(a work of
Its a fine thing to be young and in love and
setting off on an adventure, with no need for a plan or elaborate
arrangements. So my mother had said when Brent and I stopped by the
family farm to let the folks know we were heading out from our
native Iowa for a second honeymoon on the eastern seaboard. We would
rent a car when we arrived, and then leave the airports and cities
behind, taking in the sights of the ocean and the countryside, going
wherever the more rural roads might take us.
Mothers words came back to me with lovely
sweetness when I awoke this morning in a cozy seaside bed and
breakfast Powells Place. Our first afternoon of driving had
brought us here yesterday evening. I, Catherine Reynolds-Stevens,
Iowa farm girl, recently turned housewife, would now be an intrepid
explorer of the rugged northeastern coast, along with my dear
husband, who had been sweet enough to declare that I deserved this
second honeymoon, although our first was only a year ago. We awoke
in a comfortable old-fashioned four-poster, while big pink roses
peeked at us from the cheery wallpaper, seeming to shout, Good
morning! Good morning. A pleasant breeze wafted through the open
windows, as white lace curtains billowed back and forth to the
rhythm of the birds chirping their morning songs. The day did indeed
look promising. I closed my eyes, the better to impress it all into
memory, and snuggled closer to Brent. I was always so very content
in the arms of this man, whom I loved with my whole heart. My
Cathy, he murmured. My wife, my love.
The day could not have begun more perfectly, and
as we headed down to breakfast, I couldnt help but exclaim over our
good fortune. The Powells, an attentive older couple who ran the
place, served us a hearty breakfast as we sat at one of the tables
on a large porch attached to the old Victorian house. Our table was
situated so that the ocean was in perfect view, sparkling a very
brilliant blue-green. The sun shone upon us with a welcome blessing.
We clicked our coffee cups together for a toast, and smiled into
each others eyes.
Perfect, I exclaimed again.
Mr. Powell, heading our way with the coffee pot,
startled me with his response. Funny thing about perfection, he
said in a gravelly voice. It isnt meant to last.
Now George, his wife said sternly. What a
thing to say. Cant you see theyre young and in love?
Funny thing about youth, the old man
muttered, as his wife shooed him back inside the house. Another
thing that isnt meant to last.
Now, dont you kids mind him a bit, Mrs.
Powell said with a smile. Hes just an old sea biscuit whos been
steeped too long in our local lore. Along about this time of year,
an old fishermans yarn about youth and beauty starts weighing on
We suppressed our giggles until both of the
Powells were safely out of sight, and then got down to the business
of planning the days drive from the bed and breakfast at Middlebury
northward to places even less populated along the rocky coast. The
Powells had described a little fishing village we would find, about
a half a days drive away, and it sounded like our kind of
Soon, with the adventurous spirit of two young
explorers, we were in the car and on our way. The morning drive was
as beautiful, leisurely and enjoyable as we expected, and we arrived
at the quaint little seaside village of Logansport enthusiastic and
hungry. We found the perfect place for lunch a restaurant called
The Pilot House, decorated with a nautical theme and set right by a
dock where we could see boats of every kind. Like a happy teenager,
Brent gave me a thumbs-up and that special smile of his. Seafood
seemed the appropriate thing to order, so he had the fish special of
the day and I decided on some tasty shrimp.
We were so absorbed in conversation that at
first we didnt notice the darkening skies outside. But when we took
leave of The Pilot House, it was quite obvious that our sunny day
had gone cloudy on us. As we got into the car to continue our trek,
a sudden cold chill ran through me…a chill that went to my very
bones! Brent, ever aware of my feelings, noticed immediately.
Cathy! Whats the matter? Are you
Not wanting to put a damper on our day, I lied.
Yes, of course. It was just a chill. Gee, I hope Im not coming
down with a cold or something. I would really hate to spoil our
Oh, you wont spoil our trip, honey. Its just
that you were expecting the sunshine, and then it has to go and get
cloudy. But we wont let that bother us in the least! Hey, girl,
here we are on the East Coast, he said as he planted a kiss on my
cheek. Just like we planned. He smiled that beautiful smile that
made me fall in love with him all over again, and I felt
But as we left the village of Logansport, the
skies seemed to be getting even darker, and so too did my usual
feelings of cheerfulness. The day that had started so perfectly
seemed to be spiraling downward as we drove farther north.
