All Girl Worlds Tales with no males

December 21, 2009

Endeline Towers

Filed under: — Mlle l'Editrice @ 4:58 pm

A Schoolgirl Ghost Story

Letter from Miss Maitland, Headmistress

Dear pupils,

You are all aware of the disaster that caused so much damage to the ancient building of Avendale School.

However, a school is more than a building, and we may be grateful that so few of our pupils were hurt, and those not too badly.

Most pupils have been sent home, but for those of you who live in the far-flung corners of the Empire, or whose mothers are away from home, we have fortunately been offered a temporary accommodation.

Lady Endeline of Endeline has graciously offered to house a temporary school in one of the wings of her estate. Miss Ranfield and Sensera-chei will supervise you and give lessons as far as is possible.

School rules also apply at Endeline Towers, and you are also requested to remember that this is Lady Endeline’s home.

Take note: this is not a holiday. I expect you to be on your best behavior and to show our hostess what Avendale girls are like. It is expected that the damage to our beloved school can be repaired within a reasonable period.

You will be kept informed.

C. Maitland

First Day at Endeline Towers

“ ’Scuse me!” Juniper Halifax almost ran into two pupils as she was making her way to her room in the blondes’ hallway.

Carrying a suitcase in each hand and a small one under her arm it was actually impossible not to be in her way; besides that, Juniper never walked, she ran or skipped or jumped. In this case the brunette and little blonde wisely pressed their backs against the wall as they saw her approach.

Juniper bowed slightly as she passed the two girls and continued on, then suddenly made a 180 degree turn and took a few long strides back. She stopped in front of a door with large, expensive looking vases on each side.

“Here we are!” She pushed the handle down with her elbow and bumped the door open with her hip. Once inside she dropped everything she was holding and jumped on the nearest bed. “Finally! I thought this trip would never end. I’ll have a cup of tea now, please.”

As she received no reply, Juniper looked up. It appeared she was alone. “Ah, well, tea can wait, I suppose.”

At that point Juniper noticed a run in her stockings. “Now how did that happen? Hmm, I’m glad I packed some extra pairs.” She hopped off the bed and took a quick look around. Two beds, one window, rather small but better than Avendale. She looked into the mirror of the one dressing table next to the window. Her blonde curls were a mess. She quickly brushed her hands though her hair in an effort to get the curls to lie down nicely together, but this only made it worse. Juniper shrugged and then remembered the two girls in the hallway.

“I really ought to go and apologize.”

Two leaps was all she needed to reach the door. She jumped over her suitcases which were blocking the entrance and found herself in the hallway, almost atop the same two girls she nearly ran over.

“Oops! Oh, I am sorry! I didn’t mean to jump out on you like that! And I didn’t mean to push you to the side earlier! Oh, now I forget my manners. Rayati, ladies! My name is Juniper Halifax, pleased to meet you.”

Just then Harriet Shirley arrived, also laden with luggage. The South Kadorian blonde made an abbreviated reverence to the group, saying: “Rayati, Halifax. We’re rooming together if you’re in this room. Rayati, ladies. Let me put my things down and I’ll come back and show some manners.” They all returned her reverence and greeted her all at once in a cheerful clamor. The door to her assigned room was wide open, so she walked directly in, shoving aside the suitcases blocking the entry, and, placing her carpetbag on the unmussed bed, turned and looked for a place to put her suitcase.

The small bright room was sweetly feminine, with its pale green striped wallpaper and cream trim. The beds were covered with soft tufted chenille spreads in the modern Trentish style. Harriet hoisted her suitcase onto the bench in front of the dressing table. Taking off her hat, she examined her hair with disgust. Her honey-blonde hair, normally tightly braided and looped around her head, had come loose, falling to her waist and looking far too juvenile for the taste of a young lady of almost 16.

“I look positively Arcadian.” Harriet grumbled. “Now that I’m in Trent, I could try to get someone to bob it for me, but they’d probably want a permission note from Mommy, and she’d never agree to that—never in a zillion years, not even if I were…” She tried to imagine herself an incredibly advanced adult age “Twenty-three.” Shrugging, she waded back through Juniper’s luggage and went out into the blondes’ hallway.

Beatrice Avery dropped her suitcase on one of the two beds in the room that Lady Endeline’s maid had assigned to her. She sighed. Beatrice had really looked forward to attending the school both her mothers had such fond memories of, but this was not at all what she had imagined it would be like. She had assumed that she would at least be at Avendale. Still, this room wasn’t half bad. The bed was bigger than the one she had slept in at Avendale and the decoration was very stylish indeed. She walked over to the window and opened it. Her room looked out over the dappled, tree-lined driveway. She could just make out the charabanc that had brought them here on its way back to the gates.

Right, time to unpack. She took off her white gloves and walked over to the gigantic wardrobe next to the other bed. Apart from some towels and bed linen it was empty. She quickly put away her belongings on the left side of the wardrobe. After unpacking she decided to venture out of her room to find the library. It was worth the risk of running into those unsettling Estrenne twins who had recently joined the school – or, worse, Juniper Halifax, that irrepressible blonde.

Beatrice pulled at her skirt in an attempt to get it to cover more of her legs. She still wasn’t used to wearing short grey skirts. If she had walked around showing this much leg in Loveton she would have… she would have… Beatrice didn’t even want to think of the consequences of such an action. If only she could wear some of those knee length socks she had seen some of the younger girls wear.

The library ought to be here in this hallway somewhere. At that moment a door opened at the other end of the hall and Beatrice found Sensera-chei approaching her. The young Estrenne mistress always made Beatrice feel uncomfortable. She moved slowly and elegantly as in a dream and it always seemed as if a soft wind was blowing though her hair. Sensera-chei’s voice twinkled and it always seemed as if some delightful music was playing when she was around. Things always ‘seemed’ around Sensera-chei but never really were. Like magic. But of course there is no such thing as magic. Not here anyway. Beatrice snapped out of her trance and quickly stepped into the nearest room, closing the door behind her. She really did not want to run into Sensera-chei and make this day more difficult than it had already been.

“Well, what have we here? Rayati, little girl.” A tall and dark brunette lay reclined on a chaise longue in the centre of the room. She was dressed in a long sleek black dress and her hair was very neatly curled. Beatrice thought she looked like someone on her way to a party. She reverenced.

“I am sorry, Miss. I know I should not be here. I was looking for the library. Please forgive me, I’ll be on my way.”

The brunette smiled. “Please, I had just decided I was awfully bored and then you stumbled into my room. I think you have been sent to entertain me.”

“Oh no, Miss. I was just looking for the library.”

“Nonsense, please take a seat.” The brunette waved in the direction of a large arm chair next to her chaise longue. She sat up and rang a bell. She had not put the bell down before a little blonde paxit girl was standing next to her.

“Tea for two please, Lena.” After the maid had left, she turned her attention to Beatrice again.

“Girl, why are you not in this chair yet? Sit!” The brunette sounded very commanding. In a blink of an eye Beatrice sat.

“What’s your name, doll face?”

“Beatrice Avery, Miss.”

“And how old are you?”

“Sixteen, Miss.”

The brunette sighed. “Oh, how I wish I were 16 again. Life was so lovely and simple then. I am very old now you know, thirty-five next month.”

“Life is not simple at all!” Beatrice blurted out. She quickly covered her mouth with her hands. “I am sorry, I meant to say you don’t look old.”

The brunette smiled. “No, maybe you are right. Life can be terribly complicated when you’re sixteen. But I forget my manners. My name is Camille Endeline. I am Lady Endeline’s niece. It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Beatrice.”

Beatrice colored. She had just stumbled in on a lady. Lady Camille took her silver cigarette case from the little table next to her chaise longue. She took a cigarette and offered the case to Beatrice.

“Do you smoke?” Beatrice shook her head. “No, of course you don’t. You don’t seem the type. Good girl. Don’t you ever start. It’s a bad habit. You can help me with a light, can’t you? The matches are in the top drawer of that little Estrenne cabinet over there.”

Beatrice hopped out of the big armchair and fetched the matches. She walked over to Lady Camille and took out a match. She’d seen the maids use them sometimes. One strikes the little top over the side and it should light. Beatrice firmly stuck the match, and it broke.

Lady Camille grinned. “My, my, what a strong arm you have. Gently, darling. Even a brunette like yourself needs to learn how to light a match. It is an indispensable skill in society these days.”

Beatrice took another match from the box and tried again. It broke.

“Again, darling. I’ll not let you leave without having lit my cigarette.”

Beatrice tried again and this time the match lighted. The sudden appearance of the flame almost made the girl drop the match but she managed to hold on.

“Well done! Now hold the flame near my cigarette. Not too close, darling, you don’t want to burn my nose or singe my hair.” The tall brunette inhaled and lit her cigarette on Beatrice’s match.

“There…thank you, dear.” She reclined back into her chaise and looked at Beatrice with an amused smile. “Are you not going to blow out that flame?”

“Ouch!” Beatrice dropped the match and shook her hand. That hurt.

Lady Camille took Beatrice’s hand and kissed it. “There, that ought to make it all right. It won’t hurt long, I promise.”

