whispered into Beth’ ear. “I knew I would find you one day.” Beth never went to Yorkshire, she never even returned home. Susan eagerly waited at the entrance of the theatre, but in vain: only a servant was sent with a note. “I have found my destiny. Beth” The police later rushed to the hotel Le Chevalier had booked, hoping to free the kidnapped girl. But Beth and Le Chevalier were long gone and on their way to France.
Beth had indeed found her destiny and the first love of her life: Le Chevalier. They made love on the boat to France. For Beth it meant sealing her fate. There was no way back after that…
They became partners in life and business, Beth very quickly outshining her teacher. First she did not speak French, so Le Chevalier became her spokesperson as well as her mentor. That of course changed over time, as did their power dynamic. They were eccentric both of them, constantly fighting and then making up with rough sex. Sometimes they did not even make it back from the stage to their hotel room, both needing the release after the tension of the performance.
Some days were different. Beth was frail, her power often too strong for her body and while Le Chevalier was the more enigmatic and charismatic of the two, it was Beth who harboured the greater talent. And it put a strain on her. Sometimes she could not get out of bed for days, lying in the dark with a headache and hoping to finally cross the veil herself – not as a guest, but forever. Other days she was on a height, barely registering the danger of the spirit world, chatting away with visitors who made an appearance during the performance. There where the witty ones, like the old drunkard who came to tell his wife that she could be happy now, because she finally got what she wanted: there was no decent ale in afterlife. The audience had burst out laughing and Beth was glowing. It was during one of these heights that Beth made her biggest mistake. She let go of the veil – and nearly died.
Le Chevalier from then on forbade any experiments and hired the young actor Charles instead. People expected a performance and they would give them one, Charles was great in staging ghostly appearances, no matter if on a grand stage or in small salons. Doors rattled, pictures flew from the wall, lights flickered and ghosts knocked on wooden tables. Charles always stayed in the background. Beth knows he is not only a performer, but a stern believer. As a child he had an accident, he never speaks about, but he nearly died and claims to have seen the world behind the veil. But he understands that ordinary people will need more than just the assurance that the afterlife exists and so he is all too willing to give them proof – even if that was just fake.
Of course spectators were always convinced they had seen a ghost even when Beth or the Chevalier had not been able to make any contact at all. They never were that successful before and travelled all over Europe, praised by their audience: the great Chevalier and his Petite Madame.
In the end that was why Beth left Le Chevalier, she felt controlled, her spirit and talent stifled, constantly in the shadow of a “grander” man. Of course she had learned from her mistake and would never do anything that stupid again, but he would not even let her try to peak behind the veil again. He controlled her and even their lovemaking turned from violent passion to careful and considerate exploration, as if he was afraid to harm her. One day she had enough. One day she left – and took Charles with her.
They found their own routine, their own way of combining Charles talent for performance and business with her extraordinary gift. They have been travelling a lot the last two years: Germany, France, Italy and now back to England. Maybe America would come next, but first she has to solve a mysterious death that might have been murder. She owes her old nanny this much. She had been like a mother to her after all.
Some suggestions for things Beth might do:
- She has a very weak condition and is prone to headaches, dizziness and fainting spells, especially when touching the spirit world. Act that out.
- She sometimes channels the ghost of a French court lady. To do so change posture and voice and speak a few words or sentences in French – best something secret about the participants or cryptic messages from the afterlife.
- When contacting the spirit world she cannot be disturbed. Her assistance will have to give instructions on how everyone has to behave. Beth relies heavily on Charles’ assistance and often will not interact with the guests herself but let him do the talking. Speak with Charles in hushed voices and let him reveal your message. (Discuss and maybe practise this with the other player in advance.)
- Ouija Board
- Tarot Cards
- Crystal ball
Some secrets she might reveal:
- The son:
You hold no love for your family. I only see darkness there. Even your mother. You hated her in the end. But there is love – someone close, yet lost to you… was there a fight? Some force that drove you apart? You are resentful… why?
You did something terrible…
- The daughter:
You poor thing… she was never kind to you, was she? So much hatred. So much fear. And joy. I see joy, now that your mother is gone.
- The husband:
She is so very distraught, so sad… you have moved on quickly, forgetting all the love you once shared. The other woman. She is so young… she is not right…
- Dr Zimmer:
You were there that night. In the hallway. You saw something.
- The maid:
So much pain, so much darkness…
- The secret lover:
She says, you will never replace her. There is no space in her husband’s heart for you.
Ideas for theatrical performances during the game
(please practise in advance):
- When asking the ghost, if she was murdered, withdraw the fingers from the Ouija Board or Cards – depending on what you decide to use – as if burned. If you like you can use blood capsules and a white handkerchief and start coughing and spitting blood
- A flying picture frame, falling from the wall (use a nail, an invisible string and a quick assistant)
- Tarot cards. Pick the following cards and put them to the top, remember which card belongs to which character and hand them out accordingly. Don’t let anyone else touch the cards, so they are not getting into disarray.
