The Haunting of Longbourn by C. P. Odom

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The Haunting of Longbourn

C. P. Odom

Wednesday, October 27, 1813
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

“Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, sir,” Hill announced from the door to her master’s refuge. “Tea is being prepared.”

Mr. Bennet greeted his favourite daughter and her husband, and they took their seats on the small sofa in front of his desk. It was barely wide enough to seat the couple, but that was not a problem for them as they sat as close as they usually did.

Also as usual, their hands came together, and Lizzy squeezed Darcy’s hand and gave him the warm smile that revealed so much of their intimate attachment to each other. Mr. Bennet felt a pang; he had never experienced anything like it, even in the earliest stages of a marriage of more than twenty years.

That is what comes from marrying for lust instead of for the love I see before me, he thought. Not even Jane and Bingley can boast such an attachment. Theirs is more a relationship of comfort and serenity than fervency.

The couple now looked at Mr. Bennet expectantly since they had hastened their return to London following his urgent express. Their departure from Pemberley had been so swift that Darcy’s sister and her companion would come later, which was just as well. What he had to say was bizarre enough that it was only fit for adult ears.

Mr. Bennet sighed and began his explanation.


“Longbourn is haunted?!?”

Elizabeth’s stunned disbelief at her father’s words was palpable, and her glance at Darcy showed him to be just as dumbfounded. His reaction, however, had been to blank his face, much as he had done when he first came to Hertfordshire and she had formed her initial dislike of him.

But instead of a rebuke, as she might once have given before a full year of marriage had proven far more happy than she could have believed, she simply laid a hand on his arm and looked up at him. Rather startled, his eyes met hers and an unspoken message flashed between them.

“Sorry, dear,” he said, visibly shaking himself and returning her soft smile before turning back to her father. “It was just that what you said caught me by complete surprise, sir. It is seldom these days to hear of such supernatural things as hauntings.”

“I agree completely, but that is the word being used by my family,” Mr. Bennet said with a helpless shrug. “I cannot say anything one way or the other. The girls talked me into listening only once by the door to the room Lizzy and Jane shared for years. Nothing happened, but my female relations here at Longbourn are adamant that something not of this world…ah, ghosts or perhaps spirits…have come to dwell in that room since Lizzy and Jane departed. Not every night, they say, but many. Even Mary seems affected though she refuses to allow the subject to be raised in her presence, simply going upstairs to her room if it is mentioned. She refuses to believe in ghosts, but she does not deny the strangeness of these events.”

“I see,” Darcy said, smiling as Elizabeth’s hand squeezed his again. “Uh…what form do these…events take?”

“Mostly unexplained sounds, I am told. Footsteps, usually, the sounds of pacing back and forth inside the room along with some muttered voices at times. Uh…the voices seem to be partly in English but are mostly in what Kitty thinks is French. There is also the creaking of the beds and other unintelligible mutterings, as if someone was talking to himself as he paced. I am afraid neither of the girls will go near the room any longer, and my wife will not even climb the steps to that floor.”

“And the servants?” Elizabeth asked.

“Hill does her best to keep a lid on things, but even she has decided not to attempt cleaning your old room. She does heap scorn, however, on the idea of a haunting when she talks to the staff. Not that it seems to do much good.”

After several minutes of silence while they sipped their tea, Darcy put down his cup and leaned forward, his brows knit in thought.

“I note that you mention inexplicable happenings, sir, but you do not mention anything that sounds particularly menacing.”

“I had the same thought. Yes, there are none of the wails or screams or other alarming sounds such as are usually the grist of the stories told on Hallowe’en—which is, by the way, only a few days hence. I truly wish that you and Lizzy might stay a night or two and give me the benefit of your rational judgement.”

Elizabeth and Darcy looked at each other, and Elizabeth could easily see that her husband would vastly prefer to leave Longbourn problems at Longbourn to be solved or endured by those who lived there. But the look she gave him and his own knowledge that these supernatural events seemed centred in the room where she and Jane used to reside seemed to convince him. With a sigh to match that of Mr. Bennet, he agreed to stay a couple of days.

“Though I do have to say that I am certain the events you described will not recur,” he said. “But I see my wife wishes us to investigate, and I have learned enough in a year of marriage to realize that occasional adjustments in plans lead to a much more pleasant home life.”

Especially once the lights go out, Elizabeth thought happily, ducking her head to hide her smile as she squeezed her husband’s hand yet again…


Thursday, October 27, 1938
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

“Here is your usual room, Mr. Poirot,” Mrs. Collins said as she opened the door into the room on the top floor of Longbourn. “I do wish I had a room on a lower floor, but the house is completely full with those engineers surveying for the new aerodrome.”

“Ah, all is good, madam,” Poirot said, as he entered the clean, well-furnished room in the lodging house Mrs. Collins had managed since her husband fell in the Battle of Ypres during the Great War.

