A storm was raging outside. The rain was beating relentlessly against the windows. The lightning flashed across the sky and soon followed by the loud thunderous clap. She hated storms. And being alone in the house didn’t help the situation. She chided herself for coming ahead of the family to this place which been closed up for a year. It feel strange being on her own in this large house. So many rooms. So many stairs.
She had come down to check the windows to make sure they were securely locked. She was half-way down the hall when she heard it. It was during the intermission between the clap of the thunder and the next flash of lightning. At first she thought she had imagined it and continued walking. There it was again. She froze. Her heart pounding now with fear. She hadn’t imagined it. She heard the jangle of keys. She wasn’t carrying any keys with her. Someone else was. Who was in the house?
Then she heard the footsteps. They were coming down the hall behind her. Terrified, she darted into one of the rooms and locked the door. She leaned against it, shaking like a leaf. Again she wished she hadn’t come here tonight. What on earth had possessed her to do so? Why her parents and siblings were sleeping peacefully at the inn, she was here hiding from an intruder. All sorts of terrifying thoughts assailed her mind. It could be an escaped convict and the jangle she heard were his chains. He had some how gotten into the house.
She heard the footsteps stop outside the room she was in and she almost dropped the candle. Her heart was pounding in her chest, her breath was coming in short gasps and her legs had turned to jelly. “Oh please, go away,” she whispered.
Then she heard the key turn in the lock. She ran away from the door, her eyes darting wildly about the room for some way of escape. The windows. She could open one of them and climb out. She and her brother used to do that when they were children. Climbing down the trellis in the pouring rain and possibly slipping and having a bad fall was preferable to what was going to come through that door.
She quickly blew the candle out and dropped it on the rug. She ran to the window just as the door opened. Frantically, she tried to unfasten the latch on the window.
“Who’s there?” a voice boomed. “You are trespassing on private property.”
She swung around to face the speaker and just then lightning flashed across the sky and she caught sight of a tall figure wearing a raincoat. He was carrying a lantern which he now held up. In its glow she could make out his features. This was no convict. It was Mr. Crawley, the caretaker of the property. Relief washed over her and she stumbled over to him. “Oh, it’s you, Mr. Crawley.”
“I heard someone moving about in the house and I was dreadfully afraid.”
“I saw a light on in the house and came to investigate. I didn’t expect anyone to be here until tomorrow, Miss.”
“I know,” she said. “I decided to come ahead of the family. I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”
“It’s no trouble, Miss. Will you be all right?”
She nodded. “Yes, I’ll be all right.”
“You can take my lantern, Miss. I can find my way all right.”
“Thank you, Mr. Crawley. Good night.”
“Good night, Miss.” He bowed and left her.
She stood there for a moment, listening to the storm, no longer afraid.