From the window of the car, I could see the
ocean churning. Seagulls flew overhead, and lightning flashed in the
distance. As Brent kept driving ever northward on this winding road,
which made its twists and turns along the seaside, there seemed no
longer to be even a trace of civilization in sight. The ocean, which
had been so sparkling blue earlier in the day, was now greyish green
and turbulent. It appeared to be foaming at the mouth with each huge
wave that crashed to shore. Brilliant flashes of lightning lit up
the brooding sky off in the distance.
The day had certainly made a drastic change. I
was no longer charmed by the eastern seaboard. Now I was afraid.
What in the world is the matter with me? I thought. This was not
like me at all. I never allowed weather to affect me...in fact, I
rather enjoyed a good thunderstorm now and then. So whats the
problem, girl? Straighten yourself out now!
But try as I might, the overwhelming feeling of
something unnamable trickled over me as though someone were pouring
a vile evil concoction into my very soul. I must have looked as
grey-green as the roaring ocean, foaming and crashing alongside
Maybe we should stop at the next roadside inn,
and check in so you can rest. What do you think?
Nah, Brent! We can do that later. Lets just
keep driving and enjoying the scenery. Im okay. Really I
Okay, hon, whatever you say. Onward we will
go. There was that winning smile again. The man was just adorable,
and I felt foolish to make him worry so.
I wanted this second honeymoon to be as lovely
as our first. And so I affirmed silently, I will not get sick! I
will not get sick!
The afternoon sky was really getting dark now.
The coming storm was mimicking dusk, which really wasnt that far
away. Thunder gave a little roar in the distance, every now and
I had been successful in bluffing Brent about
how I really felt so we could keep
moving on, but minutes later I regretted that I had. It suddenly
seemed so lonely, with nothing in sight but an endless, dark,
serpentine road by the sea a sea that was getting wilder by the
minute. Where had the seaside summerhouses gone? The dogs? The
horses wed noticed earlier? We should at least see a deer or a
rabbit or a squirrel... It seemed to me now that we were the
only two people in the world. Even with Brent by my side, an
incredible despair crept over me. How many miles had we come since
leaving the little resort where we had lunch? It seemed we had been
driving for hours.
Do you have a roadmap? Id kinda like to know
where we are.
Catherine, we were going to play this by ear,
remember? Just drive along and stay wherever we wind up when
darkness sets in.
Yes, I know. But do you have a map?
No, Cathy. Im sorry. I didnt think we were
going to need one.
Of course, he could tell it was not okay.
Tell you what. Im going to stop at the very next motel or roadside inn that we
come to, and well settle in for the night. How does that
Oh Brent, that sounds wonderful!
The flashes of lightning were becoming more
frequent and the thunder roared almost continuously now. The ocean
waves looked fearsome, like giant green fingers reaching out to grab
us. Then came the downpour. Sheets of rain driving so hard that we
couldnt see out the windshield anymore. Brent pulled the car over
to the side of the road.
Cathy, as soon as the rain lets up and I can
see my way again, Im going to turn around and head back toward the
little village where we had lunch. Logansport, wasnt it?
Theres nothing up here that would indicate
well be coming to an inn anytime soon. There arent even any road
signs. So its back to Logansport well go. Does that sound like a
plan to you?
Oh, Brent, it does.
In spite of the storm and the ominous feelings I
had been experiencing, I felt reassured for the first time in
hours…reassured that we would finally be escaping some unknown
bogeyman. Brent turned the engine off and held me tight as the winds
came up and the blinding rain came down in torrents. The car rocked
back and forth like some jerking carnival ride, the lightning
flashed, the thunder crashed, and the ocean waves kept up their
threat, like some ravenous monster eager to devour us.