- The husband: The Lovers
- The daughter: The Star
- The Butler: Justice
- The Maid: Ten of Swords
- Dr Zimmer: Four of Pentacles
- The Son: The Tower/ Death
- The Secret Guest: The Wheel of Fortune
Or do a card trick with one of the characters:
- Give the assistant the chance to sneak out of the room at some point to scrawl a message on the bathroom mirror using fake blood: “Murderer”. Or stick on bloody fingerprints.
- Spirit travels – asks one of the participants to travel to the other side to meet mother/ wife/ father with the help of the medium. This would be a good moment for one of your revelations.
- Use an Ouija board to connect with the spirit world. Move the wooden ship secretly to give hints and clues, but make sure no one realises it. Practise in advance.
Charles, the assistant
Since Madame, or Beth as is her real name, often has her head in other realms, Charles handles the business side of their trade. Even though in this special case Beth has made it clear not to take any payment, Charles will indeed collect a fee from the host Sir William at some point. Everything else would be far too suspicious. It is not even clear to him, why this case is such a big exception. Maybe it was one of her manic phases again, where she seemed to loose all connection to the real world and worldly necessities like food on the table and a bed to sleep in. Not that they suffered any hardship: over the time Beth’ talent and Charles’ sense for business have indeed made them both very rich. Nonetheless it was frightening how detached the psychic sometimes became… as if she had already travelled beyond the reach of the living.
Charles knew exactly how terrifying that can be: the other realm, the land of the dead. He has seen it and it was… it was… how to describe it to those lucky or unlucky enough to have never experienced it. He had felt it, its power, its allure drawing him in, tempting, calling… Charles had been so young, a boy of eight when the terrible accident had happened. He was badly injured, unconscious for days and at the brink of death, the doctor had said. Charles is sure it was not only the brink. One night he had passed over, one night he had left his body. He saw it… it spoke with the friendly face of old Mrs Hewett who had died in spring, it talked to him in a sweet voice and asked to follow. Others were there, too, he could feel them. The doctor later said he had hallucinated in a fever dream. But no dream was like this. No dream made you want to die, to join the others, leave the pain and rejoice… but there had also been screams in the distance and dark voices whispering threatening curses and so in the end the young boy had been more afraid than tempted. He had decided to live. He made it back to where he belonged. It had not been his time, yet. He recovered. It took months, but he made it. His body gained new strength and a smile returned to his face. He was like before, apart from the scars that would mark him for life and the unshakeable believe that beyond death was another world, one that sometimes touches the world of the living, separated only by a thin veil – and Beth was able to walk right through it.
Beth knows that Charles had an accident as a child, but he has never told her what actually happened. If it comes up, the player can therefore invent that part of the story himself.
Charles has no doubt about his partner’s psychic abilities, even though most of the effects are fake. For him the existence of ghosts and spirits is proven fact, but since non-psychic humans need convincing, he introduced show-elements into their joint performance. Flying pictures, flickering candles, voices from beyond the grave – all things people expect from a psychic reading and he is ready to provide them.
Charles has met Beth three years ago when he was hired by the famous French medium Le Chevalier to assist him and his student, partner and he suspects lover during their performances. He soon realised that the young women, the chevalier used to call “Ma Petite Madame”, was the more talented of the two. Beth probably did not need all the theatrics, but the master insisted. Apparently there had been some kind of accident where Beth had been drawn too far into the land of the dead. “It nearly killed her,” the Chevalier said. Charles’ theatre performances had to make up for whatever she was no longer able to do.
Working for various travelling theatre companies Charles has become an expert for theatrical performances and illusions, he started at the tender age of 16 after all. He made the two psychics’ performances more successful than they had ever been. Le Chevalier was excited, Beth was exhausted and after travelling for nine months the tension between the two became nearly unbearable. When not performing they fought constantly and even the secret kisses he had often seen them exchange lost all their fire and passion.
One evening Charles found Beth in the dressing room of the theatre, her bags already half packed and a short note to her lover lying on the dressing table. “You are leaving.” It was not a question.
“I have to,” she said. “He is stifling my talent, I can no longer breathe with him around,” she said.
But she just shook her head. “No, you don’t. Even the spirits have become restless. They want to come to me, but he doesn’t let them.”
He took her bags and the box with her cards. “Then let me come with you,” he said.
“I can’t offer you anything,” she said. “I don’t have any money, I can’t pay you. I don’t even know where I will sleep tonight. I can’t give you anything.”
He smiled at her and with his free hand pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear. “You are enough,” he replied. “Seeing your talent is enough. Let me make you a star.” And that was what he did. Two years later she was one of the most renowned psychics and mediums in Europe.
