The Storyteller

 

The meetings took place every month, a gathering of like-minded people, who whilst not close friends, were all acquaintances, however, for the past few months a stranger had been attending the meetings, his name was Edward but everyone called him the Storyteller, this was due to his ability to make his stories come to life. He had a long face, shaped like a lantern, and deep black eyes which traversed the room with an imperious glance. He was singularly unattractive, however his company was sought out by most of the friends. His incredulous tales, kept the friends rapt, and hanging on his every word.

The custom of the friends was to partake of an agreeable meal and refreshments, conversing and exchanging stories. They had been meeting for many years, had begun repeating their stories, and this evening there was a languid air of boredom in the room.

“Ah here is The storyteller” called several people at once.
Edward entered the room, sweeping down the to the front of the assembled group, he was at once, and totally, the centre of attention.

“Tell us one of your stories” said one of the young men. Alright ladies and gentlemen take your seats and dim the lights and I will relate the following mysterious happenings.

Quite some time ago now, I had occasion to visit the Chief of the Clan Dunbar, in the North West of Scotland, I had met him previously in New York, where he had been attending one of the many gatherings of his Clan which took place regularly in America. On that occasion we found in each other a kindred spirit, and I accompanied him to all of his Clan Meetings and we became firm friends, exchanging addresses and promising to keep in touch.

A few weeks after I arrived home, I received in the post an invitation to spend the weekend in Dunbar Valley in the extreme North West of Scotland.

Over the next week, I carefully prepared for my visit, and decided I would drive, and stop off in the Lake District for a night and resume my journey in the morning. I arose on the day of my journey full of excitement and looking forward to both the drive and spending some time with my friend. I spent the night in an adequate Bed & Breakfast in Windermere and after a hearty breakfast resumed my journey northwards, as I drove the weather became more and more menacing.

His substantial house lay in a valley, surrounded by steep hills covered in bracken and heather, there was a stillness about the place, and the surrounding scenery could only be described as magnificent desolation, I am sure the sun did reach the valley floor, but not on this occasion, the menacing black clouds which threatened rain, hung over the valley like Damocles Sword.


As I drove into the valley and up to the house, the place was in darkness except one light shining brightly against that pitch blackness, devoid of light, which can only be found in the depth of the countryside. I knocked on the door and it was quickly answered by the wife of the Clan Chief.

“Come in, welcome to Dunbar House,” she said with a pleasant smile which lit up her pretty face. The interior of the house was wood panelled and full of overstuffed sofas and large imposing dark wood furniture. There was a faint smell of cigar smoke permeating the air. I followed her into the living room where my friend was sitting back in a large chair his head reasting on a white lace antimacassar, he was smoking a cigar. He rose to meet me and shook my hand firmly, “It’s good to see you” he said “I hope you have a pleasant stay with us”.

Letitia, his wife, showed me to my room, which, although not an attic, was at the top of the house, above my hosts room. There were two other doors on the landing, one of which was the bathroom. She opened the door to a pleasant, light room, in stark contrast to the rest of the house, the bed looked inviting and I was looking forward to a comfortable sleep after my long drive.

After washing and changing, I made my way back down to the living room and following some idle chit chat, we sat down to dinner. I noted an air of sorrow on my friends face, and asked him, if he was OK. He replied that he was, but that the sorrow was due to the death of his wife’s identical twin sister, who had never married and had been living with them for some time. At this, his wife, clearly upset, rose from the table, and said "she is not dead, she is still with us" and excusing herself left the room. My friend confided that his wife had taken the death of her sister very badly to the extent that she would not allow her sister’s room at the top of the house to be altered in any way, “it must stay as it was when she left” she had told her husband, and she would spend many hours in there. sitting on her own. with her thoughts.

As letitia returned, I made an effort to lighten the mood, with some comic anecdotes, and reminding my friend of the great time we had had in New York, after a while the mood lightened and we sat there laughing and joking as we ate our, not unsubstantial meal.