I really dont know how long we held each other
or how long the storm kept up. I only know that suddenly it
stopped, and all was silent.
Once again Brent gave me that adoring smile of
his. Well, hon, we rode this thing out like troupers, didnt
Oh Brent, Im so glad we have each other. I
couldnt have gone through that all by myself!
Sure you could have, Cathy, but Im glad you
didnt have to. Now Im gonna turn this thing around and start
heading the other way. The village is probably a couple of hours
away yet, but at least we know its there, and we dont know what in heck is up that way, he said,
gesturing toward the north.
He turned the key in the ignition. Not a sound.
He tried again. Nothing. What the heck? he muttered, with a
puzzled look. I tried to match his puzzled look, but I probably only
managed to look frightened.
Dont get discouraged, he said. Im going to
look under the hood. It cant be anything serious. He got out,
lifted the hood of the car, and appeared to be giving everything a
thorough inspection. Then the hood banged down, and Brent got back
into the car.
Strange, but I cant see anything wrong, he
said. Im going to try it again. But again he turned the ignition
key and again got no response. Now he looked rather helpless as he
gently tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and stared out the
Suddenly, his face perked up. Look, Cathy! he
shouted. He was pointing northward, toward a glow in the still dark
and cloudy sky. There must be a house up there!
I saw it too, but to me it looked more eerie
Cath! That means we cant be too far from a
telephone. Lets go and find out.
As much as I didnt want to be stuck out in the
middle of nowhere, I wasnt sure I wanted to investigate where the
glow was coming from, either. I let out a big sigh.
Come on, honey, he said. Itll be all right.
Country folks are friendly. With a phone call, well be out of this
mess in no time.
Reluctantly, I got out of the car and started
walking down the road alongside Brent, into the damp misty haze.
Rounding a bend in the road, we beheld a sight straight out of some
gothic horror film. We both took in a deep breath.
Wow, Cathy! Would you look at that! Perched
upon a high bluff partially hidden in the mist was a huge old
mansion, resembling a castle with towers and turrets. The glow we
had seen was coming from some windows on the ground floor, but it
didnt look like the glow of any electric lights Id ever
Brent! I said breathlessly as I grabbed his
arm tightly. That same feeling of apprehension, that chill, that
dread which I had felt earlier, came over me again, only this time,
the feeling totally overwhelmed me! Im not sure I want to go any
Cathy, this is the only sign of civilization
weve seen anywhere for miles. If were going to get any help, this
is the place. Now brave up, girl. Remember Im with you.
Everythings gonna be all right.
My darling Brent. I did love him so very much
and always felt completely safe with him. So in spite of the dread I
was feeling, and against my better judgment, I smiled, tried to
brave up as he suggested, and agreed to go on.
We started walking up the hill toward the big
house, which looked spooky and surreal in the early evening mist. My
legs did not want to move. But move I did, even though every step
was an effort. We went through an iron gate and up some stone steps.
When we finally reached the front door, we could see CANTERBURY
MANOR elaborately carved in wood, just above it. Brent lifted the
ornate knocker and knocked.
A dignified-looking old gentleman with white
hair and gnarled white eyebrows opened the door, dressed in a black
suit and tie. His face and hair were illuminated by a lighted
candelabra he held in his hand. Perfect! I thought. Direct from
the casting department! Just what I need to add to my
Yes? May I help you? he asked in a voice that
had a bit of a British accent and sounded far more gentle than I was
I hope you can. Im Brent Stevens and this is
my wife, Cathy. Weve got a little problem, and I was wondering if
you might let us use your phone. You see, we were heading north on
the road out there when our car broke down, and I cant seem to
figure out whats wrong with it, so I thought maybe I
Come in, come in, the old man said, before
Brent could finish. You dont want to catch your death of cold out
there in the dampness.