The newest case was strange, though. It was a small thing, but Beth had insisted. The payment was decent, but Beth had refused to take any. There were other weird requests: Before the official invitation from Sir William arrived, Beth had actually asked Charles to play ghost. She has never done this before. “There is a spirit in distress, I know it,” she had explained. “But she is not strong enough to come through.” And so for three weeks he had sneaked into the old manor house and played the ghost. He left bloody marks and fingerprints, wrote messages and made pictures fly, just as he did in theatre. Only this time his main audience were terrified servants. Slipping a sleeping draught into Sir William’s night drink and dousing him in pigs blood was a stroke of genius, though. He is rather proud of that, he has never liked these pompous aristocrats anyway. But still Charles suspects that something rather strange was going on and he cannot shake off the feeling that Beth has actually lied to him. About what, he is not sure.
- During the game, you will have to play the ghost again: Discuss with Beth in advance what needs to be done.
- You will address Beth as Madame all the time that is how she prefers to be called on stage. Beth is far too ordinary. But Charles might let it slip, should something strange or dangerous happen… Beth is taking too many risks.
- Not much is known about Charles’ earlier life and childhood, he never talks about it and never mentioned anything to Beth either, apart from his accident. This mean the player can make up his own past until the point he joined the theatre company. Does he still have living family? Was he wealthy or the clever but poor son of farmers or city workers? What was he like as a child? Should these things come up, invent your own story.
- Should something happen to Beth (unconscious, dead, asleep, missing…) and a ghost makes an appearance try to use your own connection with the otherworld to make it reveal its secret.
The Daughter: Alice Victoria
Lady Catherine and Sir William have named her youngest child after the two oldest daughters of queen Victoria, it was a well-wishing and a curse, as the name already indicated her mother’s ambitions. Alice Victoria had to be special and her mother trained her for that from a very young age – without much success. Alice had been a sweet and kind little girl, neither a beauty nor an ugly duckling, neither a brilliant mind nor a dimwit. All in all Alice had been an average little girl, maybe a bit too kind at heart, with a weakness for creepy crawlies and flowers.
They had lived a quiet life in the countryside, which suited Sir William. Catherine had detested every minute of it and while she doted on her son, it was her daughter who had to suffer the brunt force of the woman’s disappointment. The little girl could never fulfil the expectation and aspirations her mother once had and which Catherine had later projected on her daughter. Her father should have stepped in when his sweet little girl had to hide a bruise on her face, her golden locks brushed over her purple forehead. He should have stopped it when her small hands started to show red marks where the cane had hit them after every unsuccessful lesson with her mother. Once Alice Victoria nearly died of a fever, because her mother had made her stand in the rain as punishment for some stains on her white muslin dress…
Alice Victoria had only been 16 when her mother died. She did not cry once. Free, she was free at last.
Alice Victoria did not witness anything that night – indeed she came home rather late and rather drunk and sneaked directly into her bed using the servants’ staircase. That had been the very first times the young woman had done something inappropriate and forbidden: after stealing two bottles of wine she had left the house at sunset after her mother had told her to stay in her room – again. She had not much of a plan, apart from doing something, anything with her wretched life that would enrage her mother…
Eve, one of the servant girls, had told her about the secret meeting, she and other girls – and boys – sometimes had in the old gatekeeper’s house. It had been empty for years; some said it was haunted. But the only scary thing Alice Victoria has ever met there was a fat brown rat. Until today she does not know what had caused her act of disobedience, but she suspects the houseguest Dr Zimmer had played a part. He had been the first who had talked to her like an adult. It was him who had told her that while a child should always obey its parents, a young beautiful woman need not suffer a mother’s abuse. “There is always a way out,” he had said with a wink. Alice had to confess: She had been a tiny little bit in love. Dr Zimmer left, but her newfound adventurous spirit stayed. With her father nowadays spending most of his time in the city and Edward doing whatever Edward does, Alice has found time for new endeavours. Since she keeps them a secret from her family, the player can invent what it is, she is doing. Surprise your family!
Even though she actually has no proof, Alice has the suspicion that her mother’s death was indeed not an accident. Edward had such a temper… they had fought Edward and mother. Alice does not know why, but she suspects that she herself might have been the source of their conflict. For years Edward had been furious with his mother because of the way she treated his little sister. Edward was never kind, some might say he was as cruel as mother. But he had always been rather sweet with his baby sister and more then once Alice has heard him mutter: “I kill her, one day I’ll kill her.” What makes her even more suspicious is that the candlestick found next to her mother had been one of a pair. Alice owned one, the other was Edward’s. Alice’s candlestick has never left her room… The police concluded that the lady herself had carried it and fell with it down the stairs. But how did mother get Edward’s candlestick and why?
