The House of Whispers by Laura Purcell
English | 2020 | Fantasy / Horror | ePUB | 3.0 MB
Laura Purcell is a writer, history fan and guinea pig lover living in Colchester. She is writing a series of novels about the women who loved (and hated!) the Hanoverian monarchs.
Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr. Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the disease in the caves beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.Forty years later, Hester arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralyzed and mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try to escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.
As we jerk to a halt, I hear a crack, feel it tingle in my back teeth. The silence that follows is deafening.
The man next to me clears his throat. ‘Most likely a sack of mail,’ he says unconvincingly.
I know it is not that.
Shouts outside. The other five passengers stare at one another. I alone lean forward and listen to the guard cursing up on the box.
His words ring like a summons, stirring something I presumed long dead.
The old feeling of purpose.
‘Let me out,’ I cry. ‘Move. For heaven’s sake, move!’
The hulking man barely shifts; I am obliged to climb over his legs and tug the door open. Cold air rushes in, burning my cheeks with its touch. I leap from the coach.
I land heavily on my knees, grazing them, narrowly avoiding a pile of dung. The tight knot of my reticule rubs against my wrist. Although it is only late afternoon, the yard is fearfully dark. Everything is flavoured with smoke and straw.
Our carriage is turned almost completely the wrong way, facing back towards the entrance of the yard. Thick black lines on the frosted cobbles show the pattern the wheels took as they hit the ice too fast. It is the guard’s fault – he did not apply the chains in time. The carriage lamps illuminate wisps of steam rising from the horses and beyond, inky spots of blood on the cobbles.
‘A surgeon!’ someone calls.
As I suspected, a passenger has toppled from the roof.
He retains consciousness; his eyelids flick and his lips splutter their pain. Yet no one approaches. A few ostlers stand in a semicircle, regarding him as if he is contagious.
I should mimic them. Leave it be until a surgeon arrives to assist the injured man. But I have already broken my resolution to stay inconspicuous by jumping out of the coach.
He releases a heartbreaking moan, and I know I cannot delay any longer.
Pushing past the ostlers, I drop to my knees beside the patient. The aspect is not a pretty one. His head is cracked at the hairline and hints of a meaty coral-coloured substance frill the wound. If I do not intervene, he will die for certain. Clamping a gloved hand either side of the break, I push it shut, speaking the words of comfort I have learnt by rote. Coppery blood hums beneath the stench of horses and woodsmoke.
‘Hush, now. I will help you.’
Nothing but a break can explain the angle of his right leg. I pray it is not an open one, for then he will lose the limb altogether. If, indeed, he survives the amputation.
Glancing up, I see that the guard and the coachman have dismounted. Three of the interior passengers have also ventured out to gape, but those travelling on the roof sit petrified. I cannot blame them. If I had seen this man tumble, I should be terrified of falling myself and sharing his fate.