The door opened and Lena came in with the tea. “Please pour out the tea, Lena. This poor darling hurt her hand and I don’t feel like it much.”

“Yes, milady.”

The sandwiches spread out before her look delicious to Beatrice. She hadn’t had anything to eat since they left for Endeline Towers early this morning.

“Tuck in, Miss Beatrice. You must be starving. I don’t suppose Mistress Baines has fed you yet, has she?”

“Mistress Baines?” Beatrice asked.

“The housekeeper. Dreadful creature. You’d better stay out of her way, darling. It’ll save you a lot pain. She has the strongest arm in Trent and the meanest cane to go with it.”

Beatrice swallowed the bite she’d just taken without chewing and paled. She felt the lump of sandwich slowly and painfully make its way down to her stomach.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have scared you. You don’t seem the sort of pette who’d get herself in trouble. You’ll be just fine. Now tell me, how does a pretty little Arcadian girl like yourself become an Avendale pupil? Quirinelle is rather out of the way, isn’t it?”

“It’s my mothers, milady, they…”

At that moment Lena appeared again. “It is time, milady.”

Lady Camille sighed. “Yes, I suppose it is. Your story will have to wait until next time, Miss Beatrice. I must be off now. Do come again soon.”

Beatrice stood up and reverenced deeply.

“Rayati, Miss Beatrice.”

“Rayati, Lady Camille.”

When Beatrice looked up Lady Camille had disappeared. She quickly brushed a few crumbs from her skirt and pulled it down a bit, then walked back out into the hallway.

She’d forgotten all about the library and walked back to her room.

Actresses

Juniper sat in the window and stared at the snowflakes slowly falling down from the sky, her mind pleasantly vacant. Juniper was an active girl but her sense of self preservation had found the ‘off’ switch in her brain a long time ago. This morning she was content just watching the flakes fall and melt when they touched the window.

Harriet sat on her bed leafing through a magazine. “Juniper?” Harriet’s voice did not register in Juniper’s switched-off brain. The blonde on the bed looked up and raised her voice a little. “Juniper! Come and have a look at this gorgeous actress. She is the star in that new kinnie, Sunset in Silverluce.”
The switch flipped and Juniper jumped onto the bed.

“Lemme see!”

She practically grabbed the magazine out of Harriet’s hands and stared at the picture of the actress. “Oh! She is gorgeous.”
“Isn’t she? What I wouldn’t do to be in a kinnie like her! Wouldn’t it be dreamy?”

“You’d have to become an actress, Harriet. I decided to become an actress long ago. I will be ever so famous. Mother was an actress, you know, on the stage. I suppose that is where I got my talent. You will come and see all my kinnies, won’t you? I’d be so disappointed if you didn’t.” Without waiting for an answer Juniper hopped off the bed and sat down in front of the mirror. She sighed. “Though I shall really have to do something about this hair if I ever want to become famous. Personality is not everything, you know.”
Harriet waved this aside, full of a new idea. “I say, Juniper, do you suppose we could get permission to put on a play?”

Beatrice knocked softly on the door. She was a bit nervous. Lady Camille had sent her maid to fetch her, but she had no idea why. “Come in.” Beatrice opened the door and crept in as quietly as she could. Lady Camille was dressed in a delightful bright red frock and leaned into the wall looking out of the window. Smoke elegantly fumed up from the cigarette she was holding. She continued to look out of the window as Beatrice reverenced.

“Rayati, Lady Camille.” Silence.

Lady Camille continued to stare out of the window. Suddenly she smiled and started humming a song. Beatrice stood at the door, not knowing what to do. “Do you keep birds, Miss Beatrice?”

The sudden recognition of her presence startled Beatrice. “No, my lady.”

“Good” Lady Camille breathed in deeply and turned towards the girl. “Well, there you are. Where have you been all this time? I thought you’d come back and tell me about yourself. I’ve been dreadfully bored. Come here.”

Beatrice walked towards the window where Lady Camille stood. “Closer girl, I want to see your face.” She took Beatrice’s chin in her hand and studied the girl’s face. She sighed. “Sixteen”. Beatrice looked up at Lady Camille’s face. It was not a particularly beautiful face. Her left eye was smaller than the right one and her lips were very thin. But Beatrice thought her beautiful.

Lady Camille grinned. “Some day you’ll have wrinkles too.”

“Oh no…I mean…I was just looking at…you are very beautiful.” Lady Camille let go of Beatrice’s chin and walked to her secretaire.

“Will you do me a favor?” Lady Camille took out a letter. “Could you pop this one in the post for me? I am not feeling very well these days, so I can’t go out myself.” Beatrice took the letter. “Best not tell anyone about it. Letters are such…are such…private…things.” Lady Camille had taken her spot at the window again, staring into the distance. Beatrice reverenced and walked towards the door. As she opened it Lady Camille suddenly seemed to remember where she was. “Miss Beatrice, you will come and visit me again, won’t you?”

The young brunette turned around and reverenced. “Yes, Lady Camille. Rayati.”

“Rayati, Miss Beatrice.”

Beatrice turned the corner and bumped into Juniper. “Rayati Beatrice! Where are you going? Ooh, a letter! Who is it for?”

Beatrice sighed, “Rayati, Juniper.” She looked at the letter. It was addressed to a Helen Drummond in Milchford.

Juniper’s eyes bulged. “HELEN DRUMMOND? You write to Helen Drummond?”

Beatrice suddenly remembered she was not supposed to tell anyone about the letter. “Er, yes… now move along, Juniper. I have things to do.”

“Helen Drummond! Do you know who she is?”

“Yes, of course I do,” Beatrice lied.

Juniper jumped up and down. “She is THE blonde star of the moment! I have seen ALL her kinnies. How do you know her?”

“Never you mind, Juniper Halifax.” Beatrice continued to walk.

“Oh DO tell, Beatrice!”

“No, leave me alone.” Beatrice started to run. As she turned into the brunette’s corridor she stopped dead in her track. There was this sudden strange music…or rather a remembrance of music. Very faint but very clearly present too, although not exactly present either.

“No running in the hallway, Beatrice,” a tingling voice said.

“No, Sensera-chei. I’m sorry.” Beatrice waited for the music to fade away before she continued towards the door of her room. She let herself drop onto her bed and sighed. She felt like barring the door and curling up with a book somewhere. Then she realized she was still holding Lady Camille’s letter. “She writes to a star.” Beatrice whispered. 

Suddenly the door burst open. “Helen Drummond is your aunt?!!!”

Beatrice groaned. “Harriet… leave me alone!”

“Oh but… Beatrice, will you be in our play? Do say yes!”

Storms

Thunder resonated in the grand hallways of Endeline Towers. Juniper sat up straight in bed.

“Harriet…”

“Mmmm?”

“Wake up.”

“Oh why… it’s the middle of the night.”

“Just wake up.” Juniper hopped out of her bed and looked out of the window. “Lightning is so exciting. Don’t you think, Harriet?”

The curled up shape under the sheets sighed. “Juniper, are you kidding me?”

“No, no! You know what lightning means. It means being chased by a vampire or a mad professor.”

Harriet pulled her pillow over her head.

“Maidens in cold castles or being chased by wolves in the woods. I wonder who is being chased out there. Maybe she will come and seek refuge here at Endeline Towers. Someone must be awake to make sure she can get in. What if the wolves catch her before someone answers the door. Maybe she is already inside. Maybe the mad professor chasing her is too. Oh Harriet! We must protect her!”

At that moment a peal of thunder shook the building.

“Oh look, there she is.”

Harriet sat up. “Someone’s outside?”

“Yes, it must be the maiden being chased by vampires. Look.”

Harriet came to the window and looked out. “I can’t see, it’s too dark.”

“She is there, over by the trees.”

Harried squinted her eyes and peered towards the trees. A dark lanky figure stood leaning against one of the trunks. She seemed to be smoking, every few moments something lit up near her face. 

”Oh, I see her now. She doesn’t seem to be running from vampires though.”

“Maybe she is hiding from them.”

“No, I don’t think this has anything to do with vampires at all. I wonder who she is? She doesn’t look like Miss Ranfield.”

“Maybe it’s one of the maids?” Juniper suggested.

“Well, whoever it is, I’m sure she’s not supposed to be outside at this time of night. And under a tree with this lightning. That’s dangerous! My sisters always tell me that if there is lightning and you are outside you have to lie down on the ground and stay away from trees.”

Juniper’s eyes lit up. “Aha! We must go and warn her. She is in danger under those trees!”

“But…”

“Harriet, you just said yourself that being under trees when there is lightning is dangerous. Should we leave that lady in a position of danger when we know we can save her? Can you handle that responsibility?”

“Juniper! You are not a brunette! If someone has to go out it is a brunette.”

Juniper considered this for a moment.”Harriet, I think you are right. I think we should ask Beatrice.”

“Shhh!”

“Don’t shh me. I hit my knee on something.”

“Hit it softly. We don’t want to wake anyone.”

“Juniper, I’m not so sure this is a good idea.”

“We talked this over in our room. We have to tell the brunettes to go and save that lady outside.”

“But why do we both have to go?”