We followed him through the double doors and
into a spacious entryway right out of another century. Again, I was
struck by the feeling that I had happened into a lavish movie set
designed to evoke times past, with breathtaking results! From the
ceiling hung a huge crystal chandelier, glittering brilliantly with
more candles than I could count. It was not an electric chandelier,
but one aglow with innumerable flames. A wide staircase led up to a
Come this way, if you please, he said,
leading us into another room just off the main entryway. Please
make yourselves comfortable. He motioned toward a sofa facing a
huge fireplace. You seem to have gotten a bit damp out there. The
fire here will dry you out and warm your bones.
Brent and I sat down, grateful for the warmth.
Directly above the mantle hung a painting of a strikingly beautiful
young woman dressed in a white flowing gown, with long black hair
cascading down her back. Whoa...wouldja look at that! I whispered
As the old man placed the candelabra on a nearby
table, I looked around the richly furnished room, not believing my
eyes. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves flanked the hearth on either
side. Statuary, huge flower-filled vases, and large mirrors in
ornate gilt frames were placed around the candle-lit room in a
fashion that gave the eyes a most pleasant visual treat! A musical
instrument with a keyboard, resembling a harpsichord, stood in the
Im afraid I cant help you folks with a
telephone, the old man said, walking away from the table where hed
placed the candelabra. You see, we have none here.
Brent looked as though he couldnt believe his
ears, and me? I was certain that wed stumbled onto the set of a
Miss Elizabeth prefers it that way. Nor do we
have electricity, as youve probably noticed.
As a matter of fact, I did, Brent said. But
I thought maybe the storm took it out.
My, my, no, the old man said. Miss Elizabeth
likes to keep things as in the past, as much as possible. We dont
allow such inventions here. We dont need them.
Brent and I looked at each other in disbelief.
No phone, huh? Brent said.
No phone, sir, he answered. But Im sure
Miss Elizabeth would most certainly want to offer her hospitality
and invite the two of you to stay here until morning. By then, your
car might possibly be operating again. Perhaps the rain soaked
something it shouldnt have.
That is most kind of you, sir, Brent said as
he looked at me, trying to read my face, which Im sure had to look
drained, white and emotionless. He could only have drawn a blank
By the way, you may call me James, said the
old man. I am the butler here. We also have a cook, a maid, and a
Whoa! exclaimed Brent. Dont you find it
just a bit primitive caring for a place like this with no modern
Not at all, sir! Now if youll excuse me, Ill
inform Miss Elizabeth that we have guests. She is resting in her
room at the moment.
No! No need to do that, James! Brent
protested. Please dont disturb her. Were not really guests. Not
in the true sense of the word. Were just some strangers who came
barging in out of nowhere.
Oh, but Im sure she would want to come down
and welcome you. She is probably awake now, anyway. This is about
the time that she usually awakens from her afternoon siesta, as she
likes to call it.
James hastily exited, and we could hear his
footsteps on the staircase as he went ...to fetch Miss Elizabeth,
Brent mouthed to me. We looked at each other and both giggled.
I cant wait to see Miss Elizabeth, I
Me neither, said Brent. Lets see...shell
be mousy, prim, proper, middle-aged...
With glasses and a granny bun, I added.
For the first time in hours, I felt a certain
gaiety. Maybe staying here overnight wouldnt be so bad, after all.
It was certainly a beautiful place, if not as cozy as the bed and
breakfast where we had stayed the night before.
Then with a more serious look, Brent asked, So
what do you say, Cathy? This offer of hospitality couldnt have
turned up at a better time! Id say its a heck of a lot better than
staying in the car.
Well, Brent, I sighed, as you know, when I
first saw this spooky-looking place, I didnt even want to come to
the door, let alone stay overnight here. But after giving it a
closer look, it doesnt appear to be that creepy after all...outside
of the weirdness of no electricity or phone, that is. James seems a
very friendly sort, and probably ‘Miss Elizabeth is too.
Then youll stay? Brent asked.
If ‘Miss Elizabeth asks, I answered in a
light mood, which felt good after an afternoon of trying to fight
off the dark clouds that had been surrounding me.
We heard footsteps and looked up to see James
walking in with a young woman who was an exact duplicate of the
young woman in the painting hanging over the fireplace, right down
to the flowing white gown. She was stunning! And oddly, for all her
preference for old things, she was seemed even younger than we were,
appearing to be barely out of her teens.