“Though I must warn you of a certain degree of muttering about strange sounds from this room while you were in London.”

“It is of no matter. Hercule Poirot does not believe in the ghosts. But I have much thinking to do, and I do not wish to be trying to find another domicile when I have need to put the little grey cells to work.”

“Are you close to a solution to your problem then?”

“Ah, it has been…how do you say…ah, yes!…a most vexing problem. But I anticipate no more than another day before the authorities can lay their hands on the miscreants.”

“I hope so,” Mrs. Collins said, wringing her hands. “The building of the aerodrome has already been delayed for months, and I know how much it is needed. My oldest boy, Robert, is a pilot in the RAF, you know, and he told me so.”

“And I believe you have another son in the army and one in the navy. I can easily understand your concern.”

“Then you think…that we will have another war?”

Poirot shrugged. “I wish I could say otherwise, but it appears the Boche will not be satisfied with their ill-gotten gains. Even Mr. Chamberlain finally seems to realize that appeasement of the lion simply means that we shall be the last sheep to be eaten.”

“Oh, God. Well, I hope your deliberations are fruitful. The authorities have the payment for the house ready, and it will be torn down a few days after Hallowe’en.”

“Yes, I know. Does it trouble you, the losing of your home?”

“Not really. I am getting too old to manage it, and the payment is enough for me to take rooms close by. All my family is gone, you know, and Longbourn is just a house these days.”

“Yes, very philosophical, madam. Now, might I trouble you to have my dinner sent up to my room? I wish to set immediately to work.”

“Of course, Monsieur Poirot.”


Wednesday, October 27, 1813
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

Darcy and Elizabeth had decided to spend the night in Lydia’s old room, convincing Mary and Kitty to move downstairs temporarily. It took little argument to convince the two girls; they knew what their sister and brother planned, and they wanted no part in it.

“At least I shall be able to get a restful night’s sleep,” Mary said, and Kitty was quick to agree.

“Though there are no such things as ghosts,” Mary professed in her most lecturing tone, unable to avoid having the last word.

Once everyone else in the house sought their rooms, a tense silence descended on Longbourn. Darcy and Elizabeth quietly carried a pair of chairs into the hall and placed them before the bedroom door at the end of the hall. Darcy had disassembled the latch earlier and carefully greased the hinges so the door would open soundlessly. Now, as he and Elizabeth seated themselves to wait, he found himself clutching his heavy cane.

This is ridiculous, he thought. There will be no ghosts. And what good would a cane do if there were?

With that conflicted thought bouncing about his mind and with Elizabeth’s nails firmly embedded in his arm, the couple settled down for what the rational part of their minds expected to be a most boring evening.

Deeper, more elemental feelings were not so sure…


The boredom soon ended as both Darcy and Elizabeth almost levitated from their chairs. Neither remembered standing up, but they found themselves in a fierce embrace while their eyes tried to bore a hole in the door to the bedroom. From the other side came the sound of footsteps pacing back and forth inside a room they knew was empty. Their shock was so extreme that both of them later marvelled they did not bolt down the stairs and out of the house. There simply was no logical, rational explanation for what they heard.

But, as the seconds and then minutes passed, they also realized Mr. Bennet had been right. The sounds had no explanation, but there was no frightful menace in them. Instead, they heard muttered exclamations in French and English. Darcy was fluent in the language, and since moving to Pemberley, Elizabeth had joined Georgiana during her language lessons.

So both of them recognized such interjections as “Mon Dieu, Ça y est! Hein? Bon!” and others, exclamations such as a person would make as he struggled with an intractable problem. It all sounded so ordinary! Yet how could they be hearing such things?

As he held Elizabeth in his arms, Darcy grew aware that he still held his heavy stick. He drew back from Elizabeth and looked at it, then at the bedroom door. He looked back at Elizabeth and motioned towards the door.

Elizabeth immediately realized that her husband proposed to shove the door open, and she wrapped her arms about herself in agitation.

I suppose we could flee if what we see is too terrifying, she thought, and she again wondered whether they ought to be fleeing for their lives right now. Finally, she nodded at her husband and clasped his free hand while he reached out and gently pushed the door open…


Thursday, October 27, 1938
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

Despite the fact the bedroom door silently swung open in front of Darcy and Elizabeth, it squeaked in Poirot’s bedroom, and he stopped pacing and swivelled at the unexpected sound.

“Mon Dieu!” Poirot exclaimed, taking a backward step as he saw two wraithlike figures standing in the hall looking in at him. “Des fantômes!”

He stopped after a single step, bracing himself. “It cannot be! My eyes! They must be playing the tricks on me!”

He squeezed his eyes shut and pulled out his handkerchief, rubbing them briskly. But when he opened them, the spectres were still there. A man and a woman, dressed in antiquated costumes from a previous century.