“Where is your sense of adventure? Actresses go through much worse. They are chased by vampires and monsters.”

“No, Juniper. That is only in the kinnie. They live a life of luxury. They are only chased by fans.”

The blondes crept past the stairs into the brunettes’ hallway.

“Which door is Beatrice’s again?” asked Juniper.

“Second one on the right.”

A soft knock on the door awakened Beatrice. She looked around. It wasn’t day yet. Outside lightning flashed. 

”Mmm?”

Another knock on the door.

“What time is it?”

Another knock on the door.

Beatrice grumbled and got out of bed. “Hmpf…” She rubbed her eyes and opened the door. “Oh, it’s you. What do… never mind. Just go away.”

Juniper started to gabble an explanation.

“What is this nonsense? Girls out of bed in the middle of the night! Blondes in the brunettes’ hallway?” The figure of the housekeeper, Mistress Baines, approached the group of suddenly trembling girls.

“Rayati, Mistress Baines. We are on a rescue mission. There is a lady outside in the storm, and she is under a tree. Something we all know to be dangerous…madam.”

“What utter nonsense! I am shocked to find you here. Lady Endeline told me your headmistress had assured her you were all well behaved and properly raised girls.”

Beatrice raised her eyebrows.

“Detention…all of you. I will see you all in the library tomorrow, 6 am. You have five seconds to be in bed.” 

They reverenced and ran.

“Thank you, Lena, you’re a doll.” Lady Camille pressed a coin into her maid’s hand.

Lena reverenced and left the room. Lady Camille sighed. She had trouble sleeping in any weather, but storms made it even harder. She hadn’t slept at all last night. Good thing she had asked Lena to leave the door open. The fresh air had done her a world of good.

Lady Camille lit her first cigarette of the morning and walked over to the window. Ooh, there’s that dishy teacher again. That Estrenne pette. Can’t be much over 25…can she? One was never sure with Estrennes. I wish I knew what she is doing out there so early in the morning. I’d love to take her out some time, to the Blue Tiger…no…, Lady Camille grinned, no, to Syrinx’s Temple…the Sizzling Syrinx. I bet she can dance. Estrenne pettes can be such fun, once they’ve had some drinks. 

Oh, how she longed for a drink. But Mistress Baines didn’t keep alcohol in Endeline Towers. And even if she did she wouldn’t allow me any.

“Oh Camille, you’re having conversations with yourself in your head.” Lady Camille pressed her face against the window and groaned. “I want out!” 

That little brunette, that Beatrice, had better have sent that letter to Helen. Helen would know what to do. Little Beatrice… I think I’ll send for her again today. She amuses me. Pretty face, so shy. A good girl. I’ll have her tell me all about that Estrenne teacher.

“Lady Camille?” Lena reverenced. “Mistress Baines is waiting.”

Lady Camille sighed. That horrid, horrid….

“Thank you, Lena.”

Not the Library

“What a beast,” Juniper whispered to no one in particular.

Detention had lasted for four hours and had not been pleasant.
As they had not much sleep last night, staying awake had been a problem. It was Saturday morning and the two blondes headed back to their room. They were surprised when Beatrice said she wanted to go to the library.

“You’re nuts, Avery,” Juniper declared. “It’s Saturday, what do you need the library for?”

“For peace and quiet, Halifax. It is the one place in this building you wouldn’t think of setting a foot in.”

“Pooh! Beatrice Avery thinks she is so much better than us. Just because her aunt is famous. Well, my mother happens to be famous too. Come along, Harriet. Let’s not get in the way of Lady Beatrice. She needs her peace and quiet.” She flounced into the blondes’ hallway.

As Beatrice opened the door to the library the daylight suddenly disappeared. Beatrice’s head spun. What’s going on? She was pushed inside by what felt like bodies trying to pass her, moving her out of their way as they tried to get in.

Suddenly the pushing stopped. Beatrice blinked several times, wondering if something was wrong with her eyes. The library was gone. Was she in the wrong room? Her head was still spinning. Through the windows she could see the moon shining. The moon? It’s 10 am. What is this place? It was the library yesterday, I’m sure it was. The room was empty now.

From the center of the room Beatrice heard girls giggling. She wanted to turn around and run, but her legs wouldn’t move. This is not right…this is not right. Beatrice struggled not to panic. Giggling again. She looked to see where it was coming from. Somewhere from the middle of the room. Something was moving there. She looked closely. Two girls…dancing.

And it was gone. Beatrice blinked. No there they were again. Yes, definitely two girls dancing. Beatrice heard snatches of a waltz. It was as if the wind brought the music from far. But there was no wind. She looked around to see if Sensera-chei was near. No. No one.

“I’m not well.” As she spoke she could see her breath. It was very cold. The girls were gone, so was the music. Beatrice walked towards the centre of the room. She had picked up her courage and wanted to convince herself that nothing was there.

But there the music was again. No longer fragmented, but very clearly there. And there were the girls dancing. They were not girls, they were ladies. Blonde and brunette. Beatrice could see their faces, the details of their beautiful dresses. The brunette kissed the blonde’s cheek. They laughed. How pale they were. The music was louder. Beatrice could see no orchestra. The room was empty. There was candle light now. It was very warm. The smell of perfume and powder. Beatrice felt the heat and the scents slowly settle around her and cover her. She heard a whispering sound, as if many people were talking somewhere far away. Beatrice’s head ached. She closed her eyes and it stopped. All she could hear was her blood rushing through her body.

She breathed deeply and opened her eyes again. In a flash Beatrice found herself in the middle of a crowd. People everywhere talking loudly, laughing, music. A wild waltz. The two ladies were dancing close enough to her to touch. They looked happy. Their faces were flushed, no longer pale. People were looking at them, admiring them.

Then everything went silent. The orchestra continued playing but there was no sound. The blonde lady sagged to the floor. Beatrice could see the brunette crying out, panic in her face. But all was silence. Then it went dark. Everything disappeared, the people, the scents, the candle light. It was cold. Beatrice could feel her heart pounding, as if she had run up several flights of stairs. She looked at the moon outside. Her breath appeared in frosty puffs each time she exhaled. She took a few steps back. The sound of her footsteps echoed off the walls of the empty room.

“Beatrice?”

Beatrice turned around so fast she almost fell over. “Lady Camille!”

Suddenly it was light again. The echo was gone. The library was the library once more. Beatrice looked around. Shelf upon shelf of dusty books. In the corner the improvised classroom. A thick, heavy pain pounded in her head. She felt her heart in her throat.

Lady Camille leaned into the doorway, arms crossed. She was still dressed in her silk peignoir; her curls were messy. She looked as if she had just come out of bed, except for her immaculate make-up.

“What is it, girl? Why do you look at me that way? Did I scare you? Doll face, I didn’t mean to scare you.” She grinned.

Beatrice’s heart was still racing. She opened her mouth to speak, but couldn’t.

Lady Camille’s amused look turned into a concerned one. “Darling, what it is?”

“I’m cold.”

“Cold? Well, I suppose it’s a bit chilly. Why didn’t you wear a sweater?”

“Music…it was dark…I…I saw…I saw…” Beatrice pointed into the library.

“What did you see?”

“I think I was… I thought I saw something.” Beatrice rubbed her forehead. “I just need some sleep.”

Lady Camille stepped forward and grabbed Beatrice’s arms. “Tell me girl, what did you see?”

“I’m not… I don’t…ladies…dancing. I could smell their perfume.”

Lady Camille looked around as if she was searching for something. “Come with me.” She dragged the young brunette by the arm through the hallway into her room.

“Sit.” She pushed Beatrice into the big armchair and kneeled down in front of her. She looked the girl straight into the face. “Beatrice, it is very important that you tell me. What did you see?”

Beatrice felt dizzy. 

”It was supposed to be the library.”

“I know, doll face. But it wasn’t, was it?”

“No. … My head hurts. I’m not well.”

“Yes, you are. Yes, you are. You are perfectly fine. What did you see, Beatrice?” Lady Camille grabbed the girl’s arms again and squeezed tightly.

“They were dancing…but they weren’t really there. I really think I’m not well.”

“Bother..” Lady Camille stood up and started pacing the room, muttering to herself. Suddenly she stopped.

“Lena!…Lena!”

The maid entered the room and curtsied. “Yes, milady?”

“I need a drink. I don’t care how you get it, but I need one.” She looked at Beatrice. “And so does she.”

“But…milady…”

“Quick!”

Lena curtsied and left.

Beatrice was shaking in her chair. This had not really happened. She had probably just fallen asleep. It had been a short night and a long, long morning. If only her head didn’t hurt so much. She couldn’t think. It must have been a dream.

“Please, Lady Camille. I think I was only dreaming.”

“Dea. I hope you were.”

Lady Camille walked over to the Estrenne cabinet and took her cigarette case and a box of matches. She walked over to her chaise longue and slowly sat down. She lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. “Come and sit with me, poppet. Tell me about your dream.”

Beatrice got out of the chair and sat down next to Lady Camille. She looked up at her face and frowned. “You look like her. Like the lady in my dream.”

“Bother…oh bother…” Lady Camille closed her eyes. “Just…start from the beginning.”