Hello, she said with a friendly smile. Im
Brent immediately got to his feet, rather
clumsily, I thought, which was unusual for him. How do you do, Miss
Bradford. Im...Im...Brent Stevens and this...this is my
Cathy! I said, and nodded a hello.
Yes, I know, she said. James has been
telling me all about you and your plight. Im really sorry to hear
about your trouble, Mr. Stevens, but I want you to know that James
was correct when he told you that Id insist you both stay here the
night, and before you say anything, I want you to know that I wont
take no for an answer.
Th-thank you, Miss Bradford, a still
wide-eyed Brent said, a little breathlessly. Ah...Cathy and I here,
were...ah...just...ah…discussing that possibility, maam, wh-when
you came in, and we both think that it is extremely kind of you to
give us shelter on a night like this, when otherwise wed have
nowhere else to go... The words came tumbling out of his mouth like
those of a silly nervous schoolboy, so discombobulated was he by her
strikingly attractive appearance!
Seeing Brents fascination with her youthful
beauty, Elizabeth took on a new radiance that made her even more
gorgeous...if such a thing were possible.
By all means then. You are staying. James, go
and prepare a room for our guests.
Yes, Miss Elizabeth. Right away.
Wait a moment! Elizabeth said. Before you
go, please bring some hot tea for our guests.
I thought tea sounded great, and it was good
manners alone that kept me from shouting out how hungry I was. Our
last meal had been quite a few hours ago. Tea sounds perfectly
wonderful, Miss Bradford, I said.
Yes, it does, said Brent, having regained
Very well then, James, our guests would like
some hot tea.
Yes, Maam, the butler replied.
You have a beautiful face, ah, place here,
Miss Bradford, Brent said, after James left the room.
Its been here more than a century, Elizabeth
said, giving my husband a rather alluring look. My ancestors were
How interesting, Brent said. Do you live
Yes! Quite alone, she said, easing herself
gracefully into a wing chair by the fireplace. Except for James,
whom I absolutely could not do without. And then theres Esmerelda
our cook, Ellen the maid, and Sheffield the caretaker. She
hesitated a moment, and then went on. I am very content here, Mr.
Stevens. We have beautiful gardens, a library full of wonderful
books, and a pianoforte when I am moved to play music. She was
truly a vision of loveliness, sitting there by the fireplace,
looking as though she had just stepped out of that painting. No
wonder poor Brent lost it at the sight of her.
Tea is here, maam, said James, walking in
with a tray that held a lovely china teapot and three matching
Ah, James, you are very efficient, as usual,
Shall I pour, Maam? he asked.
No, thank you, James. I will pour.
James placed the tray on a low table in front on
the sofa where we sat, and Elizabeth picked up the teapot, poured
tea into one of the delicate cups and handed it to me. Mrs.
Stevens, she said.
Thank you, I replied as I took the
She poured a second cup and handed it to Brent.
Taking the cup, he thanked her, and then she
poured herself a cup. The tea was good, but very hot, and Brent and
I sipped ours slowly. Elizabeth left her own cup untouched.
Miss Bradford, I dont think Ive ever tasted
this particular flavor of tea, I said.
Its a very special tea that we have imported
from a very special place, she said quite seriously.
And where might that be? asked Brent.
Oh, now, if I told you, it wouldnt be special
anymore, would it? she said, fluttering her dark eyelashes at him.
I could not believe such brazen flirting, right before my
I suppose not, Brent said, and took another
In spite of her ravishing beauty, I did not
consider Elizabeth a threat. In fact, I felt more pity for her than
envy. Here was an eccentric creature with great beauty, but she was
doubtless a recluse, living her life in the past, as though it were
a century ago. A gal with some of the cups missing out of her
cupboard thats what my mom would say.
I noticed a big yawn come over Brent. Poor guy.
