Monday, November 14, 2016

The Dark Heart ~ Part 22

“You sound like you don’t believe in witches,” said Emberlyn.
“Oh, I do in a way,” said Jackson. “I have a pagan friend who calls herself a witch, and I respect that. But I also don’t expect her to be casting spells or riding on brooms.”
“Well, no,” said Emberlyn, “brooms are very uncomfortable.”
Jackson laughed. “I reckon they would be.”
He read a few more stones and noticed a whole cluster of stones had the same death date. “I wonder what happened here. All of these people died on the same day.”
“A fire,” said Emberlyn and Jackson thought he could hear a crack in her voice.
He looked at her with concern and she gave him a sad smile. She pointed to two of the headstones. “Victor and Constance Ashwood lived here with their three daughters. The oldest daughter was coming of age and they were looking for a suitable husband for her. They had to be very careful, because the family was extremely private. They needed a man who would both love their daughter and live a low-key lifestyle, no matter how much money he received as a dowry. As was the custom of the time, they threw a ball on Halloween night.”
“And all the most eligible bachelors were to attend,” said Jackson with a half-smile. “Just like all good fairy tales.”
Emberlyn sat before the graves and Jackson sat beside her.”
“I assure you that this is not a fairy tale, but yes gentlemen from far and wide came to the house to seek the hand of the eldest daughter, knowing they would inherit a great sum of money one day if chosen. Most of the people from the city came out as well. They were curious to see how the Ashwoods lived. They were not disappointed. The ball was the most elegant party most had ever seen and of course the daughter was the most desired dance partner. One gentlemen, and I’m using that word lightly, was obsessed with the eldest daughter. Throughout the ball he would scarcely let her dance with any of the other men. The daughter did not care for the man’s ways and tried numerous times to excuse herself from his company, but he was so persistent she had no other choice but to ask her father to make the man leave.”
Emberlyn gently traced the etching on Victor’s headstone. Jackson sat beside her.
“So Victor did what any father would do and had the man escorted out. The rest of the party went on without a hitch and soon the daughter found herself dancing with a young man who caught not only her eye, but her heart in a single moment. Of course, she had to share her time with the other suitors, but the young man and the daughter planned a late night walk after the ball where they could get to know each other better.”
Emberlyn gave Jackson a smile. “The other guests of the ball knew the daughter had already made her choice. It was evident in her behavior. They said she was practically glowing after her dances with the young man. After the party was over and everyone had gone to bed, the daughter slipped out to meet the young man. Little did she know, the gentleman who had been cast out of the party earlier had his mind set on revenge. While she walked with her young man, the gentleman chained the doors shut and set her family’s house on fire, killing her parents, sisters, and everyone who worked in the home.”
“That’s awful,” said Jackson. “What did the daughter do? Did they catch the guy?”
Emberlyn shrugged. “No one really knows. Some say a servant of the house survived the fire, because he was secretly keeping watch over the daughter on her late night walk and therefore out of the house as well when it burned and that the three of them ran off because the gentlemen told the townsfolk he had to set the house on fire because the Ashwoods were witches. Neither the daughter nor the servant were ever heard from again, but all the money mysteriously disappeared from the Ashwood’s accounts. There is no record of the gentleman being punished for arson and murder, but some rumor say he died a very slow, painful death after he fell into a large vat of boiling sugar at a candy factory.”
Jackson scrunched his face. “Well that is not the way I want to go. What an awful way to die.”
“So is being burned alive with your family, I’d guess,” said Emberlyn, softly.
They sat for a moment, letting the story sink in.
“You know,” said Jackson, breaking the silence. “I choose to believe something else.”
“Oh yeah?” asked Emberlyn, raising an eyebrow.
“I believe they all got out, the family and servants, everyone,” said Jackson. “Since they were witches, the fire gave them the opportunity to start a new life without anyone catching on to the fact that they don’t age.”
“Well aren’t you the romantic,” said Emberlyn.

“I just like happy endings,” said Jackson.

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