The Farrows Hall ghosts were awakening and Esmeralda found herself in a strange place.
Esmeralda Farrow ~
It happened one night, very late it was, just as I was drifting off to slumber. It was the 13th of January, a Friday if my memory serves me right. The darkness came so swiftly and silently it seemed foreboding.
I kept the drapes open on one window each night so I could watch the moon drift by. It made me drowsy to watch her float by so slowly. She suddenly slipped behind a dark cloud, so dark that it blackened my whole window. It was an ominous cloud, a foreboding of something I felt. A chill crept over me and I pulled the covers tight around my shoulders, sensing the ghosts all around me. I was quite accustomed to the ghosts of Farrows Hall and just ignored them.
I peeked up at the ceiling to see the shadow of flames dancing from the low-burning fire in the fireplace. The ceiling, too, was dark, as dark as the cloud that seemed to cover the whole sky. I sat up and with shaking hands tried to light my candle, but could not. I knew every inch of my chamber, the whole mansion I knew, even in the dark. I was born here, lived all my life in this huge castle-like home.
I threw back the covers and wrapped my robe around shoulders that were shivering then went to stir up the fire. There were just a few faint embers glowing and they went out when I used the poker on them. I stood up and pulled the bell cord by the mantle, then went back to bed and bundled in. I waited for Ambrose to come with more wood to build up the fire.
I waited a long time then reached up and pulled the other bell cord by my bed. And I waited, shivering till my teeth were chattering so hard my jaw became sore.
No one came. The house was quiet, too quiet, as if taken over by silent ghosts. Quiet and still, as if something had filled the air. Something silent and heavy. The cloud – it was as if the black, ominous cloud had not just blacked out my window, but my whole chamber!
Cold or not, I was going to find Ambrose to help with the fire. I wrapped up tightly in my robe, put on my slippers then a heavy shawl from the divan. I draped the shawl over my aching head and shoulders.
Ambrose – I had a deep love for him that never came to fruition because he was a servant and father had put a stop to any possibility of Ambrose and I becoming closer.
This was one of the rare times when I wished Edmond was here. He was my husband. He died just two years after we married.
Edmond Thornton ~
I never really loved Edmond, but I did like him. He was always joyful and fun, he made me laugh. I don’t know if Edmond really loved me, I think not. Our marriage was one of convenience, yet it was pleasant when I managed to not think about my love for Ambrose.
When I had turned nineteen, Father was beginning to show concern over my lack of interest in young men who wished to court me. He was afraid I would become an old maid if I did not marry soon. Father told me I had to marry and produce some heirs for the estate. He was very blunt about it and made me realize he was right. I loved Farrows Hall and the thought of losing it terrified me. I agreed to meet with the son of some old friends of father. I was saddened though, because of my ever growing love for Ambrose. Father surprised me after several minutes of silence between us when I said I would meet Edmond.
“Esmeralda,” he started then hesitated, clearing his throat. “My dear, I know how you feel about Ambrose. However, you must let that go. Remember, he is not a friend, nor is he of aristocracy, like Edmond. Nothing can come of your attachment to Ambrose.” I was stunned that father was so aware of my feelings.
I left the library thinking, “But servants have feelings and emotions. They fall in love and marry.” Yet I knew Father was right. That evening he met with Edmond Thornton and they had a private discussion that lasted a few hours. I was upstairs on the landing, hoping to find out what they were planning. When the door opened and they both came out in the hall, Father said, “I am very glad you see my point and that you agree with me, Edmond. I will have my solicitor draw up the agreement papers. We can sign them when they are ready.”
Agreement papers? I returned to my room to contemplate. What contract would they be drawing up? I soon found out when my maid came and told me my presence was needed in the library. I went downstairs and Father explained it all to me. He would pay off Edmond’s gambling debts and buy Thornton Hall. He would have it renovated and new furnishings installed then lease it out. Edmond would receive half the yearly lease amount of his former home as my dowry to him. Edmond and I will be married and live here at Farrow’s Hall. Edmond really had no choice in the matter. Without father’s help, Edmond would end up penniless. He had squandered his inheritance and Thornton Hall was in sad disrepair. As long as he would abide by the contract, which meant no more gambling and was a good husband to me, Edmond would live a good life free of debt and worries.
I understood the logic of it all. I still loved Ambrose, but could not ever marry him. And I did not want to become an old maid. Father was also right that Farrows Hall needed heirs. Unfortunately my marriage produced no heirs. You see, Edmond would not sleep with me. He said there had been too many women of ill repute in his life. I did not ask for more information. He died too soon in life. Father died from pneumonia not long after. So, I was alone with only my dreams of Ambrose to comfort me, and the ghosts that wandered the halls. But, Ambrose was also gone and I knew not where.