Hes got to be terribly tired, I thought. I was feeling just a bit
on the tired side myself. As I continued to drink the unusual but
flavorful tea, I found myself stifling a yawn, realizing just how
contagious yawns could be. Then suddenly I found myself very sleepy,
and was hoping that I wouldnt embarrass myself by falling asleep
right there on Miss Elizabeths couch.
Brent, I said, intending to suggest an early
retirement to our room, since I wasnt sure how much longer I could
Looking to see why he didnt answer, I was
startled to find that he had fallen asleep. Must make my apologies
to Elizabeth, I thought, and turned her way. For a moment I wasnt
sure if I was looking at her or at the painting, so still she sat,
with a smile that seemed not quite real. Then I saw two of
her...then there were three. I...I... I struggled to speak as
everything started turning black. My last thought was that we were
going to embarrass ourselves after all by falling asleep right there
on her couch...just too, too, tired...
As I awakened, I couldnt make out a thing,
because there was nothing but total darkness surrounding me. Where
was I? My head was throbbing. Where was Brent? Panic seized
Cathy, are you awake? It was a whisper that
came from Brent, whom I could finally make out, lying beside me. We
appeared to be on a bed. I pressed my hands against my head, which
would not stop throbbing.
Yes, Brent, Im awake! Where are we? What
happened? I asked. I felt so groggy.
Honey, I dont know. I just woke up myself.
Apparently, we are in a room at Canterbury Manor, but I sure dont
remember coming here.
I dont either, I said. The last I remember,
we were sitting on a couch talking with that woman.
Same here, Cath.
We must have been totally exhausted, to have
fallen asleep there, I said. How do you suppose we got here, in
Cathy, Ive been asking myself the same
question, and I cant come up with anything that makes any
I wish we could turn on a light, I said, but
if I recall correctly, there is no electricity here, right?
Right. Im going to get up and find the
entrance to this room. There may be some lighted candles in the
In the darkness, which we were adjusting to, I
could make out Brent feeling his way around the room to find the
Found it, Cathy! he said.
Except...it seems to be locked.
Why would it be locked, Brent? Were guests
here, not prisoners, I said in jest.
I dont know, Cathy, but it is. Hey, theres a
window over there.
He was right. Moonlight was filtering through a
many-paned window, casting little diamond-shaped patterns on the
floor. I ran to look out. There was a full moon just emerging from
behind some clouds, and directly below us was the ocean, its giant
waves crashing against the rocky shore.
Still half-joking, I said, Well, it looks like
using this window for escape is out of the question.
Brent was still at the door. Cathy, this is
seriously locked, and Im beginning to get a pretty uneasy feeling
Brent, what are you saying?
Im starting to think that maybe its locked
on purpose, and were guests here, whether we want to be or
This was like some nightmare. I should have
heeded those uneasy feelings I had coming up here. Are you
Im serious honey, but that doesnt mean the
situation is serious, he said.
What do you mean?
I mean there cant be much to be afraid of...a
young not-quite-right woman and her dedicated old manservant. Thats
all we ever saw, despite the talk of a cook and a caretaker. So
lets not let our imaginations run away with us.
Suddenly we heard footsteps in the hall,
followed by a loud knock at the door!
Id open that door for you, but it seems to be
locked, Brent said.
You must leave! came the urgent response. It
sounded like an old woman speaking.
Then we heard more footsteps and Elizabeths
voice. Aunt Molly, she said, you know you shouldnt be out
Then came an unearthly, blood-curdling cackle
that made my hair stand on end! Brent pulled me to him and put his
arms around me. I know he could feel my heart beating wildly!
A third voice spoke. Molly, Molly, what are we
going to do with you? It was James. It was naughty to leave your
room and disturb our guests. Whatever are they going to think? When
we heard the footsteps retreating, I sighed in relief and moved back
to sit on the edge of the bed.
Wow, Cathy! I dont know what to make of
that, my husband whispered, as he joined me there.
I dont either, I whimpered. But I dont
think Ive ever been so scared in my life.