Alice will do everything to protect her brother. He is the only true family she has. Sir William has never been cruel or hurtful, but like many men of his standing he had cared more for the estate, his dogs and horses and maybe his male heir, than his daughter. She still has some vague memories of a time when she was very little, maybe two or three. Daddy had sat on her bed and read her a story, he had carried her all the way from the garden when she had scratched her knee and made sure the cook made her some hot milk. She remembered how he laughed at her songs. That was before mother began her training. After that Sir William had always been distant. A daughter’s education was a mother’s job after all. The strained relationship with her father has not changed much and so Alice keeps her new life a secret from her family.
The Son: Edward
How he had hated her! How he had hated her overbearing kindness, the doting and cuddling, the constant attention and the barely hidden criticism. How he had hated her for treating him like a royal prince, a spoiled little boy and not the strong man he was becoming. How he had hated her for hurting his sister and destroying his life. If he had had the chance, he would have killer her himself, the old witch. Mother!
Edward still blames his mother for his own unhappiness. Why could she not let him have the only thing, the only person he had ever wanted. Jenny. He has loved her from the moment he first saw her, kneeling on the floor while sweeping the ashes from the fireplace. She had not realised that the young master had come into the room and was humming a melody to herself, a strand of hair had come loose and fell into her face. There was a streak of grey ash on her left cheek. Jenny probably did not even remember how she had turned bright red, when she saw him, muttering an apology and rushed out of the room. He had laughed, not in a cruel way, but bemused about how flustered the young girl had been. Edward started watching her while she did her duties. He did not dare to speak to her at first, even though he was the young master of the house, he was rather shy with girls.
One day he met her in the village. It was the day of the yearly spring fair. He was surprised to see her there, but apparently she had been given the day off, like many other servants who were not desperately needed. They literally bumped into each other, she apologised, so did he. They laughed and he bought her one of Miss Cathy’s delicious almond cakes. They watched some jugglers perform and he bathed in her excited laughter. When they parted that evening he kissed her fingertips.
Edward knew her schedule, so whenever he could he left little innocent gifts where she would find them: a flower on the windowsill or a beautiful red silk ribbon wrapped around the door handle of her room. One day he went to the beach with mother. He found a shell in the palest shade of purple. He pressed it into Jenny’s hand when they passed in the hallway. That evening she came into his room. To give back all the gifts, she said. The servants had started gossiping about her secret admirer. She did not want to get into trouble, did not want to get him into trouble either. He silenced her protest with a kiss and a promise. He would never leave her. “I love you,” he said and she pressed her body against his.
He still left gifts after that, but much more careful. Sometimes they met in secret. When Jenny took the kitchen waste out he waited for her around the corner, a wicked smile on his face. One day he hid in the broom cupboard, surprising her with a kiss that silenced her shocked shriek. On her free days they met in the woods. Edward had never been a friend of long walks, but with her it was different. Once they sneaked into the old Gatekeeper’s cottage, empty for years, and for the first time he touched her body. A week later she came to his bed. He was happy, and with no care for the world he decided to marry her once he was old enough.
But then mother found out! The day before of her death she cornered him. In no way would he be allowed to marry that girl, or even see her again.
“You will obey me, or you will leave this house, not a penny to your name, do you understand? And so will she! There is no position in this house for a harlot like her.”
He begged her to reconsider. She threatened to tell his father and if necessary beat discipline into both her children, a barely concealed threat considering how mother treated his sister. “I will make sure neither of you will find a position anywhere, do you hear me? Let’s see how well she likes you then…”
Again he had asked her to see reason. “If you want that girl to have any future, you will do as you are told. You will never see her again.”
In the end, worn down by hours of fighting, he had made a promise – with no intention of keeping it.
“Swear on your life,” mother had said. “Swear on your life and that of your family, your father’s, your sister’s and mine that you will never see her again.” And he did. Twice. On the bible. He did not care. Let mother believe whatever she wanted, he loved Jenny. Later that day he had cornered the maid in the hallway and dragged her into one of the guest bedrooms. And there he broke his promise.
That night his mother died.
Since then Edward has not only become withdrawn, cold and at times cruel to anyone around him, but also deeply superstitious. What if he had brought a curse on himself? What if breaking his oath had caused his mother’s death? What if, lord help him, Jenny did something stupid that night? His frustration, anger and fear often leads to violent outbursts, more than once he has smashed some furniture in his room. He treats the servants cruelly, especially Jenny, who he blames for his mother’s death. Mother got her whish after all: he has never touched Jenny again, he has barely spoken a word to her since that day, avoided her whenever possible. But he loved her, even after five years he still loves her. And would it not be for his terrible anger and fear of the unknown he might… might what? Risk his inheritance? The only home he has ever known? For a maid? A servant girl?
