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Saturday, 29 January 2011

The landlord of 46 Cannyng Road was standing at the front of his palatial mansion. It was a cold, snowy winter's day. The snowflakes swirled around the large Bath-stone mansion. Jeffries was shoveling the snow away from the blacktop drive. He was feeling good; the mansion glowed with festive lights from the Christmas trees inside. He enjoyed the feeling of festive happiness that only a Friday afternoon before Christmas can bring.

Peter Jeffries was an affluent landlord and he was proud of the clients whom occupied his beautiful manor house. They were all successful young professional with good careers and plenty of money to splash around.

In the two basement flats there were two young, professional couples. There was a beautiful architect and her boyfriend in Flat No 1 and in Flat No 2 there was a high-flying people flow analyst and a financial advisor. He like the frisson of having young, successful beautiful people living in his house. Each window contained a little tableau of Christmas cheer and understated luxury. Jeffries, a retired, school master went by the nickname of wizard when he taught at the nearby prep school.

He had secretly been flattered by the name and was proud of his flamboyant silver locks which he regularly had coiffed and blue-rinsed at his local ladies hair salon.

The eccentric old man swept the snow into a big pile with a stiff broom. He worked hard shoveling and clearing the snow into a big pile. Not bad for an old man; he loved keeping his garden tidy and couldn't bear it when the garden became unkempt and was defiled by dog excrement and litter. He kicked at a random coke can and kicked it against the pile of snow. He decided to put it into a blue recycling bag, when he got back inside the manor house. Carrying the can he walked into the beautiful tiled hallway with its dark paneling and stained glass fanlight over the door.

On a mahogany sideboard in the hallway was a pile of mail; all of the tenants had to come and collect their letters from the hallway. He was relieved that no one was around to snoop on him.

He loved peace and solitude and did not really like sharing his home with strangers however well-heeled they were. Wizard put a plump well-moisturised hand through his luxuriant hair and looked at his still handsome face in the oval mirror which was on the wall. He noticed with irritation that the fluff was again building up on the hall floor. The cleaner hadn't been doing her job properly; the pleasant immigrant woman would cheerfully sing as she went about her work and never seemed to heed any directives from him the landlord.

Wizard went into his flat and saw with pleasure the plush, upholstered velvet armchairs their rich crimson colour and the red velvet curtains were suitably luxurious and spoke of an earlier more civilized age. He would have loved to have occupied this manor-house in the Victorian age; when there would have been a housekeeper, butler and a full staff of about ten people. The family would have lived in luxury in their apartments; their every need pandered to by subservient people.

There was a legend about this house about a young servant girl who had
be horribly murdered. Her name was Hettie. She was a pretty girl with lots of beautiful golden hair and large blue eyes. One of the male servants had fallen in love with her and he had one night gone down to her basement flat and had tried to force himself upon young Hetty. Legend has it that there were two long-drawn out piercing screams of "Help!" and "murder!". The screams had been blood-curdling and had pierced the silence of the house-hold in the dead of night. The butler Soames had gone to investigate where the screams had come from and had walked downstairs to the maids' quarters which were down a winding servant stair. He entered into the basement flat and noticed that two of the serving girls were not in their beds because they had been granted a few days of leave at Christmas to visit their families in Norfolk. He approached the third bedroom of young Hetty, who was a stunning beauty and had turned many a head both upstairs and downstairs. He pushed open the door and the room was bathed by candle light. Young Hetty was lying naked on her narrow iron-framed bed. She was naked except for one long grey woolen stocking which had been sent by her grandmother. Her grey servant dress and her pinny were neatly hanging up on a clothes hook on the wooden door.

She was naked apart from the one stocking on her left foot. The other stocking was around her slim neck. Young Jenkins the footman had gone into her chamber and begged her to take pity on him and be his wife. She had scorned him and laughed at his proposal. He had been so angry he had strangled her with her stocking and forced himself upon her and raped her. The man had taken his pleasure and then was so filled with remorse that he had hanged himself from the rafter with his tie. Poor Soames the Butler had seem the lovely Hetty lying naked strangled with her own stocking on her bed. Her ardent suitor had hung himself from a hook which was upon the paneling of the ceiling.

The scene was piteous and the poor girls few cheap belongings such as her ribbon and her hair brush and her worn out shoes looked obscene in the squalid, cold candle-lit room.

It was a night in December and the servants had started to gather holly to decorate the manor house. A piteous sprig of mistletoe was put behind a cheap, sentimental Delft plate. The plate had a picture of a little Dutch girl with clogs. It had been sent from the girls lover, Vincent from Eindhoven in Holland. She had hoped that one day she could be a farmer's wife in Utrecht and run her own dairy.

Vincent had come to Norfolk to help on her father's farm. She had been helping with the winnowing on the farm. At the merry-making in the barn they had drunk plenty of cider and eaten the delicious Gouda cheese that young Vincent had brought with him from Utrecht. He had given her a lovely diamond, engagement ring that had belonged to his grandmother. Hettie and Vincent were betrothed. She was only working as a chamber-maid to pay for her passage to Holland and to pay for her dowry and she had been collecting a bottom drawer of linen.

It is said that the ghosts of Hettie and Vincent visit 44 Cannyng Road every December 17th and try to take vengeance on those that had stolen their lives away. Sometimes it was said that you could hear Hettie's ghost scream piteously with a blood curdling scream. But that is only a legend but it was quite scary on a cold, snowy windy night in December in a lonely deserted house.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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