Beatrice told all. The pounding in her head had settled into continuous nauseating waves now. She looked up at Lady Camille. She really looked like one of the ladies she had seen, no, had dreamed about. So beautiful.

Lady Camille was nervous. She was tapping her long fingers on the arm of the chaise. This was her fourth cigarette. The smoke made Beatrice’s nausea worse. As Lena entered the room Lady Camille jumped up. The maid was holding a bottle and two small glasses.

“Brandy! You dear girl. Where did you get it?”

Lena shook her head. “Please, milady, don’t ask.”

Lady Camille squeezed her maid’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

She quickly poured two glasses and handed one to Beatrice. “Drink. You’ve had a bad dream, you need it.”

Beatrice took the glass. “Do you really think it was a dream?”

“Oh yes, what else could it be? You’re a sensible girl. Now, drink up.”

Beatrice sipped the brandy. She was not allowed alcohol, but right now she didn’t think not drinking it was an option. Lady Camille took her hand and kissed it.

“Don’t worry, doll face. It was just a very strange dream. You’ll be fine tomorrow. One last sip… good girl. Lena will take you to your room. I think you need some sleep. You don’t look very well.”

“Thank you.”

Lena took Beatrice’s arm and half-lifted her from the chaise. “Let’s go, Miss.”

“Rayati, Miss Beatrice.”

“Rayati, Lady Camille.”

Miss May

“Now where’s that nervous brunette girl? Is she not here? I thought she was in detention with you.” Miss May, poured the girls each a cup of rose scented tea.

Miss May, the cook, was very much liked by the Avendale pupils. She loved pampering them with cups of tea and lots of sweets. She believed that sweet food helped form a sweet character. This is, of course, nonsense. But the girls didn’t mind very much.

“No, Miss May, Beatrice is awfully busy being smug over her famous aunt.” Juniper replied.

“Oh yes, I heard she is Miss Helen Drummond’s little niece.”

Harriet pinched Juniper’s arm. “Don’t be mean, Juniper. I saw her coming from the library. She didn’t look well at all. I hope she is all right.”

“I should imagine she is tired after a night like you’ve had. Why were you out of bed in the first place?”

“We were going to rescue a mysterious lady under a tree, Miss May.”

“A mysterious lady?” Miss May frowned.

“Yes,” Harriet added, “She stood under a tree in the storm. She was smoking a cigarette, I believe.”

Miss May turned from the girls to cut the chocolate cake she had made for them. “The girl oughta stay in her room as she’s told. Causing trouble wherever she goes.”

“I’m sorry, Miss May … Who is trouble?” Juniper asked.

“You girls are. You cause poor Mistress Baines a whole lot of trouble she does not need. I’m surprised you can all still sit so comfortably. You were lucky. Mistress Baines is not the type to sit and wait for girls to write during a detention. She must have been tired. Better take it from me that next time she catches you out of bed you’ll be a whole lot sorrier.”

“But we had to save the lady.”

“That lady doesn’t need saving. Best stay as far away from her as possible.”

Juniper sat up straight. “Who is she? Is she a maiden hiding from an evil professor? A poor orphan girl Lady Endeline took in when she was 10 and who then turned out to be a princess? Oh, she must be a princess.”

“She is no such thing. Girl, where do you come up with these stories? I’m telling you to stay away from Camille, she’s trouble.”

“Oh! Her name is Camille! What a romantic name. Now I know she is the duchess of Ellengard believed to have been lost at sea when she was 12. I’m sure she was saved by a fishermaid. She had lost her memory, didn’t even know her own name.”

“Hush, Juniper.” Harriet saw the cook’s face darken.

“She was wearing a Trentish dress, so she believed she had to come here to find out her true identity. Lady Endeline found her wandering the streets of Milchford. She very kindly took the young girl in because she had such good manners. Miss May, you must go and tell her she is the duchess of Ellengard! I’m sure her family will want to see her.”

“Now listen to me, Juniper Halifax. That woman is dangerous. I am dead serious. You WILL stay away from her. If I as much as hear you whisper her name to anyone I will see to it that you will be standing up for the rest of your stay here at Endeline Towers.”

Juniper paled. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Harriet, you are a sensible girl. This goes for you too. You are to stay away from her.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. I think you girls need more cake.”

Not Lady Camille

Juniper sighed. And sighed again. And again. She did not like silent study in the library. Beatrice sat across the table. Why did she not look up? Juniper wanted Beatrice to look up and be annoyed with her for sighing. But Beatrice continued reading that big old book on whatever it was. Geography or something. Juniper looked at her own book. The thinnest novel she had been able to find in this library. She could not believe anyone was allowed to write 64 pages about a pette changing into a bug without mentioning evil professors or vampires once. Juniper looked around the library. The girls all seemed so calm behind their books. Juniper felt like dancing. She softly hummed a waltz and turned back to her book. A bug… hmpf, so unromantic.

Beatrice’s head shot up from her book. That tune… She looked around, everything serene, everything in its place, still daylight. It was Juniper. Juniper was humming that song. Beatrice looked at the blonde across the table. She was reading, head swaying from side to side and humming the waltz Beatrice had heard in her dream. Suddenly she could smell that heavy perfume again. She heard girls laughing. Beatrice jumped up. “No, no, no…it was a dream.”

“Beatrice, are you all right?” Juniper’s voice sounded distant. “Perhaps you should go and see Miss May.”

From the corner of her eyes Beatrice saw a lady in a long gown running by. She put her hands in front of her eyes and sat down again. “It’s not real, it’s not real.” Beatrice felt a hand on her shoulder. “Beatrice, tell me what’s wrong.” Juniper’s voice was clear again. The scent was gone.

“I’m all right, Juniper, thank you.”

Beatrice quickly picked up her books and walked out of the library. She could feel the eyes of the other girls following her. She stopped at the third door on her left. Lady Camille’s room. She knocked. No reply. She knocked again, then Lena opened.

“Rayati, Lena. Is Lady Camille not here?”

The maid shook her head. “She is with Mistress Baines, Miss.”

“I see. Thank you Lena.”

Lena looked at Beatrice with a worried look. “Miss, I’m sorry Miss, I know it’s not my place. But perhaps it’s best if..”

“Lena?”

“I’m sorry Miss, I have to go.” The little maid curtseyed and quickly closed the door.

Beatrice had not recognized the voice calling. She wondered who it could be. She had never seen anyone else in Lady Camille’s rooms. She wondered if it might be Lady Endeline. They had been staying at Endeline Towers for months, but she did not believe anyone had seen Lady Endeline yet. Rumor had it that she preferred to stay at her summer house in the country while children were staying in her home. Some said that there was no Lady Endeline.

Beatrice shivered. Maybe Juniper was right, she should go and see Miss May. She could use a cup of tea now. Beatrice looked around, the hallway seemed awfully empty. It was rather chilly too. Yes, time for tea.

Beatrice was about to take the first step down the stairs when she heard something. The wind? No, it sounded like someone crying. She looked around. No one. The crying came from the blondes’ hallway. It sounded serious. Beatrice walked towards the first door. Whose room was this? She didn’t know. She never went into blonde territory. She knocked on the door. No reply. She held her ear to the door. There was definitely someone crying in there.

“Hello?”

Beatrice’s breath was visible. The sounds in the room became more desperate. She pushed the handle down and looked around the door. The window was open, wind blew up the curtains. It was very cold. Beatrice could hear it clearly now. She stepped into the room.

“Hello?”

The wind pulled at her hair, loosening a few locks. She heard a moan coming from behind the big four poster bed. She walked around the bed. On the floor a tall slender brunette lay kneeling. Her back heaved as she cried.

“Lady Camille!” Beatrice dropped her books and quickly knelt beside her.

“She’s gone,” the brunette whispered.

“Who is gone? Lady Camille, are you all right?”

Beatrice reached to put her hand on the lady’s shoulder when she looked up. The desperate face did not belong to Lady Camille. It was the lady Beatrice had seen dancing in the library. Her mouth formed the words ‘she’s gone’ but Beatrice couldn’t hear her anymore. Then she disappeared.

Beatrice found herself sitting in the dust on a moth eaten carpet. The room smelled damp and musty. She slowly stood up. She looked at the window. It was closed. The curtains hung down silent. As she touched the fabric it disintegrated. There were handprints in the dust on the widow sill. Other than that there was no sign that anyone had been here for ages. Beatrice picked up her books and wiped the dust from them. She did not think she had ever been so afraid in her life but her body was calm and her mind focused. She held out her hand. Stable.

“So…ghosts,” she said out loud. Her voice sounded strange in this room. She looked at the flecks of dust on her skirt and stockings. Better change before I go to Miss May. She will not allow me into her kitchen looking like this. Yes, definitely time for tea.

Beatrice was about to take the first step down the stairs when she heard something. The wind? No, it sounded like someone crying. She looked around. No one. The crying came from the blondes’ hallway. It sounded serious. Beatrice walked towards the first door. Whose room was this? She didn’t know. She never went into blonde territory. She knocked on the door. No reply. She held her ear to the door. There was definitely someone crying in there.