Edward barely speaks to anyone these days. Why should he? He was a disappointment anyway. Father wanted him to study, Oxford or Cambridge, Edward was clever enough after all. “Or at least show an interest in the estate,” father had said. The man was funny: Sir William was barely home anymore and had left the running of the estate to his steward, but at the same time he scolded his son for doing the same. Then there were all the girls, father wanted him to meet. As if marriage would solve anything. He had refused every candidate: Sophie, daughter of an earl, had not even been half as witty as Jenny; the next, Clara, was pretty, but stupid and Marianne had the brains but looked like a horse… Edward is deeply unhappy.
The only person he still half cares for is his little sister: after all the abuse she has suffered by her mother’s hand, she was still a sweet little thing. He remembered how as a very little girl she had always carried one beetle or another on the palm of her hand, telling it stories and asked it to pick a flower it would like to live in. He also remembered how she had cried when mother had crushed the ladybird – Alice’s favourite – between her fingers, telling her daughter that ugly things did not belong into beautiful girl’s hands. “And stop snivelling!” He doubts that Alice remembers. She had been so little… While mother had always treated Edward like her golden boy who could never do anything wrong, little Alice could never do anything right. Mother hit her, disciplined her by leaving her crying in a dark empty room until she apologised for something she hadn’t even done. Elegant, divine, beautiful – Alice was all that, but never enough for mother. She is happier now that mother is dead. That is the only joy Edward has, but a joy that was overshadowed by doubt. What if not Jenny and his own broken oath had caused his mother’s death, but something far more sinister? The candlestick found next to his mother’s body was one of two copies, one owned by Edward, the other by Alice. Edward never dared to ask which of the two was found at the bottom of the stairs – and how it got there. One thing is sure: Even after all this time he would do anything to protect Jenny and Alice.
Edward had been in the hallway that night, looking for Jenny again. He did not see anything or anyone. But apparently was seen by houseguest Dr Zimmer and that devil had the audacity to ask him for money to stay silent. Normally Edward would have laughed in his face, but with everything that had happened, he was far too tired to argue and simply paid, hoping that that was the end of it.
But then the old housekeeper Ms Smith had started to make trouble and in contrast to Dr Zimmer Edward was sure she had indeed seen something that night. Father dismissed her, still she sent letters. One day she confronted him at the gate. “Your beloved mother, she loved you so much. You cannot let her down, you cannot let her death go unpunished…” He had shushed her away. A week later she came again and again the week after that. Finally he agreed to meet her at the cottage, which Sir William in an act of charity had rented for her.
She threatened his sister, his father, even Edward himself. Threatened to expose all their secrets. She had seen someone that night, someone had killed the dear lady and the housekeeper would find out who – with his help or without. Then she had mentioned Jenny and Edward lost his temper. He had grabbed the old woman and pressed his hand over her mouth. First he just wanted to shut her up, but as he realised how the frail old woman was struggling and that she was actually not able to breathe, he made a spur of the moment decision to silence her forever. He pressed his hand over her mouth until her struggle weakened and she became heavy in his arms. Edward only stopped when her eyes glazed over and her life force finally left her. Edward carefully laid the old housekeeper on her bed, put the blanket over her lifeless body, cleaned the dishes and re-arranged the chair that had tumbled down in the fight. He made it look, as if the poor old woman had died in her sleep.
When the ghost appeared it struck Edward like a blow: already superstitious, he thinks his mother has come back to finish whatever cruelty she had started when still alive. No matter how terrified he was about what the ghost might do, it paled in comparison to what it might reveal should the medium indeed have any talent to speak with the dead. He desperately hopes she is just a charlatan and will of course do anything to convince the other participants that she is. If necessary he will have to make sure she stays silent. He has risked too much. Edward is a killer after all and his mother’s ghost might not be the only one that makes an appearance. What if… Edward is terrified and like always in situations like these, he will lash out.
Edward is also less than pleased that Dr Zimmer is back. He will have to remind the geologist and former houseguest to keep his mouth shut – as promised and paid for.
The Maid: Jenny
She killed for him, yet he left her. Yes, Jenny killed Lady Catherine. For her lover. For Edward.
It had all started as a little bit of fun, nothing serious. How could it be? He was the young master of the house and she was a mere servant girl. Just like so many girls she had started working at the tender age of 14, first as scullery maid, then as chambermaid for a merchant family. They were rich enough with six servants, a butler and a cook. But it was nothing compared to the grandeur of the old manor house. Jenny had always dreamed to work in a place like this. The payment was good and with diligence and hard work a maid could become a lady’s maid or even a housekeeper one day. It was a secure position and therefore anything a decent girl could hope for. What she did not expect was falling in love.
