Legacy of Shadows #1 : Symphony of Terror

A Collinwood story.

Collinsport, Maine. 1927.

Elizabeth Collins sat at the foot of the stairs in the foyer of her ancestral home. Her eyes were on the grandfather clock on the other side of the room, watching its pendulum swing. It swung, and she waited. Elizabeth Collins did a lot of waiting. For a twelve-year-old girl growing up in a gloomy mansion with no one to play with but a spoiled 4-year-old brother, there was little else to do but wait. Wait for something to happen.

Beyond the front door, Elizabeth finally heard the sound of wheels splashing through rain puddles. She stood up and smoothed the creases from her skirts as the visitor's footsteps clicked up the pavement. The knock at the front door was light and quick, almost hesitant.

Elizabeth pulled the door open. The girl at the threshold was damp with rain and holding a battered suitcase. An older observer would have been taken with her fresh, innocent prettiness. What Elizabeth noticed was not youth or beauty but that she seemed doubtful and scared, like perhaps the doorway was a mouth and the house might swallow her up.

"Hello," Elizabeth said. Whatever the young woman had been expecting, she seemed relieved to have been greeted by a little girl instead. "Hello," she replied, a little breathless. "I'm Morganne Casey. I'm here to see Mr. Jamison Collins." She smiled a little. "You must be Elizabeth."

"Yes." Elizabeth answered. "My father's been expecting you. Please come in." The young woman brought her suitcase into the foyer and Elizabeth closed the door. "You may wait for him in the drawing room," Elizabeth continued, gesturing to indicate the room. "I'll have your things sent up to your quarters for you."

"Thank you," Morganne replied, a little overwhelmed. The little girl turned and left the room, closing double doors behind her. Morganne was left alone with her thoughts - wondering if the little girl would like her, wondering if she had made the right decision in taking this job, wondering if any of the strange rumors about this house were true. For a moment, standing at the front door just a moment before, she had had an almost overpowering desire to turn on her heel and run. And the little girl had sensed her trepidation - somehow Morganne knew this.

The double doors opened again and Jamison Collins swept into the room. Morganne had met him once before, when she interviewed for the position. But even if she had never met him, his carriage and manner clearly presented him as master of the house. "Mr. Collins," she greeted him, rising from the sofa.

"Miss Casey," he replied, taking her hand. "I understand you've met Elizabeth."

"Yes, she greeted me at the door. She has commendable manners."

Mr. Collins nodded. "She is the heir to the Collins estate. I have taken it upon myself to instruct her in certain matters. She is nearly as skilled in courteous reception of guests as I."

"If she takes to her academic studies even half as well, I think it shall be light work to tutor her."

"You will find out soon enough. Tonight you need only concern yourself with unpacking your things. I will have someone show you to your room."

The housemaid who brought Morganne upstairs was named Lucy McGregor. She was about the same age as Morganne, with a pretty, round face and a pouty mouth. Lucy carried herself with such an air of self-importance that, had she not been dressed in a maid's uniform, Morganne would have taken her as a Collins rather than a servant. Morganne thought that Lucy might offer to help unpack her things, but instead the maid stood by the door, her hand on her hip, and watched Morganne put her things away.

"Is this all you have?" Lucy asked, a note of distaste in her voice, as Morganne hung the last of her few dresses in the wardrobe.

"Yes, I brought just the one suitcase."

"You're not an orphan, are you?"

"An orphan?"

"You know, no parents." Lucy sounded impatient.

"I know what an orphan is!" Morganne replied, a little offended.

"I'm an orphan," the maid continued, taking no heed of the anger in Morganne's tone. "Seems like girls like me - with no family - often end up working for rich families like this. And you have so few things. So are you?"

"An orphan? No. I have a mother and father in Logansport." Her scant possessions were due in part to her family having little money, but Morganne saw no need to mention this to Lucy. She was instantly glad of the decision.

"Oh, Logansport," Lucy said, making a dismissive gesture. "I tried for a job there before I got this one, but I'm glad I didn't get it. That Mr. Logan, if he had half as much money as Mr. Collins has, he wouldn't know what to do with it!"

"I'm sure," Morganne replied, not knowing what to say.

"At any rate," Lucy continued, "it's a good thing for you, then, that you're not an orphan. Collinwood's no place for girls with no family."

"I don't understand you."

"If you've got no relations, there's no one to ask questions… if something should happen to you."

"Why should something happen?"

Lucy laughed. "Things happen here! Why, do you know about the governess before you?"

"Mr. Collins said she left suddenly."

Lucy giggled. "Spent maybe two months here, then picked up her skirts and ran! Left suddenly, I'll say!" Morganne was reminded of her desire to do the same, not half an hour ago, before she'd even come in. "And for every living person you'll meet who lives here," Lucy went on, "there's two or three more you can't see!"

"Are you talking about ghosts, Miss McGregor?" Morganne said sharply. "I don't believe in that sort of thing. And if you think it's such a bad place for an orphaned girl, why do you stay?"

"Oh, Mr. Collins likes me so much, he won't let those nasty ghosties get me!" Lucy laughed again, rather shrilly. For some reason she could not discern, Morganne felt uncomfortable.

"I'm quite tired after the journey," she said. Lucy took the hint and left the room.

Finally alone, Morganne took in her new surroundings. The bedroom seemed somehow grand and depressing at the same time. The furnishings were antiques, and though they were dust-free and in good repair they seemed like they had not been used in a long time. The carpet was slightly faded as though aged, though clearly the color was once rich. The whole room made Morganne think of a Queen who is nearing the end of her reign - old and tired, yet still regal and magnificent.

After undressing and putting out the light, Morganne got into her bed, with its lovely headboard made of dark wood and intricate carving. The rain she had traveled through had blossomed into a storm. Thunder rattled her window, flashes of lightning illuminated her room, and most of all, Lucy's strange warnings - if you could call them that - replayed themselves in Morganne's mind. It was a very long time before she was asleep.