“Hello?”

Beatrice’s breath was visible. The sounds in the room became more desperate. She pushed the handle down and looked around the door. The window was open, wind blew up the curtains. It was very cold. Beatrice could hear it clearly now. She stepped into the room.

“Hello?”

The wind pulled at her hair, loosening a few locks. She heard a moan coming from behind the big four poster bed. She walked around the bed. On the floor a tall slender brunette lay kneeling. Her back heaved as she cried.

“Lady Camille!” Beatrice dropped her books and quickly knelt beside her.

“She’s gone,” the brunette whispered.

“Who is gone? Lady Camille, are you all right?”

Beatrice reached to put her hand on the lady’s shoulder when she looked up. The desperate face did not belong to Lady Camille. It was the lady Beatrice had seen dancing in the library. Her mouth formed the words ‘she’s gone’ but Beatrice couldn’t hear her anymore. Then she disappeared.

Beatrice found herself sitting in the dust on a moth eaten carpet. The room smelled damp and musty. She slowly stood up. She looked at the window. It was closed. The curtains hung down silent. As she touched the fabric it disintegrated. There were handprints in the dust on the widow sill. Other than that there was no sign that anyone had been here for ages. Beatrice picked up her books and wiped the dust from them. She did not think she had ever been so afraid in her life but her body was calm and her mind focused. She held out her hand. Stable.

“So…ghosts,” she said out loud. Her voice sounded strange in this room. She looked at the flecks of dust on her skirt and stockings. Better change before I go to Miss May. She will not allow me into her kitchen looking like this. Yes, definitely time for tea.

A Rehearsal

“A tree? It says ‘chorus’ here, why should I be a tree?”

“Artistic liberty, Diana.”

“But why a tree, Juniper? Can’t I be a noblewoman or a guard?”

“Being a chorus of noblewomen would involve acting. You will be a tree. Hold up those branches.”

“But…”

“Shhh…Dido speaks.”

Harriet straightened her back. “Ahem…Ah Belinda, I am prest. With torment not to be confest. Peace and I are strangers grown. I languish till my grief is known, yet would not have it guessed.”  Harriet beamed and jumped up. “I got it right!”

“Yes, yes… Mengxia?” Juniper waved the timid little blonde over.
She spoke softly. “Grief increases by concealing.”
“Mine admits of no revealing.”

“Then let me speak…”

“Mengxia, do come and stand a bit closer to Harriet. You can’t hide behind the tree, it’s not right. No one ever saw a Dido and Aenea with Belinda hiding behind a tree.”

“But Juniper, I thought I would be in the chorus too. I don’t really want to pl…”

“I know, I know. Harriet was supposed to be Belinda and I would have LOVED playing Dido, but Beatrice has not been well lately so someone has to be Aenea. A good actress can play a brunette too, so I play Aenea, Harriet gets to play Dido and that is why you are now Belinda. Don’t be scared, Mengxia. Don’t you want to be an actress?”

“No, not r…”

“Of course you want to be an actress. Everyone wants to be an actress. But only the good ones make it in the entertainment industry. Everyone has to start somewhere; you will start as Belinda. You should be happy. The chorus is not a good place to start. You actually play someone. Now…come and stand next to Harriet. Where were we?”

Harriet pressed her hands to her heart. “Mine admits of no revealing.”

“Oh yes. Mengxia?”

“Then let me speak; the Trojan guest. Into your tender thoughts has pressed. The greatest blessing Fate can give, our Carthage to secure and Troy revive.”

“When monarchs unite… I say, Juniper. Will Beatrice be a tree too? Or do you think more of her acting? Where is she anyway?”

“No, Diana, Beatrice will not be a tree. I don’t know where she is but I do know she’s LATE! Now… the chorus.”

Diana sighed. She cast a glance at the orange papier-mâché lump sitting empty on the ground. It was supposed to look like a carrot, but it missed the mark. Last she had checked, carrots didn’t have fountains of orange flowers sprouting from their tops. Honestly! Those stage-prop-brunettes… there was artistic license, and then there was overboard. She glanced in their direction.

Offstage, Shin-cheri examined a pair of rabbit ears attached to a headband, wired so that they would stand up. “What do you think, Shen? Aren’t they smashing?”

“Oh, yes. They’re the height of bunnicular fashion.”

“Tree Number One!” Juniper barked. Diana straightened, automatically lifting her branches higher out of habit.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Is this a comedy? Do Amazonian trees often giggle?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Please do keep your mind on the play. Even the chorus has to feel their parts. You have to be the tree!”

Diana thought a moment, then rustled her branches in what she hoped was an arboraceous manner. Juniper beamed.

“Good! Branches just a little higher. Now, we’ll take it from Dido…”
“Miss Diana? Where is Miss Beatrice?” Mengxia whispered again. “Shouldn’t she be here by now?”

It was a little odd. Where had Beatrice gone off to?

No Such Thing As Ghosts

“Doll face! Do come in. How can I help you?”

Lady Camille pulled a cigarette from her silver case and handed Beatrice the matchbox. “Light me up, will you?” With one stroke Beatrice quite expertly lit the match and held it to Lady Camille’s cigarette.

“My, my, you certainly have improved, little one. Tea?”

“Oh no, thank you. I just had a cup in the kitchen.”

Lady Camille draped herself on the chaise longue. “Sit down. Tell me what’s on your mind.”

Beatrice sat down in the big arm chair. “Lady Camille, I wanted to ask you about my dream.”

“What about it?”

“I don’t think it was a dream.”

“Of course it was, darling.”

“Lady Camille…I…no, it was not a dream. I saw one of the ladies again.”

Lady Camille frowned. “What?”

“I saw her again. The brunette. In one of the rooms in the blondes’ hallway.”

“The blondes’ hallway? Oh, you mean the west wing. Darling, you have a very active imagination. Miss May must have been telling you stories.”

“It was not my imagination. Please…I don’t know who else to tell about this.”

“Doll face, did you ever post that letter I gave you?”

“I did.”

“Wonderful. Could you post another one for me please? I don’t really want to bother Lena with it. She’s busy enough as it is. It’s not too much trouble is it?” Lady Camille walked over to her secretaire and took the letter from one of the little drawers. “Do you know Helen Drummond?”

“No, I don’t.”

“I didn’t think you would.” Lady Camille smiled and handed Beatrice the letter. “She’s just an old friend. Now run along, darling. And don’t believe a word of those stories Miss May tells you. There’s no such thing as ghosts. Rayati.”

“Rayati, Lady Camille.”

Back in the hallway Beatrice wondered about Lady Camille’s last words. Ghosts? Who mentioned ghosts? Not I? And what stories? Miss May told many stories, but they were usually about the time she was young and went out dancing after work.

In the brunette’s hallway Beatrice ran into her friend Diana who was looking slightly grumpy. “Rayati, Diana. Why are you holding those branches?”

“Because I’m a tree. Where were you, Beatrice? You were not at the rehearsal.”

“Rehearsal? Rehearsal! Oh no! I forgot! …You are a tree?” Beatrice grinned.

“Don’t laugh at me, Avery. Juniper said you are to be in the chorus too. I thought you would play Aenea.”

“Oh, I got out of that one. Thank goodness.”

Diana squinted her eyes. “Tell me, Avery. What has Juniper in mind for you?”

“Whatever it is, it’s better than playing Aenea to Juniper’s Dido… Don’t you dare laugh at me.”

Diana’s face had lit up. She had remembered a certain prop.

“I’m not laughing.”

“You look as if you are about to explode.”

“Yes, excuse me a mome.”

Diana quickly ran into her room and closed the door. Beatrice rolled her eyes as she heard muffled cries. “Laughing into her pillow.” She sighed. “I suppose I’d better go and post this letter.”

The Play

This was it. This is what they… well, Juniper… had worked so hard for over the past few weeks. Beatrice, dressed in a rather uncomfortable bunny suit, had taken her position next to Diana. She decided not to complain. After all, Diana was much worse off in her tree suit. Especially since she had to keep her arms up. Beatrice scratched her nose. Last chance before the curtains would go up.

Lady Endeline had agreed to come and see the girls perform. She had not been at Endeline Towers very often since Avendale had established its temporary school there. Beatrice suspected Lady Endeline did not care for children very much, or at least disliked having her rest disturbed. But she could only guess since she had never seen the lady before.

Juniper hopped on stage to give them all a little speech. Beatrice was not paying much attention. She picked up a few words. “So proud…. we will dazzle them… great actresses… Miss Maitland and Lady Endeline… Break a leg!”

Juniper bounded off the stage again and a few moments later the curtains opened. Harriet and Mengxia-chei walked on stage. Gosh, how pretty Harriet looked. Her long hair loose, hanging past her waist. A little crown had been placed on her head.

Mengxia-chei spoke:

Shake the cloud from off your brow,
Fate your wishes does allow;
Empire growing,
Pleasures flowing,
Fortune smiles and so should you.
This is where the tree and the bunny came in:

Banish sorrow, banish care,
Grief should ne’er approach the fair.