Of course she had seen him nearly every day in the house, but the first time she truly saw him for the man he was, was the day of the fair. Edward literally ran her over in haste and she nearly fell to the ground. He caught her, laughing an apology. And then he bought her a candied apple. They ate it together. She still remembers the jugglers and the young woman dancing on the rope. Once it seemed she would slip and fall and involuntarily Jenny tensed… until she felt his warm hand on her back. When they said goodnight that evening Edward kissed her fingertips. She felt his lips even after hours.
The next day she found a blush coloured rose on the windowsill she was due to clean. Another time it was some evergreen tucked behind a picture frame. Once she found a purple ribbon around a door handle. When she went to the market she bought him an orange and left it in his room. That was all she could think of. One day he pressed a pale coloured seashell into her hand when he passed her in the hallway. Amy saw. Amy gossiped. And Jenny panicked. That evening she waited for Edward in his room to return all his gifts. It was far too risky a game to play. But he refused to let her go. Instead he kissed her and said those three words she had been waiting for. She cried that night, because she was happy, because she was so utterly frightened and terrified by what she was doing. She loved him… dear lord, when had she started loving him?
They met in secret. He waited for her at odd corners, dragged her into empty rooms. Whenever she had a day off they met in the woods and fields, once in the old gatekeeper’s cottage, an empty, haunted house, but they made it their own for one afternoon. Finally, one night she came to him and they made love in his bed. She stayed past midnight, just rushing back, before the scullery maid had to get up and someone would discover, she had not spent the night in her own bed. That night Edward promised that he would marry her and take her far away as soon as he turned 21. They would go somewhere where nobody knew about their different status, where nobody cared. He would forsake his inheritance, if necessary. “Don’t be foolish,” Jenny had said, but in secret she had hoped that one day it would be like this: just her and Edward. No more secrets. But then Lady Catherine found out.
That fatal night Jenny had waited for Edward in his bedroom like so many times before. But instead of Edward it was his mother who entered the room. Like Jenny she was only dressed in her nightgown and apparently came to apologise for a fight she had earlier with her son – only to find the source of their disagreement in his room. Lady Catherine was livid. No matter how much Jenny begged and apologised, she could not change the lady’s mind: Jenny had to leave the house by morning and Edward would never see her again. “Please,” Jenny cried. “Please don’t do this… I have nowhere to go… please I promise I won’t see him again.”
Lady Catherine only laughed and dismissed her with a brush of her hand. And Jenny lost it. What followed afterwards was a blur and Jenny did not remember much. Lady Catherine apparently left the room and Jenny still crying ran after her. She could not remember when she picked up the candlestick or what happened next. All remembers is a dull sound and the lady falling down the stairs, landing in a strange angle.
“Oh my god,” Jenny ran down the staircase. That had not been her intention; that was… Lady Catherine did not move and when Jenny touched the lady’s shoulder, she saw the blood beneath her head and the lifeless eyes staring up to the ceiling. Jenny dropped the candlestick and ran… she washed her hands for hours, scrubbing until they were red and sore, yet she could not forget the blood on the floor. It felt as if it stuck to her like a curse. Any minute. Any minute someone would come and arrest her… but instead Lady Catherine’s death was ruled an accident. That was the biggest shock. How could she live on knowing she had killed someone? Yet she stayed in the house. First because of Edward, then because she had nowhere else to go…
Edward had left her after his mother’s death. She had hoped that everything would be different now, that he would openly declare his love and that he would marry her, as promised. Instead he told her that while she was allowed to stay in the house, they could never see each other again in private. From now on he was her master and she nothing more but a servant. He was so cold, so unlike himself and that had terrified her. “I trusted you. You made me believe that what we had was special. And then you shredded it into pieces and threw it into my face as if it was nothing. As if I was nothing. And I deserved none of it!” He did not even flinch as she threw these words at him.
Worst were the dreams. While she could pretend during the day, built walls that would not let him in, she could not refuse him entrance in her dreams. He was always there, holding, kissing, more tender than he had ever been. And for a while she was allowed to love him again, just until morning, just until sunrise, when she had to get up and face the world again. She saw him every day and yet it felt as if he was no longer there. The ugly man he had become was nothing like the sweet lover she had known, and maybe now after all these years yearning from afar she indeed loved the memory more than the man himself.
Jenny does not believe in ghosts other superstitious nonsense and when Betty, the new girl, had fainted in the hallway Jenny had started laughing. It was all too ridiculous. But then the hauntings continued and what she first thought was a joke became far more sinister. Someone was playing a cruel game and Jenny is sure she is at the receiving end of it. But who would do such a thing? Who could even know? The only person Jenny can think of is Edward. Would he really do such a thing? Did he become this cruel? And why now? It was all a big mystery and one Jenny is keen to solve – without incriminating herself of course. One thing she is sure of: It was not Lady Catherine’s ghost who was haunting the house!