Worse, they are stepping into the room!

It took all of Hercule Poirot’s vaunted control that he did not throw himself out the window but remained motionless as the two wraiths came several feet into the room. He had no idea what to expect, but not in the wildest stretch of his imagination did he anticipate that the tall wraith would speak, in a sepulchre voice that seemed to come from an impossible distance and in a dialect from another century.

“Hello.”


Instead of a terrifying demon or vision, what Elizabeth saw as the door opened was a short, funny-looking man dressed in a completely unfamiliar black suit. He was rather plump with dark hair plastered to his skull and a moustache unlike any she had ever seen before. Though he looked more like a semi-visible shadow, she could see such detail because the room in which he stood was relatively well lighted compared to the dark hallway in which she and Darcy stood. The familiar furniture of her room seemed to have vanished, and it was replaced by strange, semi-transparent, furnishings.

But the man was simply too ludicrous to be frightening, and when she felt Darcy start to step forward, she was quick to step into the room with him. And when Darcy gave a simple, one-word greeting, the little man jumped visibly.

He heard! What is happening?

Poirot gathered himself and reined in his rampaging anxiety, instead managing a greeting of his own.

“Bonjour, monsieur. Bonjour, mademoiselle.” He gave a quick, precise bow that brought a smile to both of the wraiths.

“Êtes-vous français?” Darcy asked.

“Non, monsieur. I am Belgian, though I have lived in England for years and speak excellent English.”

Elizabeth firmly hid her smile, instead nodding gravely. Somehow, though the man seemed incredibly vain, from his appearance and manner of speech, laughter did not seem appropriate to this situation.

“I am Hercule Poirot,” the little man said with another bow. “The greatest detective in the world. But how are you called?”

Both Darcy and Elizabeth had to puzzle out this weirdly contrived English, and it was a moment before Darcy spoke.

“I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire, and this is my wife, Mrs. Darcy.”

“Ça, alors!” Poirot exclaimed. “But this is astonishing, Monsieur et Madame Darcy! But you look so insubstantial, like wraiths! Do I appear the same?”

“You do,” Darcy replied. “And your pacing and the other sounds from this bedroom have the Bennet family thinking this bedroom is haunted.”

“The Bennet family! C’est pas possible! Madame Elizabeth Darcy! The one-time Mademoiselle Elizabeth Bennet! It cannot be so, but it is! I see you before me though I doubt I could touch you! One amazement piled onto another!”

“Please excuse me, sir,” Elizabeth said firmly. “You introduced yourself as if you expected to be recognized. And what is a detective? I have never heard of it, though I imagine it derives from the word detect.”

“Indeed, you are correct, madam. But please, in the world where you reside, what year is it? In my world, it is 1938.”

“What—1938!” Both Darcy and Elizabeth were startled, and it took some thought before Darcy responded, “It is October 27, 1813, sir.”

“And it is the same date in 1938! These cannot be coincidences! But, to answer your question, Madame Darcy, a detective is one who collects information to solve crimes. There are very few in your year of 1813 though there are the Bow Street Runners, founded by Henry Fielding in London.”

“And you are the world’s greatest detective?” Elizabeth asked, her lips curved in a wry smile.

“But of course, madam!” Poirot replied, so confident in his claim that he was not even offended and simply gave another of his small, precise bows. “And to prove such, I shall offer you the solution to the problem you mention, that of the alarm of your esteemed family to what seems to be the haunting of this room. I cannot explain why this connection has opened between our times, but it will only last for a few more days, after which the house of Longbourn in my world will be torn down to build an aerodrome to protect your country against German attack from the air.”

“German attack!” Darcy exclaimed.

“Alas, it appears so. They have already started one giant war more than twenty years ago, and it now appears they wish to start another.”

“And what is it…this arrow-drome that you mentioned?” Elizabeth asked.

“Aerodrome, madam. A place where machines that fly through the air land and take off.”

“Like those da Vinci wrote of!” Darcy exclaimed.

“Indeed, yes. It is this way…”


It was some hours before Darcy and Elizabeth finally sought Lydia’s rather small bed to get what sleep they could. But Darcy was bubbling from what they had seen though he several times affirmed that they could say nothing of them. He was so wide-awake and energized that Elizabeth finally resorted to what always worked. She shrugged out of one sleeve of her nightgown, wound her fingers in Darcy’s dark curls in the manner she loved, and pulled his head down to her bare breast…

Afterwards, both fell asleep in each other’s arms. Determining what they would tell her family could wait until the morning…

…or they might even stay and pay a return visit to her bedroom to talk again with that detective. He might look rather comical, but he was most informative…

Finis

 

Awww, is Longbourn haunted? Is Hercule Poirot haunting Longbourn in 1813, by going back in time, or are Darcy and Lizzy haunting Longbourn in 1938? What about the connection between the two times? Is it a time portal? Did you enjoy this Halloween vignette? Thanks, C. P. Odom for giving us a fun tale.