Harriet continued:

Ah! Belinda, I am prest…

Beatrice looked at the audience. She saw Miss Maitland in the front row, looking stern as always. Miss Maitland, too, visited Endeline Towers only occasionally. She was very busy dealing with repairs to Avendale and such things of course, and Beatrice didn’t mind that one bit. She was a good girl and tried to stay out of trouble, but trying was not always enough and she wanted to avoid having to answer to the formidable Miss Maitland.

Next to Miss Maitland was an elderly blonde Beatrice did not recognize. That must be Lady Endeline. She looked nothing at all like Beatrice had imagined. She had imagined a tall, stern lady with sharp features, but Lady Endeline looked like the sweetest lady imaginable. Her hair was coiffed in soft white curls around her head. She had a soft round face with a tiny nose and bright, bright blue eyes that looked amusedly at the scene before her. Her soft silk dress was the same color as her eyes. Beatrice admired her instantly.

Our Carthage to secure and Troy revive.

Mengxia-chei does squeak rather, thought Beatrice dispassionately.

When monarchs unite, how happy their state,
They triumph at once o’er their foes and their fate.

Diana and she had practiced their chorus lines so often they could dream them.

Suddenly Beatrice’s gaze caught Lady Camille’s. The elegant brunette sat in the back of the improvised theatre, pointedly not holding a cigarette. Lady Camille nodded her head and grinned. Beatrice suddenly felt very hot in her bunny suit. Her face was coloring. Thank Dea for make-up. She hugged her huge, slightly unusually colored papier-mâché carrot.

The sudden bang that accompanied the entrance of the sorceress startled Beatrice. The bunny stood to attention.

Shin-cheri had perfected the sorceress. She was grand and scary at the same time. The explosion of baking powder did much to add to the grandeur of her entrance.

Wayward sisters, you that fright
The lonely traveler by night
Who, like dismal ravens crying,
Beat the windows of the dying,
Appear! Appear at my call, and share in the fame
Of a mischief shall make all Carthage flame.
Appear!

Beatrice noticed Miss Maitland and Lady Endeline brushing baking powder from their dresses. Shin-cheri had assured Juniper that nothing would reach the audience. Something must have gone wrong in her calculations. Shin-cheri did not seem to have noticed it. She stood strongly and as tall as her body would allow: an impressive and lightly powdered sorceress.

At the beginning of the last act Beatrice felt a headache coming on. She felt slightly nauseated. If only Juniper and Harriet could be quick about it. But she knew they wouldn’t. They would try to get all the drama out of this act they could. It would be long with a lot of sighs and much hand-clasping.

Juniper fell on her knees before Harriet and took her hands.

What shall lost Aenea do?
How, Royal Fair, shall I impart
The God’s decree, and tell you we must part?

Beatrice noticed Harriet had trouble not giggling. Her head started to spin. Focus, Beatrice, she admonished herself. Only a short while now. From a distance she heard Harriet speak. Gosh, how well she played anger.

No, faithless lady, thy course pursue;
I’m now resolv’d as well as you.
No repentance shall reclaim
The injur’d Dido’s slighted flame.
For ’tis enough, whate’er you now decree,
That you had once a thought of leaving me.

Beatrice dropped her carrot. She felt weak. From the back of the room she saw a bright light approaching the stage. Two lights… no, one, just one. She couldn’t see straight. In the back Lady Camille stood up from her seat. Ah, thought Beatrice, you see it too. Once the light had reached the stage Beatrice could see it was a lady. The pale blonde lady from the library. She giggled softly. No one else seemed to see the strange blonde, apart from Lady Camille. She lied to me. Beatrice’s head throbbed.

Center stage Harriet sank down on her knees.

Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me

Mengxia-chei took her hand. The white lady kneeled beside Harriet and looked at her intently.

More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.

The white lady shook her head and moved closer to Harriet. She stroked the girl’s long blonde hair. Harriet started to cry.

When I am laid in earth…

Tears fell down from her cheeks.

When I am laid in earth,
May my wrongs create,
No trouble in thy breast.

Lady Camille now stood in the aisle. She looked at Beatrice.

“No trouble…” Harriet sighed. “No trouble…”

Mengxia-chei looked worried. “Harriet?” she whispered.

Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

The white lady looked up at Beatrice. She looked so sad. Her lips moved. She was trying to say something. “I can’t hear.” Beatrice said, swaying. “I can’t hear.” Beatrice saw Lady Camille rush to the stage. Then she fainted.

Camille and Colette

Beatrice opened her eyes. She was in a room she didn’t recognize. By the window she saw the figure of Miss May.

“Ah! You’re awake, I see.”

“Miss May. Where am I?”

“You’re in a room in the east wing. Not far from your own room, but far enough. How are you feeling?”

Beatrice considered this for a moment. “I believe I am quite well.”

“Well, that doesn’t surprise me. You slept around the clock. I imagine you feel quite rested.”

Then Beatrice remembered the play. “Oh no. I ruined the play. Juniper is going to kill me!”

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that, missy. You toppled over right at the end. You only missed a line or two.”

Beatrice moaned. “Juniper is going to kill me.”

“Hmm, that sprightly little blonde seemed right satisfied to me. But what do I know about art?”

Miss May put an extra pillow in Beatrice’s back so she could sit up comfortably. “Stay right where you are. I’ll go and make you something to eat.”

“Yes, Miss May.”

“Good girl.”

Beatrice looked out of the window. It was still light. She wondered what time it was. Then the image of the white lady came to mind. She sighed. I’m going mad.

No, wait. Lady Camille saw her too. I could see that she saw her. It was the lady from the library. She was trying to tell me something.

Lady Camille saw her too. I’m not mad.

Beatrice decided to go and see Lady Camille as soon as she could. She must believe me now. She can’t tell me Miss May has been telling me too many ghost stories.

Miss May!

At that moment Miss May came in with a big tray carrying a pot of rose tea, a pile of pancakes and a couple of slices of cake. She placed it on Beatrice’s lap.

“Here we go. Eat up. You must be starving.”

Beatrice looked at all the sweetness in front of her and felt a wave of nausea come over her.

“Miss May, I saw a ghost.”

“You did, did you?”

“Yes, I did. Lady Camille told me you could tell me more about ghosts.”

“Lady Camille! Didn’t I tell you girls to stay away from her? Oh, no… I think I said that to a group of blondes. You weren’t there. But now you know. Stay away from her.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because she’s bad news is why. And it’s getting worse. If you see them ghosts running about again, it’s bad. Just stay away.”

“You have seen the ghosts?”

“No, I most certainly haven’t. They don’t show themselves to Mays or Baineses. They don’t even show themselves to most of the Endelines. It’s usually outsiders like yourself.”

“What does Lady Camille have to do with the ghosts?”

“You haven’t touched your food yet.”

“I’m sorry, Miss May, I’m just not very hungry.”

“Nonsense, of course you are. Here…” Miss May poured Beatrice a cup of tea.

She sat down on the chair beside Beatrice’s bed.

“Now, how about you eat and I’ll tell you about Camille and Colette.”

“Camille and Colette?”

“The ghosts.”

Beatrice picked up her fork and knife. “Yes please, Miss May.”

“Well, sweetie, you know how that in these old families girls often marry who their mothers tell them to marry.” Beatrice nodded. “Well, that is what happened with Camille.”

“Lady Camille?”

“Yes… well, no. Not this Lady Camille, her ancestor. She was also called Camille. She lived here a long time ago. She was meant to marry Colette of Ellengard. So when Colette was a young woman she was sent over to come and live at Endeline Towers. These two girls were quite something I heard. Got in all sorts of scrapes together. But what was most important is that they loved each other. Then one day Camille was sent to court. Brunettes that come of age are sent to court to be trained. Must be the same way in Arcadia.”

Beatrice nodded again and took a bite of her pancake.

“You can imagine that little Colette was not too happy to see Camille go. Well, what happened then was the saddest thing in the world. It was spring and all the flowers that had come up died. It was a May who was gardener here then, Betty May. She didn’t know what to do. The soil was not dry so there was no need to water and the soil wasn’t too wet either. She thought it was Colette. The girl walked in the garden and looked so sad. She figured it was the girl’s sentiments that made the flowers die. And it really was.

“Camille stayed at court for three years and during those years Colette fell ill. They though she was not going to live. And all those three years not a thing would grow near Endeline Towers. Betty May left after a few months. She did not believe anything would ever grow in that garden again. But then Camille came back and Colette felt better and the garden came back to life.

“Lady Endeline begged Betty May to come back and tend to the garden again. Betty May had married a girl from the village and had a little daughter. That was my great great great grandmother’s mother. She took the whole family to Endeline Towers and that’s how the Mays got stuck here. The Mays belong at Endeline Towers.”

Miss May poured out another cup of rose tea for Beatrice.

“You see, Colette was a pure sort of maid. Blondes are soft and gentle and sweet and Colette was all that, but she was special somehow. When she was ill and sad the flowers were too. But then Camille came back and Colette felt better again and so did the flowers.