He held me close and stroked my hair. Ill
admit this is all pretty weird honey, but I still dont think
theres any good reason to let it spook us. A couple of women and an
old man? Heck, they cant be all that dangerous. So Im going to ask
you to brave up again, while I think of a way to get us out of here.
I couldnt speak without my voice breaking, so I
nodded. A few moments passed in silence, and then we could hear
footsteps in the hall again, only this time they seemed to be
running. The lock clicked and the door flew open. Standing there
with a lighted candle in a candlestick was an old woman, her white
hair wildly disheveled, her wrinkled face marked by eerie shadows in
the flickering candlelight.
Oh my God, I thought, stifling a scream.
Its a witch! A hag! A crone! My skin crawled!
You must leave! she said. You must leave at
once! This is the night of the full-moon sacrifice, and you are in
Before we could comprehend what was happening,
Elizabeth suddenly appeared behind the old woman, grabbed the
candlestick from her, and ran into our room. She moved quickly
to the window, put the candle to the draperies and set them ablaze.
Brent leapt to his feet, grabbed me and moved toward the door, but
Elizabeth was quicker. Tossing the still-burning candle on the bed,
she pushed old Molly out the door and slipped out after her, pulling
the door shut behind her just before we could reach it. In the
burning room, we heard the lock slide shut.
The room began to fill with smoke.
On my God, Brent! What are we going to
He ran to the bed, beating at the flames with
his bare hands. Unbelievably, the door flew open once again. The old
woman had somehow outwitted the young.
Come, my children, the ancient lady said. I
must get you out of here. We cannot have another sacrifice to the
flames. She led us to the staircase, and from there we made a run
for it, running for our very lives...down the stairs, through the
ornate entryway and finally outside and down the stone steps. Only
then did we pause long enough to notice that the old woman hadnt
made it out with us.
Oh, Brent, we have to go back for her! She
saved our lives.
You wait here; Ill go back, he said, heading
back into the house.
I waited nervously for his return, willing him
to hurry with all my might. I could see the fire was spreading
throughout the mansion. I was terrified that hed be trapped.
Finally I saw him coming back out the door alone.
Lets get out of here, he said, running down
the stone steps to me. The old woman refuses to come. She says her
place is here, with Elizabeth, come what may. She says the outside
world doesnt exist for her at all. But with the way that fire is
spreading…their world is doomed. He shook his head, grabbed my
hand, and we raced off down the road.
The car was where we had left it, and we fell
against it, panting and trying to catch our breath.
The old one said the only thing that mattered
was for us to get away, Brent said. Cathy, lets hope and pray
this thing starts. We got in, he turned the key, and like magic it
As we headed back in a southerly direction, we
could see the sky glowing behind us, where Canterbury Manor stood.
We rode in silence, each lost in our own thoughts.
We arrived in Logansport at dawn. The Pilot
House was open. Open 24 hours for the tourist trade, no doubt. A
lone customer sat at the counter with a cup of coffee, reading a
newspaper. Brent and I took a table near the door. The waitress, a
girl of about 18, strolled over, coffee pot in hand. I asked her if
she knew of Canterbury Manor.
Cant say I do, maam, but Im not from around
here. I just work in this town during the summer.
The older man at the counter set down his paper
and turned around. Did I hear you say Canterbury Manor?
Yes, Brent answered. Yes, you did.
What about it? the man asked.
Well, Im afraid I have some bad news to tell
you about it. There was a fire there last night, and it quite likely
has burned to the ground.
The man picked up his coffee cup and came over
to our table. Say that again? he said.
My wife and I were up there last night when
the fire started, and we were lucky to get away with our lives.
There was no place around to report it, and Im afraid by now its
too late for any help. But as soon the sun comes up, which looks
like its not that far away, when the city offices open up, I will
make a report to the proper authorities.
Mind if I sit down here? the man
By all means, please do, Brent
Mister, the man said, after taking a sip of
his coffee, Canterbury Manor burned down a hundred years
Of course, youre kidding me, Brent said to
Im afraid Im not, he replied.
But we saw it there last night. We were inside
it. We were talking to people there.