Ambrose had come to Farrows Hall when he was just fifteen years old, the same age as me at the time. Jackson, the handyman, had been at the Hall since long before I was born. He had kept everything working. Kept the firewood cut and stacked, kept all the fireplaces lit and clean and made sure the gas lamps were always working properly. He was getting old and needed help, so Ambrose, his nephew, was hired on as his assistant.
I loved the name “Ambrose” and said it as often as I could. I would call to him for the most mundane tasks just to see him and say his name. He was tall, lanky and dark. Not just dark hair and dark thick eyebrows, but darker skin than Jackson. There was something dark within him also, a mysterious kind of aura that seemed to drift around him.
His eyes were as dark as the coal he shoveled into the furnace in the basement. I asked Jackson one day why Ambrose was so dark. He said that Ambrose’s father was Celtic, of Welsh ancestry. This intrigued me, for my favorite books to read were Arthurian legends and Merlin, the wizard who was sometimes referred to as Merlin Ambrosius, was also of Celtic Welsh lineage. Ambrose did not talk much, but I thought the Celts and Merlin would be a good thing to have conversations about with him. When I brought it up a few times, he did not show any interest at all. So, I just dropped it. It was hard to find anything that Ambrose would talk about. Eventually I just stopped trying. Maybe he felt that servants should not carry on conversations with the family of the house. He just drifted along in his own dark world, doing his chores and keeping to himself.
Over the next few years the realization came to me that I was falling in love with Ambrose. His lack of attention to me and the mysterious darkness surrounding him only made my love stronger. He did not do anything to encourage my love for him. He did not have to. Just the sight of him or thoughts of him stirred my blood into a passionate turmoil. I would lay in bed at night, unable to sleep because of my desire for him. I often fell asleep crying then dream about him. The hope that Ambrose could love me some day consumed my mind, my heart, my whole being. Some days I would have to retire to my room with the excuse of a bad headache, so I could lie down and dream about being in his arms.
The nights had become like a different life for me – like a spell came over me. The dreams had become so real, like ghosts trying to lead me astray. I knew that Ambrose was with me. I could see him, touch him, smell him, that mixture of sweet applewood and smoky embers surrounded me as he held me. Our love was so passionate and lasted till we were so exhausted we both fell into a deep slumber where we floated in a mystical world of our own. Then I would awake in the morning, alone and cold.
Awakening to ghosts ~
I must have fallen asleep, thinking about the past – about father, Edmond and Ambrose. I found myself on the divan in my room, still bundled up. I had awoken with a start, feeling the chill and the heaviness of the air again. What was I going to do? Ambrose! The fire! I was going to find Ambrose to build the fire up.
I stepped out into the hallway and the darkness was suddenly gone. The gas lights along the hall were burning low as always. At the far end of the hall Father and Edmond were standing there, staring at me and laughing, but no sound came from them . But, they were dead, long gone! Were they also spirits, Farrows Hall ghosts? I often sensed ghosts, but had never really seen them. It must be my imagination, I was so tired. Then I thought voices from the great hall downstairs were drifting up to me. I walked over to the landing and looked down. There was a strange, very bright light down there and I did hear voices! A woman said something and a man answered her. “You heard the bell ring? Ah! Yes, that would be Esmeralda. She rings the bell twice each evening.”
“She died long ago, though, didn’t she?” A young girl’s voice this time. “Oh, Yes! Over 100 years ago Esmeralda died. She was the last of the Farrow family and left the estate to the Historical Society. Esmeralda still calls for her lover each evening and then wanders the halls looking for him. She died a very lonely, sad woman because Ambrose was not to be found anywhere.” The man then said, “I am your tour guide and will take you through the downstairs, then we will go up and see the bed chambers. “Maybe we will see Esmeralda wandering around up there,” he said in a scary tone. There were murmurs of fear and excitement.
What … what is that man talking about? I felt dizzy, confused. Something was dreadfully wrong! And those strange people. Were they also Farrows Hall ghosts?
I started down the stairs then saw over by the library door a group of people listening to a tall man. They had strange clothes on – oh good Lord! Some of the women had such short garments on their legs were showing! The lights down there were so bright it blinded me. I felt myself falling and woke up at the bottom of the stairs.
The man, the tour guide, turned in my direction. A startled gasp escaped from my lips. He looked me straight in the eyes, smiled and winked.
It was Ambrose …
~ ~ ~ ~