Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Ruth, her back pressed against the wall and her arms spread-eagled on the wallpaper behind her, slowly and fearfully crept up the stairs. This should have been a tranquil and restful weekend, but it had turned out to be just the opposite.
She’d spotted the weekend cottage as she drove through the village a couple of months ago, and decided then and there that it would be the ideal place to chill out for a couple of days, when her current freelance job came to an end. She duly popped into the local estate agent and, leaving a small deposit, secured the accommodation. And now, here she was. In the afternoon sunlight the exterior of Clematis Cottage (for that was its name) certainly had a rural charm of its own and, once inside, Ruth hugged herself as she felt the comfy feeling of the lounge envelop her. On the red quarry stone floor lay a large, sumptuous rug, and Ruth, kicking off her city shoes, felt her feet sink into the pile. She wriggled her toes sensuously as she gazed around the room. Mounted on the wall above the fireplace, was a bronze shield, crossed with two long swords and, in the alcove next to the fireplace was a goodly-stocked bookcase. The window overlooking the garden had before it a magnificent recessed windowsill, which held a couple of pewter pots, a jug containing freshly picked wild flowers, and a bowl of delicious-looking red apples. This is the life, thought Ruth, as she flopped into the inviting arms of the big soft armchair.
Later that evening, after consuming a tasty supper of crusty bread, French cheese and half a bottle of red wine, Ruth decided to spend her last couple of hours before bedtime skimming through the books on the shelves. She thought she might choose one to take down to the lakeside on an exploratory walk next day. Her eyes rested on a book bound in rich brown leather, bearing the title ‘The History of Clematis Cottage’. She sat in the big armchair, engrossed in what she was reading, not able to tear her eyes from its pages or put the volume down.
The cottage was very old and had been in the Armitage family for generations. Ruth glanced at the shield above the fireplace and back at the book. The same coat of arms! The tome was mostly a reference book. It listed builders and architects, family trees and military records of the Armitage family. Ruth was fascinated and wished that the volume would tell her more about the private lives of the various owners. She closed the cover and reached up to replace the book on the shelf. As she did so, she saw two yellowed newspaper clippings that had obviously slipped from between the pages of the history book.
The first one bore the headline NANNY MURDERS CHILD IN HER CARE. It went on to tell how the nanny to the Armitage son and heir, who was being sent away to boarding school, was unable to bear being parted from her charge. She had gone into his room that night, tucked the blankets around his chin, in her usual manner, then placed a pillow over the child’s face and held it there until he was dead. Filled with remorse, she left a letter of confession and made her way, clutching the boy’s blue dressing gown, to the lake in the grounds, where she drowned herself. Reading the old news clipping was chilling enough, but it was the second cutting that ruined Ruth’s evening!
The other extract was from an article in the local weekly rag. It stated that although Clematis cottage looked like a dream home, it was in fact more like a nightmare home! Several people had reported strange occurrences and none of the local people would set foot in the cottage, let alone live there. There had been sightings of the nanny, and sounds of childish laughter. It was also reported that the child’s mother, unable to face life without her only child, and wracked with grief, had also killed herself.
Ruth’s trembling fingers dropped the pieces of paper on the floor. She suddenly felt very cold and frightened. ‘Pull yourself together’ she thought. ‘It’s only romantic nonsense’. She turned towards the stairs.
It was then that Ruth looked through the window into the night. She felt sure she’d seen a murky shape cross in front of the window. In a state of great panic and fear, she rushed towards the stairs trying to put as much distance as she could, between her and the thing in the garden. She mounted the first two stairs and looked back to check that she was still alone. Turning towards the bottom of the stairs she felt an icy trickle of fear run down her spine. There, draped over the end of the banister rail was a child’s blue dressing gown.
Not knowing which way to go, she edged, slowly and fearfully, up the stairs.
On reaching the bedroom she flung herself fully-clothed onto the bed and pulling up the quilt, closed her eyes tightly. Her heart was pounding so loudly that she heard nothing. She only felt. The quilt was being tucked oh! So gently, around her chin. Her heart stopped beating as she felt the pillow being slowly withdrawn from beneath her head.


Croom said...

Oh Leeta how could you? I was all warm and aglow until I read the end of your story! Poor lady, I cannot think of anything worse then being caught up in a cottage on your own and to read those cuttings. Ugh! I would not need the pillow, I would just die of fear :O)

granny grimble said...


I warned you that it was a scary story for Halloween!

weechuff said...

What a brilliant read! Now we know where Lynne gets her writing talents from:0)

Babs (Beetle) said...

Oh my! That was scary! From light to dark in such a short time :O)

GoldAnne said...



Anne said...

Scary or what! Wow Leeta - your talents are endless. I'm with Sandie - Lynne is following in her mother's footsteps.

granny grimble said...

What a lovely compliment. Thank you so much!

Just don't have a pillow tonnight and you'll be OK :0)

If I scared you then I succeeded!
So glad you likes it

I have another up my sleeve! Watch this space!

Lynne Chapman said...

That really is scary!! Most scary stories are a bit of a let-down, but not this. I love the simplicity of it, which makes it feel very real...

Is this the one you wrote for publication in the local magazine a couple of years back?