I see, said the man. Then, turning to the
counter where the waitress was busying herself, he said, Melissa,
would you bring more coffee, please?
Be right there, Fred, she said and quickly
brought over a fresh pot and set it down on the table.
Fred took off his glasses. Mister, maybe it
wouldnt be a good idea to report that fire. And before you do any
protesting, youd better let me tell you about a story thats been
told by folks around these parts for quite awhile now.
Okay, Brent said. Lets hear it.
Well, in the first place, nobody around here
even goes near that place...that place where the old mansion stood.
Most folks say they get a real eerie feeling just being around that
place, and some swear that sometimes they see the sky all aglow at
night by where that mansion stood, just as if it were on fire again.
Course, its all talk. Just an old fishermans tale. But we got
lots of superstition around here.
Go on, Brent said. Tell us the talk.
See, three heiresses and their servants lived
up in that old mansion a long time ago. I know the story well. Most
people around here do. Their name was Bradford. Minerva, Jane
Brent and I took in a deep breath
simultaneously, with that bit of news.
Elizabeth was the youngest, and very
beautiful, they say. And she was also used to getting her own way.
It seems that the young Elizabeth was very stuck on herself and
suffered from a great fear of getting old and ugly. She thought
about this so much that one day, they say, the devil himself
materialized before her eyes with an offer. He told her he could
grant her eternal youth and beauty, even let her keep her servants
too but not without the necessary sacrifices.
Brent took my hand. Sacrifices?
Thats right. Human sacrifices. Two to seal
the bargain, and two more every 25 years thereafter, on into
eternity. They say her sisters were the first to be sacrificed, that
night 100 years ago, when the manor burned down.
Fred poured himself another cup of coffee and
stared out the door, studying the sky. Say, there was a full moon
last night, wasnt there? he said, and glanced at me.
I nodded, afraid to trust my voice.
So there was, he said. Stormy as it was, I
didnt see it myself. You know, they say thats when the old place
reappears on the bluff, every 25 years on a full-moon night, along
about this time of year. In fact, they say the manor is still there
in between times, but mortal folks just cant see it. And no one can
go in or out of it except at the appointed time, every
quarter-century, when the moon is full. Thats when Miss Elizabeth
gets her 24-hour opportunity to lure in a couple of folks to
sacrifice to the flames.
Fred paused, and gave us a long, hard look. Of
course, its a bunch of hooey, he finally said. But some folks
here really believe that story to be true.
A shiver ran through me.
Oh, whats the matter with me? he said,
putting his glasses back on with a smile. I nearly forgot to tell
you about Aunt Molly.
Aunt Molly, Brent said, staring down into his
coffee cup with a sad and worried frown.
Aunt Molly, said Fred. She lived there with
the girls, the story goes. Kinda daft, but clever in her own way
like that Mr. Dick character...you know, that friend of Betsy
Trotworth, in the book David Copperfield?
Well, they say Aunt Molly was on to
Elizabeths evil intentions from the very start. She tried in vain
to persuade Elizabeth not to go through with it, and Elizabeth, not
wanting any interference, kept her locked away in a room, claiming
that Aunt Molly was crazy. Fred raised his coffee cup in a kind of
salute, drank what was left and set it down decisively. Quite the
Quite the story, Brent agreed, giving my hand
Now, heres the kicker, the storyteller said.
You folks might like this part. See, the way they tell it is that
if Elizabeth is able to find two people to sacrifice during the
short time the house is visible, she goes on living, even though
veiled from the rest of the world, for another 25 years. Now if she
fails, the game is up. Canterbury Manor and its residents go down in
Brent took in a deep breath. Well, it looks
like she didnt make it this time, he said.
The two men shared a long, level look. Finally,
the older man leaned back in his chair, smiling a slow, knowing
smile. Its just an old fishermans tale anyway, he said. Even if
it was a full-moon night, 100 years hence.
Thats right, said Brent. Just a lot of old
He rose from his chair and smiled at me with
that same marvelous smile that always made me feel so fine. Come
on, Cathy, he said. Lets go home.