“Lady Endeline organized a ball to welcome her daughter back. Everyone thought Colette was all well and healthy again. A bit frail but nothing serious. So Camille and Colette danced all night and they were admired for their beauty and spirit. But then Colette fainted. She was brought to her room and the doctor was called. I haven’t much of an opinion of doctors. Don’t like them, never will. They only bring bad news and so did this one. She could not help Colette. So then they brought in a priestess. The priestess saw what was wrong with Colette. You see, those two girls were one. They were meant to be together. And then one half was placed elsewhere and the weaker half started to die. The spirits of the garden had felt it. You see, sweetie, when you break a saucer in two you cannot make it whole again. You can hold the two pieces together and it may look whole but it is still broken. If you let go of one side it will fall and shatter. Colette’s side was falling.

“She felt quite all right for some time after that. That gave the Endelines and especially Camille hope Colette might get better again. But after a while it became apparent that she was not getting better at all but slowly became worse. Now you are still a young brunette so you may not know what it means for a strong grown up brunette to see her love slipping away. But I can tell you that it made poor Camille crazy.

“Then one day a letter came from court. A request from the queen for Camille to escort her second daughter to the court of Kadoria. Camille promised Colette that she would be back before winter, and left.

“Now that may seem mean to you, leaving the girl you love behind when she is ill. But I think she couldn’t stand watching Colette die. Don’t you think that would be the hardest thing in the world? I think she ran away. So then winter came but Camille did not come home. Colette walked to the window every morning hoping to see Camille driving up the road. But she didn’t come. That poor girl felt worse and worse and one day she could not come out of bed anymore to go to the window. Betty May gave up on the garden and took up driving. At least the Endelines would always need a chauffeuse.

“No one knew what was keeping Camille away but one night Camille dreamed about Colette and saw how ill she was. She suddenly realized how long she had been gone. She asked the princess for permission to leave and came home.

“When she arrived home there was no one to welcome her back. No maids came rushing out the door to take her luggage, her mother didn’t come to greet her. Camille dragged her suitcases in herself and walked up the stairs. Everyone was huddled around Colette’s door. This is the sad part, little one: Colette had died not a minute before Camille had arrived home. It was a sad sight, my dear. Camille pushed everyone aside and fell down on her knees beside Colette’s body. It must have been still warm, but the girl’s spirit was gone. Camille stayed there for three days and three nights without eating, drinking or speaking. Then she took her unopened suitcases and left.

“She ran off to the city where she drank her feelings of guilt and sorrow away. And stayed up at all hours in those dreadful bars they have down there. It didn’t take long for rumor to reach Lady Endeline and she sent Mistress Baines to fetch her. The Baineses have been with the family even longer than the Mays and they are all the same. Just imagine Mistress Baines finding you hanging around a bar in the middle of the night drinking yourself into a stupor.”

Beatrice shivered at the thought.

“Yes, you get the picture. Have some cake, sweetie.

“So Mistress Baines got Camille back home and tried to sort her out. But Camille didn’t want to live anymore. Her body wouldn’t hold her up anymore, her mind didn’t want to think anymore. The last thing she did was curse herself and her family. No Endeline brunette would find rest until what was done wrong was set right. Then she simply closed her eyes and left.

“Ever since then those Endeline brunettes have been nothing but trouble. Every first born brunette was named Camille and every generation hoped this one would set things straight. But no one really knows how to do that. And those Camilles have been nothing but trouble. I remember our own Camille’s aunt. Ran off with some Quirrie motorcycle gang never to be seen again. This Camille is much like the first one. Hanging out in the city with the wrong sort of people, drinking spirits in the wrong sort of places and caring about nothing but herself. Mistress Baines brought that girl back hoping to whip some sense into her. But I don’t believe it’s doing much good.

“So that is why I want you to stay away from Lady Camille. She has a bad character and a great talent for not only getting herself in trouble but others too.”

“But why do these ghosts show themselves now? You said it meant things were getting worse.”

“Yes, that is usually how it goes. Guests report seeing ghosts and not long after Camille, any Camille, does something shockingly stupid. Running away mostly. It’s what the Endeline Camilles do, they run away and get themselves into trouble.”

Beatrice felt anger rise up from her stomach. “She lied to me.”

Miss May shrugged. “I’m sure she did, sweetie.”

Harriet

“Look!” Juniper came into the room waving a piece of paper at Harriet. “A card from Lady Endeline congratulating us on a wonderful and moving performance. It says so right here…Harriet? Are you all right?”

Harriet nodded. She sat in the widow and stared outside.

“Are you sure you are all right?” Juniper asked. “You still look dreadfully pale.”

“Yes.”

Juniper moved closer and put her head on Harriet’s shoulder. “You were the best Dido anyone ever saw. You had Lady Endeline herself in tears. You had me in tears. I felt so sorry for leaving you. Well, Aenea did.”

Harriet sighed.

“Harriet, what is wrong? You seem so different since the performance. I thought you would be happy, but you’re not. I’ve never seen you this way. Please tell me what’s wrong.”

“Oh, Juniper. I was having such a good time. I could barely stop myself from laughing over Beatrice in that bunny suit. But then when that final scene came, where Dido dies… I could feel it.”

“But that is very good! An actress must imagine herself to be the person she is playing. It showed in your performance, Harriet. You dazzled the audience.”

“No, you don’t understand. I could feel exactly what Dido must have felt. Aenea left her. The one she loved most had deserted her. I could hardly breathe. The realization that I would never see her again. That I would die without seeing her again. I was dying, Juniper.”

“Harriet, it was only a play.”

“Yes, yes, I know. It was a play during the rehearsals. It was a play right up to the end. And then it didn’t feel like a play anymore. I was Dido. Aenea had left me and I was dying… and I would never see her again.” Harriet wiped a tear from her cheek. “I can still feel it.”

“Oh, Harriet.” Juniper put her arms around her friend.

Harriet sobbed. “Why did Camille leave me, Juniper?”

“Who is Camille?

Lies

“Now, sweetie, I think it’s time for you to rest a little.”

“Yes, Miss May.”

“I’ll just take this tray back to the kitchen. You can put that extra pillow on the chair. Yes, that’s it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Yes, Miss May.”

As soon as Beatrice heard Miss May’s footsteps turn the corner to the stairs, she slipped out of bed and put on her uniform. She had trouble getting into her stockings, her hands shook with anger.

She lied to me.

She couldn’t find a brush or any ribbons so she left her hair loose. It didn’t really matter anyway.

She lied to me.

Beatrice rushed down the hallway past her own room in the direction of the library. She stopped in front of Lady Camille’s door. Beatrice entered without knocking. She found Lady Camille in her usual position, reclining on the chaise longue, cigarette in hand. Beatrice’s sudden entrance startled her. But the sudden look of shock quickly changed to worry.

“Darling! Oh darling! Are you all right? You scared us so.” She stood up and walked towards Beatrice.

Beatrice had thought of so many things to say but all she could utter now was “You lied to me.”

“What? What are you talking about? Doll face, won’t you sit down?”

Lady Camille touched Beatrice’s shoulder but the girls shook her hand away.

“No! I don’t want to sit down. You lied to me! Why did you lie to me?”

“Stop being such a refractory child. Sit down and tell me what’s wrong.”

“You told me it was just a dream! You made me think I was insane! And all along you could see them too. Miss May told me everything. About how Camille left Colette, about how you behaved so badly that Mistress Baines had to go and fetch you from the city. About you being a drunk and a liar!”

Lady Camille slapped Beatrice in her face. “Stop it! Stop it at once!” She looked at her hand in shock and took a few paces back.

Beatrice sank down on her knees. “Why? Why did you lie to me? I thought you were my friend!” Beatrice lost her fighting force and started crying. “I thought you were my friend.”

Lady Camille paced the room. “Oh no, no, no. Stop crying. Stop crying this instant. Brunettes look ugly when they cry.” She walked over to where Beatrice sat on the floor. “Beatrice, stop crying, do you hear me?” She picked the girl up by her shoulders and shook her. “Stop it! Stop being such a baby!”

“Why did you lie to me?”

Lady Camille put Beatrice down in the armchair.

“You want to know why. Didn’t Miss May tell you? I thought she told you everything. I lied because that is what I do. I am Camille. From the day I was born I was destined to be a drunk and a liar. I’m bad, Beatrice. You know why I am here, kept in this cage. Miss May told you all about it and now I am telling you: I’m bad.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Ha! You don’t believe me? You come stomping in here without knocking and start yelling at me! Throwing in my face that I’m a liar! You know I am. I’m incorrigible! Mistress Baines can cane me as much as she wants, it won’t do any good. Anyway, it will be over soon. It’s my destiny.” Lady Camille turned away from Beatrice and walked over to the window arms crossed.

“All you have to do is make right what was done wrong.”

Lady Camille chuckled. “Get out, Beatrice.”

“I don’t believe you are bad. You can make it right.”

Tears welled up in Lady Camille’s eyes.

“GET OUT!”

Helen Drummond

A car came racing through the gates. It swirled from left to right, running over a few rose bushes that adorned the way up to Endeline Towers. When it reached the house it turned right without losing any of its speed and drove up the lawn. With screeching brakes it came to a halt under Lady Camille’s window. The doors opened. From the passenger’s side a pale looking pette in a chauffeur’s uniform got out and ran behind a tree.

