Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Manor on the Moor: A Letter in the Gothic Style: Letter the First

A letter in the Gothic Style.
To Miss E. Notingham
23rd August 18—

MY Dearest Sister,

What a rare moment is this when, in my solitary rambles across the countryside, I occasionally have the pleasure of addressing you in a confidential letter! I trust you enjoy the quiet pleasures of home as you have always done. Though my heart is, as well you know, steeled with a Lion Strength, I must admit to you, my sweet sister that the experiences of the past twenty-four hours have stirred within my breast such Convulsions and Terrors that I shudder to recall. So great are these Horrors that they surpass anything one might encounter in the most horrid of Modern Novels. I shrink back from describing such things to one as gentle as you, my dear E— yet share them I must, for I fear that even my hearty Constitution will not long withstand the concealment.

Last night was tempestuous; black clouds rolled across the sky and I felt myself shrink somewhat. For my carriage, bound for Wales, had stopped at the edge of a chilling moor, shrouded in mist, which seemed to have appeared out of nowhere in the darkness. The horses and likewise their driver refused to cross the moorland. Finding myself obliged to seek out shelter for the night, I alighted from the carriage and perceived a single, glimmering light across the wasteland. There being no other buildings in sight I quickly made the decision to follow the light. In my coachman I was disappointed however; for when I insisted that the rascal follow me in the pursuit of the beam of light he refused, claiming that the light belonged to a bog-goblin who lay in wait to drag travellers into the mud. Perceiving, however, that the light was constant and at such a height as suggested the shape of a large house or manor, I could not persuade the man to follow. As the rain and wind grew ever more oppressive I at length resolved to leave the coach and set out on my own.

I set off at a fair pace, but it was slow, for I had but one of the coach’s lanterns to guide me, and I was quickly surrounded by a chilling mist. I quickly realised my own folly. In our country, dearest E—, there are no such things as marshes and I trust my sister need never encounter such a twisted and perilous landscape. I made little progress, for the light appeared as far away as ever. Suddenly there appeared before me an uncloaked figure, with all the appearance of having been made out of mist. Beckoning to me in the darkness, the figure (and I perceived by the shape of her garments that she was a Lady) began to weave her way towards the distant speck of light. I held up my lantern to better recognise the figure, but she evaded the lamplight as if the darkness was cloaking her. I followed…

…I cannot say, in that moment, or even now, my dear E—, what it was in that figure which induced me to follow it. I can only surmise that cold, and hunger, and fatigue, hurried me on until I was not able to resist it. I followed behind that lady silently, and at length came upon a gate, rusted and creaking. We had ascended a small hill and the lady trudged across it. In the moonlight I could make out the shape of a once-magnificent house outlined against the night sky. As I stepped over the boundary of the gate, the whole marshland seemed to come alive in a flood of light. Lanterns – those which can only be lit by a man, one at a time – were illuminated at once of their own accord. I was able to see the whole of the façade of what had once been a surely admirable manor. Now it was dilapidated, ruined. One sole light glimmered in the upper window of the building, and I believe it was this light which I had set out in search of. Drifting about the house were pale, ghostly figures. At least, I felt them to be ghostly. Perhaps in recollection I think of them as ghosts. At the time I told myself they were little more that shapes in the mist, illuminated by the moonlight; whatever they were, they kept a good distance from myself. As I turned to my companion I found I was alone; she had already escaped the light and was hiding in the shadows of the front door. I walked slowly across the expanse of muddy terrain to find myself before the great door. The knocker had fallen off, but the Lion’s mouth which had heretofore held it remained on the door, and, poised as it was, looked as though it would devour me whole. The woman pushed on the rotting wood of the door and it creaked open gently. As I stepped inside I saw the most astounding Sight I have ever seen in my life. As delicious a place as this is to break my narration, dearest E—, I fear I must; for my weary head is drooping and my hand is scarcely less tired. I will continue my narration in my next letter.

Until then, believe me to be
Your most affectionate, &c. &c.,

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