That evening as I crossed the landing at the top of the stairs, I noticed what appeared like movement through a chink of light at the bottom of the dead sister’s door, I saw a shadow, which appeared to glide past the door. I knew my friend and his wife were downstairs, and there was no one else in the house. I felt a chill, and hurried into my room and to bed, I slept fitfully and awoke with a start in the middle of the night. I rose from the bed and crept to the door, listening intently, but could hear nothing except the howling of a distant owl, and the chirruping of grasshoppers, whose sound was carried in the still night air. I went back to bed in a pensive mood and determined to relate, to my host, my experiences over breakfast.

When I arrived for breakfast, Letitia was already preparing some bacon and eggs, and I could smell the fresh coffee which was bubbling on the stove. I helped myself to some coffee and exchanged pleasantries with Letitia, however, I noted a slight change in her voice, I couldn’t put my finger on it, the tone had subtly changed, and although, almost imperceptible, her face did not seem as pretty as it had the evening before. I had another cup of coffee and my friend entered the room. “ I thought we might take a walk before breakfast” he said, and invited me to get my coat from the hall.


As we walked along I noticed that the threatening clouds had burst in the night, and had left a glittering, silvery dew on the abundant foliage on the craggy slopes leading up out of the valley. It was a crisp, cold morning, perfect for a brisk walk before breakfast. As we walked I related my experiences of the previous evening, and my friend, said I must have been imagining it and that there was no one else in the house except him and his wife. I let the matter drop, as I could sense uneasiness in my companion’s manner.

We returned and Letitia served breakfast and as we chatted I realised that her voice of the previous evening had returned and her face was as pretty as ever. I shrugged off my misgivings and enjoyed the breakfast. After breakfast, my friend and I ventured out with our cameras to try photographing a deer, my friend had said there are plenty of deer in the valley and with a bit of luck we might even see a Stag. After hours of creeping around, we were successful and I managed, with great stealth, to photograph a magnificent stag, and also, whilst not such a good photograph,  a Golden Eagle in flight. I thought “What a beautiful Country this is“.

We returned early afternoon, and had a light lunch, so as not to spoil dinner. I went to my room to freshen up for dinner, stopping at the room where I had seen the shadow the previous evening, I quietly opened the door, and went into the room, which was lit dimly by a shaft of fading light entering from the one window. It was a pretty room, obviously a woman’s room. There were cosmetics and perfumes neatly set on the dressing table and there was a skirt and blouse laid out on the bed. The room felt cold, and I had an palpable feeling ,uneasiness.  I left and quietly shut the door behind me. I shrugged and laughed to myself at my paranoia, and told myself not to be so silly.

After dinner we played cards for a while, cribbage, and I went to bed at around midnight. I left my hosts in the living room and went upstairs to bed. I noticed there was, again, a chink of light under the door of the bedroom, and I stopped to listen at the door, holding my breath lest anyone should hear me from within the room. There was no sound, all was quiet and still.

I went to my room and fell into a deep sleep, from which I awoke with a start. I once again, gingerly rose from my bed and crept to my door listening all the while for any sounds. I opened the door and was startled, by a slight creak which pierced the stillness, I stopped in my tracks, held my breath and waited for the silence to surge back. I then crept towards the door of the other room. I opened the door quickly and before me stood Letitia and beside her was another Letitia, but this other one appeared ephemeral and translucent, and as I entered the room she morphed herself into the flesh and bone Letitia, until she disappeared and left only one Letitia standing there. I felt a cold chill and asked Letitia what was going on. She replied, I told you my sister wasn’t dead, I succour her and give her life.

The next morning I awoke and after pleasantries with my friend I said my goodbye’s I felt a sense of dread lift as I drove out of the glen, I never  again saw or heard of the Chief of Dunbar.

The assembled friends who had been listening intently to the Storyteller began to clap their hands, “brilliant Edward, is it a true story?”
Edward, with a quizzical look, replied, yes.

The End

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