“Darling! Am I not a fabulous driver? I got the hang of it rather quickly, don’t you think?”

From the driver’s side the glamorous form of a tall blonde emerged. Her hair was platinum and her lips painted bright red. A fur coat hung casually from her shoulders. “Minnie, don’t be such a sissy.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Drummond. It shan’t happen again.”

“Do you suppose they mind very much that I parked here on the lawn? I’m sure the gardener can fix those rose bushes. Don’t you think, Minnie?”

The chauffeuse looked at the chaos her mistress had created. It was nothing out of the usual. She would have to talk to the housekeeper and see how much it was going to cost this time.

“I’m sure they can fix it, ma’am.”

“Good!”

Two floors above a window opened.

“Helen!”

“Oh! Yoo-hoo! Camille! I’ve come to save you, darling! I drove here myself. Am I not heroic?”

“Helen! You have no idea how glad I am to see you.”

The blonde brought her gloved hand to her hair and touched it lightly. “Well, of course you are, sweetie. But how ghastly you look. Such great words about country air being good for a pette. I never believed a word of it. Now, do come down, darling. I know it’s still early morning, but I need a drink. I saw a quaint little establishment not far from here. They serve martinis there, surely.”

Lady Camille looked at her clock. It was 3 pm. She smiled brightly.

“If they don’t serve martinis there we’ll drive until we find a place where they do.”

The blonde turned and walked around the car. She almost fell over as her heel sagged into the lawn.

“Careful, Helen!”

“Really, darling, do come down. I’ve seen enough of the country for one day.”

Lady Camille blew a kiss and closed the window.

“Oh, Lady Camille. You are not really leaving, are you?”

“Yes, I am, Lena. I’m sorry, poppet, but there is nothing here for me.”

“Please, milady, don’t go. You are needed here.”

“It cannot be helped, Lena. This is who I am.”

“But the story says…”

“I don’t care what the story says. Let the next Camille solve the Endeline problems. I can’t do it.”

“Lady Camille…”

“Rayati, Lena, you’ve been a doll.”

Leaving

“I say Beatrice, isn’t that your aunt?” Diana looked out of the window.

“My aunt?”

“Yes, Helen Drummond.”

Beatrice’s gaze followed the direction Diana’s finger pointed. “Oh no! She’s leaving!”

“Leaving?”

“Lady Camille is leaving.” Beatrice ran out of the room.

“Darling! Yoo-hoo! Hurry, sweetie. I’m thirsty.”

Lady Camille grinned as she walked towards the car.

“Minnie. Minnie?” Helen Drummond waved her chauffeuse over.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Perhaps it’s best you drive, darling. Don’t look so relieved. I think I did pretty well on our way here.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Lady Camille!” Beatrice came running from the front door. “Lady Camille!”

“Who is that girl, Camille? A new toy? Isn’t she a bit young? Oh, such an adorable uniform. And a brunette? Ah, but she’s cute. Is she coming too?” Helen Drummond waved at Beatrice.

“No, she’s not coming.”

“Oh. Oh, I see. Well, let’s go then.”

Lady Camille sighed. “Go back inside, Beatrice!”

“No! You cannot leave!”

“We talked about this yesterday.”

“You have to stay!”

“No, Beatrice, I don’t have to stay. I’m going back home with Helen. Don’t worry, this Camille won’t disturb anyone or anything at Endeline Towers anymore. I’ll just go and disappear. It’s best for everyone.”

Lady Camille turned around to walk away but Beatrice ran over, grabbed her legs and held on tight. “Don’t leave me.”

“Beatrice, let go of me. I’m not leaving you, I’m leaving Endeline Towers.”

“Same thing! It’s what you always do. When things get tough Camille runs away. Don’t run away this time.”

Lady Camille looked down into Beatrice’s face. She caressed the girl’s cheek. “I’m sorry I hit you.”

“You were allowed to hit me. I behaved badly.”

“I hit you in anger. Will you forgive me?”

Helen Drummond tapped her long fingers on the roof of her car. “I say, Camille, can you wrap this little scene up? I’m dying for a drink.”

“Please stay. You can end this. Just stay.”

“You don’t understand, Beatrice. I can’t do this. I don’t know how to get rid of this curse. So many before me tried and failed. I’m just going to be another one of those.”

“They didn’t try! They failed because they didn’t try. How do you know you will fail if you don’t stay to try?”

“I…er..”

“Yoo-hoo! Darling! Martinis? Oh, and there is this powder room issue I’d like to solve soon too. Get in the car Camille.”

“Please try!”

Beatrice felt a familiar headache coming up. From the corner of her eye she saw the figure of a tall and slim brunette approach.

“Camille! I’m leaving!”

“Oh, shut up, Helen!”

Helen Drummond’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “Shut up?… Shut up? Who do you think you’re talking to? You wrote me a letter begging me to come and rescue you. I drove all the way from Milchford to get you out of this forsaken country house. And this is what you tell me? Shut up? That’s IT! Stay with your new pet. I wish you all the luck in the world. But next time a gambling debt has to be settled don’t come running to me. I’m done with you, Camille. Minnie! We’re leaving.”

Helen Drummond got in the car and slammed the door shut. Minnie backed the car back onto the path and drove away.

Staying

“Come, Beatrice.” Lady Camille pulled the girl back on her feet. “Let’s go back inside.”

“Do you see her?”

Lady Camille nodded. “I’m a bit nervous.”

Beatrice took the elder brunette’s hand. Together they walked towards the front door where Miss May, Mistress Baines and a group of pupils had gathered. The spirit of Camille followed closely. Girls moved aside to let them pass. Beatrice glanced back at Camille following them. She looked tense but hopeful, expectant. At the foot of the stairs they stopped. Lady Camille looked up. Lady Endeline stood at the top of the stairs and looked down at the couple.

“Camille, I thought you were leaving.”

“Most honored aunt. I should like to stay if you’ll permit it.”

Lady Endeline gave her niece a hesitant smile. “Certainly.”

Lady Camille looked at the spirit of her ancestor who now stood on her right. She nodded. Camille smiled brightly.

Lady Camille squeezed Beatrice’s hand and together with Camille they ascended the stairs. At the top they turned left into the blondes’ hallway. Lady Camille stopped in front of the first door and let go of Beatrice’s hand.

“This was her room.”

Beatrice nodded. “I know.”

“I’m scared. What will I say?”

“She will do the talking.”

The spirit of Camille looked questioningly at Lady Camille, asking permission. Lady Camille nodded and closed her eyes. Camille smiled and stepped into the body so like the one she had once owned. She took a deep breath and stepped back. She was slightly unstable.

“Are you all right?” Beatrice asked.

Camille looked at the young brunette. “Yes, it’s just… it has been a long time.” Camille looked at the door and then back at Beatrice. “Thank you, Beatrice Avery.”

Beatrice reverenced. Then Camille walked towards the door and opened it.

“Darling?” A soft, light voice came from the room. “Darling, what are you doing here? I thought you’d be on your way to court by now.”

“I was. But I’m staying with you.”

“What are you talking about? The queen is not going to like this much.”

“The queen will understand.”

“Are you sure? You will be back in winter.”

“I’m sure. I’m staying with you.”

Colette giggled. “You silly thing. All set on going and now you’re staying after all. Well, I’m glad, I shall not deny it. I’m glad you’re staying.”

Beatrice peeked around the corner and looked into the room. Colette sat up in bed, a pale and frail beauty. Camille sat on her knees beside the bed, holding Colette’s hands. She kissed them.

“I’m so sorry I left.”

“You are here now.”

They kissed.

Beatrice quickly closed her eyes and turned her attention to a particularly nice vase in the hallway.

Not long after Lady Camille came out of the room and closed the door. She took Beatrice’s hand. “All right, doll face?”

Beatrice beamed. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Let’s go and see if Miss May has something to eat.”

Together they walked down the stairs in the direction of the kitchens.

“I say, you never told me how such a cute little Arcadian pette came to be a pupil at Avendale in Trent. You’d best tell me all about it over a nice cup of rose tea.”

“Yes, Lady Camille”

“Lady Camille?” Lena curtseyed.

“Yes, Lena?”

“Mistress Baines sent me to tell you that under the circumstances your appointment for this afternoon will be canceled. But she would like to make sure you understand she still expects to see you tomorrow at the regular time.”

Lady Camille sighed. “Oh, very well. Lena, be a doll and fetch me my cigarettes. I’m dying for a smoke.”

2 Comments »

  1. This is delightful! The romance of the ghosts was beautiful, all of the characters were believable and fun (especially Juniper). I thought this was absolutely marvelous!

    Comment by T.Q. — March 13, 2013 @ 2:30 am

  2. A truly charming story, interwoven with a delightful supernatural mystery. Unfortunately, I find the ending rather sad, and I do not like the idea of Lady Camille – who is not a bad person of her own making – being regularly chastised by Miss Baines, who seems rather a “battle axe” : can’t something be done to stop this?
    I agree with Sushuri Chei, (especially gratuitous) corporal punishment is a thing of the past – as it should be.

    Comment by jonathan — March 17, 2015 @ 4:28 am

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