The Bath Estate

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SYNOPSIS-

     Set in late 19th century England (as most of my stories have been of late), this story follows a girl named Eleanor Whitley. She is a proper middle class young lady living in the town of Bath, England. Inside the town, there is an abandoned road that lays just behind city hall, a road that only the locals know of: the Lonely Road. The Lonely Road is decrepit and abandoned, leading up to a large manor that looks equally as forlorn. No one has ever seen anyone enter the house: until one day when a strange carriage pulls into town early in the morning and turns onto the Lonely Road.

   Only one sees this occur: a small boy named Wesley White. He then races to tell the rest of the Bath residents and they all begin to speculate. For a few days, no one comes out of the house. Then, a tall, imposingly handsome man who calls himself William appears in the town square. The women are all charmed by his dark mystique and the men are all intimidated by it. Eleanor finds him irritatingly sullen and tries her best to avoid him. He, however, has other plans. No matter how hard she tries, Eleanor always manages to run into William, wherein he proceeds to start up a conversation. Throughout these chance encounters, Eleanor's irritation fades and she begins to bond with him.

   One day, she approaches his house at the end of the Lonely Road, the first Bath resident to attempt to do so. When her knocks go unanswered, she ventures inside and unlocks a secret that shatters everything she believes and changes the lives of everyone in Bath.

 

IDEA DERIVATION-

   I can't recall exactly where this idea came from: I just knew I wanted to try and write something along the lines of 'Jane Eyre': a Gothic romance. I intended for it to be slightly more realistic than it will turn out to be (the twist I am planning is quite good, if I do say so myself ;)), but nevertheless, that's what I wanted.

 

EXCERPT-

 

          Eleanor Whitley considered herself to be practical and sensible. She held the firm belief that anything seemingly supernatural or paranormal had a perfectly logical real-world explanation. She was known for usually having a thick book somewhere on her person and could often be seen meandering slowly through the crowded sidewalks of Bath, her nose hovering inches above the pages.

            Eleanor took after her father, William. The son of a rich hat maker, William quickly learned the trade and took over the family business when his father died. William Whitley could be described as a quietly intellectual man who saw fit to offer his opinions only when asked. Because of this close similarity, he held a special relationship with Eleanor.

            Beatrice Whitley was the family matriarch and never a more boisterous or gossipy woman could you possibly find. She was the sort of woman who could be seen running all over town at top speed, off to finish some errand about which she had already forgotten.

            Eleanor had one brother, Benjamin. Benjamin had turned thirty-one several weeks ago and had just been discharged from the army after sustaining a gunshot wound to his leg, forcing the doctors to amputate. His depression over his injury confined him to his room for the first several weeks after his return. It had been nearly impossible to get him to try to return to a normal life, but after several attempts, Eleanor had managed to get Benjamin back into society and he was currently engaged to a young Miss Jane Andrews, who could have cared less about Benjamin’s wooden leg. He thanked Eleanor every day for forcing him to get out again.

            The youngest Whitley was Helen, not yet fifteen and already alight with talks of her coming-out ball. It drove the adults in the family absolutely mad: day and night she would inquire as to its location, the exact properties of all the gifts she would receive and whether or not anyone famous or royal would be attending. She had also lately taken to pestering Eleanor about her own coming-out ball, which Eleanor did not like to talk about given its sombre circumstances.

            But this story begins just weeks before the date of young Helen’s ball, early March of 1835 to be precise and it concerns the entire village of Bath, England. It was a foggy morning with low sunlight streaming over Bath, not quite enough to wake anyone out of their slumber, but just enough to illuminate the strange carriage that drove through town, had one been awake already to witness it.

            The carriage was a hansom cab, but it was strange in nature. The outside was painted a radiant shade of green with gold paintings of ornate vines and strange flowers surrounding its body. The driver sat on what appeared to be an iron seat, framed with eerie accuracy by four tortuously designed lamps on each corner of the cab. The roof curved up to a point and there sat on top a wind vane with a strange caricature of a spider. Not at all anything one would consider proper in upper-class societies of London or Sussex, let alone Bath.

            The carriage was driven by a small man in a blue suit that resembled the military uniform of the English army, though one would hardly have expected that the miniature man was in any way trained in combat. One mighty Clydesdale pulled it gallantly through the sleeping village all the way to a mysterious house that sat alone at the end of a punitive little road the inhabitants of Bath had come to know as ‘The Lonely Road.’

          The house at the end of Lonely Road had been empty for years. It was enormous and had been boarded up (and the front gate locked securely) since the days before Eleanor’s father was born. Occasionally, the local boys would become daring and sneak over the gate, each betting that the other could not spend an entire night inside the drafty, frightening house without running out screaming. None were ever successful, but the failed attempts fed the fire of the legend and now the house had become infamous in the countryside of Bath.   

      On this particular foggy morning, one person was witness to the strange carriage making its way up the Lonely Road towards the abandoned house. Little Wesley White, a slender boy of ten years of age had decided to rise early in order to capture the famed ‘Vampire Bat of the Brighton Woods’ said to roam the Brighton Woods around the abandoned home. He had not expected to see anyone climbing up the Lonely Road and in his shock, he fell to the dewy grass from the boulder on which he had climbed to properly search for the bat.

     No one lives there! Wesley thought to himself. Who could that possibly be?  

      Urged by his childlike curiosity, Wesley stayed low to the ground and followed the carriage up the Lonely Road to the outskirts of the Bath Estate, taking   refuge in the shadows as he did.  

       Once the carriage reached the gate (which everybody in Bath had assumed to be locked firmly), Wesley was shocked to see that the carriage did not slow down, nor did the small man atop the driver’s seat vacate his position to open the gate. Instead, the gate opened entirely of its own accord and Wesley watched as the strange carriage continued to roll up through the circular driveway of the old house.

     Piqued with curiosity and the desire to brag to the other boys later that he had been the first to see activity at the Bath Estate in over twenty years, Wesley crept up to the gate and watched as it closed behind the cab. The hansom rolled up to the large doors of the great dusty architectural monster and slowed to a stop.

    The small driver leapt down from his podium and opened the cab door. Out from the inside stepped a man who stood at least six and a half foot tall with a long cape and a high collar. The man wore a large top hat that completely obscured his face and he carried a solemn cane that Wesley saw was made of a brilliant red wood and topped with the jade figure of an eagle’s head.

   Straining for a look, Wesley craned his neck against the iron bars of the outside gates, trying desperately to hear what the two men of such vastly different statures were saying.  

   “All is in order, Master,” spoke the small man.

    "Good.”

   With that, the tall man of imposingly dark masculinity turned with a swish of his long coat and entered the mansion. Wesley watched as the little man climbed back onto his seat and pulled the carriage around to the back of the great house, leaving no trace that they had been present.

   Little Wesley White turned and ran back to the town centre as fast as his gangly legs could carry him.

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