Dr Carl Zimmer
It was pure coincidence that Dr Zimmer was in the house the night Lady Catherine died. Carl Zimmer is a renowned geologist from Switzerland with a position at Zurich University. Sir William is the owner of a vast collection of fossils – both his father and his grandfather collected them – and five years ago Dr Zimmer had arranged to stay in the house for a few weeks to catalogue and study them.
It was a strange experience. The tension in the house had been nearly visible: while Sir William was mostly busy with either the estate or some outdoor activity, Lady Catherine was the true monarch in the house. And she ruled with a strong hand, especially over her daughter. More than once Carl Zimmer had seen how the lady had disciplined the poor girl. Had she been just a little bit older, he would have made a pass at her. Alice, just 16 years of age, had been so very pretty and walked with a rather touching elegance. That she was rich and Carl Zimmer constantly had money problems, was of course another good argument. But 16 had been far too young… but Carl Zimmer is excited that he will see her again: a grown woman now – and still rich.
Had it not been for Alice and the fact that Carl Zimmer wanted to take another look at the fossil collection, he would have never agreed to come back to the house. The story about the ghost sounded just ridiculous and he has read far too much about the kind of women or men who pretended to speak to dead family members. They were all charlatans and swindlers, not to be taken seriously. Dr Zimmer was a scientist after all.
There is another reason Dr Carl Zimmer is not really keen on coming back to the house: once before he has clashed with Edward, the son. Edward had been in the hallway that fateful night five years ago – as had Carl Zimmer, who had worked late on a very interesting specimen. Of course Carl Zimmer has not seen anything in particular and it was probably long before the lady died, but Edward’s behaviour had been very suspicious – and the geologist had run out of money again after a gambling session in the local inn. Blackmail was such a nasty word, financial support for his research sounded so much better… Edward paid a handsome sum – which clearly proofs he is guilty of something – and Carl Zimmer left. Maybe now that he was returning to the house it might be time to ask Edward for some additional research funds.
Dr Carl Zimmer is unmarried, has one older brother, who sadly inherited the family fortune, and quite the reputation: he is a gambler and bon vivant, likes expensive clothes and the occasional drink, enjoys theatre and London’s famous music halls as much as spending time in the Natural History Museum. In short: he is not the typical bookish researcher, but a man who has seen the world.
Miss Lydia Garnett
If Miss Garnett is not attending, write a letter instead, seal it and give it to the maid Jenny. Ask her to give it to Sir William after everyone has arrived. The mail has been delivered just a short while ago.
My dearest William,
it has been too long. I need to see you again, love you again. I know you asked me not to come and so I am staying away from the house. But please remember what I asked you to do. You promised you would make me a decent woman once you’ve spoken to your children. I am staying at the old inn in the village. Please do not let me wait too long.
Miss Lydia Garnett is an uninvited surprise guest and she is Sir William’s best-kept secret. As player do not tell anyone who you are until you make your grand entrance once all the other guests have arrived – be fashionably late.
Until about a year ago Miss Lydia Garnett was the star at the Grand Duchess, one of London’s notorious music halls. Lydia was used to the attention she was getting from rich patrons, but somehow Sir William turned out to be different than anyone before: After he had seen her for the first time he had sent her flowers, after the second performance she found some chocolate and champagne in her dressing room, after the third he asked the proprietor for a private meeting – Lydia normally declined such offers, since she already had three wealthy gentlemen keeping her company occasionally. But Sir William’s presents had been rather intriguing and so she agreed to a meeting.
When she heard he was a widower, she expected a fat old man, but instead William was a man in his best age – and not bad looking. He was quiet, yet charming. Generous but not pompous, she liked that. She liked him. After dinner he put a hand on her knee, not many man had dared to do that and she found it rather bold, yet liked it. He kissed her hand when he left. The next time she saw him, she kissed William’s cheek. He sent her a golden necklace and cheered loudest whenever she performed. After a month she became his lover, after three he established her in a private apartment in London. A year later she stopped performing, speaking about marriage instead.
Lydia is not in love, but she likes the man and he offers her something she never dared to dream about: she’ll be a lady with a grand house and a kind and caring husband. For most people William’s money would have been incentive enough, but Lydia really likes him. He is good to her, good for her. Still there is the nagging voice of doubt. They spoke about marriage, yet he delayed the announcement over and over again. He says it is because of his children, their status in society, the scandal his new marriage would cause. He said he did not care about that, but that he had to consider his childrens’ future. Lydia is becoming more and more afraid that in the end he will break his promise. And now he has come up with this ridiculous story about his dead wife’s ghost.
William has not invited her, on the contrary: he made it quite clear that he expected her to stay away from the Manor House until he had made an official announcement of their engagement. But Lydia can wait no longer. She has given up her career, her other suitors and if he leaves her now she will have nothing. Men never considered this, did they? How much one misstep could ruin a woman’s life? They could make mistake after mistake, yet continue their glorious careers and life. Lydia has quite the temper – and she has had enough. It is time for William to finally tell his children. Against her better judgement she has decided to attend William’s party – or whatever he is doing. Once she is at the Manor House, he can’t deny her wishes, or can he?
Since no one apart from William knows her and she has not told him much about her life before the music hall career, the player can invent that part. Feel free to be creative.
The butler: Arthur
Arthur has worked for the family for 35 years now. Since he is a servant, nobody has ever asked him what he does in his spare time, or if he still has family left – there was a brother once. If asked the player can invent his own family story, invent friendships and relationships – as long as it does not concern any other character mentioned in the script. You cannot invent anything about someone else, even if it concerns your character!
You respect Sir William and adored his wife Lady Catherine, the daughter Alice Victoria is a mystery, very quiet, yet with something lurking beneath the surface. Arthur is literally terrified of the young master, though. He has seen to many violent outbursts, drunkenness and destroyed bedroom furniture to feel safe around him. Edward was… dangerous.
A butler knows many things about the family he serves. Here are some excerpts from other character descriptions:
“William has always enjoyed the outdoors, hunting, riding, spoiling his dogs. The most glorious hours were in the early morning, before the household awoke and duty did call: since his early youth William has gotten up before sunset, dressed without his valet and went for a hike through the estate’s large woodlands and only returned for breakfast, his face flushed from crisp morning air and the early exercise.
That is also how he discovered his dead wife: Striding down the main staircase to head out into a bright sunny morning he found her, already cold and stiff at the bottom of the staircase.
Curiously enough after his wife’s death and first dragged along by an old friend, Sir William discovered that he liked London after all, especially the music halls, one in particular, the Grand Duchess…”
Arthur disapproves of his master’s latest activities and suspects a woman is involved. He fears London is just a distraction from an unhappy affair. He suspects one of the serving girls, Jenny in particular.
This house does not need another scandal.
“How he had hated her! How he had hated her overbearing kindness, the doting and cuddling, the constant attention and the barely hidden criticism. How he had hated her for treating him like a royal prince, a spoiled little boy and not the strong man he was becoming. How he had hated her for hurting his sister and destroying his life. Edward still blames his mother for his own unhappiness.
Edward barely speaks to anyone these days. Why should he? He was a disappointment anyway. Father wanted him to study, Oxford or Cambridge, Edward was clever enough after all. ‘Or at least show an interest in the estate,’ father had said. The man was funny: Sir William was barely home anymore and had left the running of the estate to his steward, but at the same time he scolded his son for doing the same. Then there were all the girls, father wanted him to meet. As if marriage would solve anything. He had refused every candidate (…)”
Ever since his mother’s death Edward’s behaviour has been strange and suspicious, like the strange meetings with the old housekeeper Ms Smith, his father had dismissed after Lady Catherine’s death. One day Arthur met the young master in the hallway, rather shaken and white as a sheet. A day later he learned about the old housekeeper’s death…
“They had lived a quiet life in the countryside, which suited Sir William. Catherine had detested every minute of it and while she doted on her son, it was her daughter who had to suffer the brunt force of the woman’s disappointment. The little girl could never fulfil the expectation and aspirations her mother once had and which Catherine had later projected on her daughter. Her father should have stepped in when his sweet little girl had to hide a bruise on her face, her golden locks brushed over her purple forehead. He should have stopped it when her small hands started to bear red marks where the cane had hit them after every unsuccessful lesson with her mother. Once Alice Victoria nearly died of a fever, because her mother had made her stand in the rain as punishment for some stains on her white muslin dress…”
She sometimes sneaks out of the house, thinking no one would realise.
Arthur actually suspects that Jenny, the ‘oh so sweet’ maid has something to do with Lady Catherine’s death. She had been quite young then, but Arthur had always suspected her to be a loose girl with a disputable character. He is convinced that Jenny has an affair with Sir William. They both behave very suspiciously! The girl always so withdrawn from other servants, as if she was someone better, and Sir William with his strange new habits. London of all places! And the new suits! Very suspicious, indeed. Of course Sir William would have never hurt his wife, he had loved Lady Catherine with all his heart, of that Arthur is sure… but that little vixen, she must have planned this all along. One push and the lady was gone and the way free into the heart of a rich, grieving man. Girls like here were not to be trusted! If asked, he will tell exactly what he thinks about Jenny.
But of course he is a servant, he won’t make any accusations, if not confronted directly. But hints…. Hints are allowed… that would not be considered too impolite? Arthur’s reputation is very important to him, it is his greatest asset as a butler, after all.