What are your thoughts? Share them with us for a chance at the giveaway at the end of the month. If you missed any of the other posts, click on the links below. Comments on each post will increase your chances of winning!

“The Pemberley Ravens” by Kelly Miller

“All Hallow’s Eve” by Jan Hahn

“The Masquerade Ball” by Brigid Huey

 

C. P. Odom’s Books

A Most Civil Proposal; Pride, Prejudice, & Secrets; Consequences; Perilous Siege

Pre-order and Cover Reveal October 24, 2019

A Covenant of Marriage

27 Responses

  1. Glynis
    | Reply

    How strange! I have no idea who is doing the haunting but I do wonder if Darcy and Elizabeth were somehow able to help Poirot with his problem? Will there be a part two with more of an explanation? Please??
    I’m really enjoying these vignettes for Halloween 😊, perhaps we should next have more for Bonfire night (UK) or Thanksgiving (US), then of course we have Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day, Easter etc etc 😊😊😊😊😊

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      I like the way you think, Glynis! 🙂 We could keep the authors busy writing these enjoyable vignettes, couldn’t we! I would like to know more too. Maybe C. P. will give us some clues.

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      I didn’t have enough space to include any kind of explanation, Glynis, and I didn’t really want to. Neither party could have any idea what was happening, especially since both were fictional characters. My only thought that, given Darcy and Elizabeth are arguably the most famous love story from 19th century literature, and Hercule Poirot is arguably the most famous literary detective from the 20th century, what could be more natural than some kind of inexplicable link between Elizabeth’s one-time home and Poirot’s temporary abode?

  2. BelénP
    | Reply

    I Loved it! Colin, you just brought together my favorite fictional characters, D&E and Hercule Poirot! Separated by a century, reunited in your delightful story. But now I have more questions, like what activated the portal? Why didn’t it work while Elizabeth and Jane lived there? I loved that D&E didn’t freak out and faced Poirot with an open mind. Poirot seemed pretty nonchalant about the time gap as well! Nice touch that it was a Mrs. Collins who owned the house. I imagine she was Charlotte’s great grand daughter.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Belén! How neat that Hercule Poirot is another favorite fictional character of yours. Wasn’t this fun! I would like to have those questions answered too. Shall we implore Colin?

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      My wife loved it also, Belen. As for what activated the portal, all I can say is, who knows? That’s why such things are called the supernatural, right? Anyway, if I’d had enough space, I had thought to have Poirot make a comment that what could be more natural than that the most famous detective in the world in his time (Poirot is such a modest soul, isn’t he?) be linked with the most famous lovers from the previous century. That’s why Elizabeth and Jane never witnessed the link. That’s rather thin, I know, but I only had 3000 words! 🙂 As for Poirot’s nonchalance, he recognized the power of superstition without believing in it, but he trusted the evidence of his own senses. He saw the wraiths of Darcy and Elizabeth, so they were real. He wouldn’t waste any time doubting the evidence of his own senses. As for Darcy and Elizabeth not freaking out, I had Elizabeth think about it. If one of them had taken flight, they both would have gone. But one wouldn’t go without the other. As for Mrs. Collins, she was indeed Charlotte’s descendant. But the author has to leave a few tantalizing tidbits unexplained, n’est-ce pas?

      • BelénP
        | Reply

        Sometines, no explanation is the best way to handle these things. It allows the reader to come up with their own theory. In only 3000 words you managed to create the mystery and develop a fun vignette. Thank you!

  3. Joan
    | Reply

    What a fun story! Only Darcy and Elizabeth could appreciate the irony of the situation.

  4. Rose
    | Reply

    Very Clever, Mr. Odom!
    I can see your little grey cells have worked overtime lately.

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      I was originally thinking that a ghost was haunting Jane and Elizabeth’s room, but I hadn’t been able to get much traction from that thought. My wife actually suggested working Poirot into the story, since we’d been watching the episodes from the BBC series, Agatha Christie’s Poirot. As soon as she made that suggestion, it was like the floodgates opened, and I had more than 4000 words written (with a 3000 word limit!) So you could say my dear wife stimulated my little grey cells!

  5. Jan Hahn
    | Reply

    Oh, Colin, you have such an imagination! Kudos to you for this haunting twist that provokes question after question. Hope you’re thinking of a continuation. I did enjoy the sweetness of D and E’s marriage – just like I want it to be.

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      Thanks, Jan. I did have a little help from the wife on this one, so it was kind of a joint project. And no, there won’t be a continuation (I think!). I made reference right at the end about D & E staying around for another evening of conversation, but Longbourn is about to be torn down at Poirot’s end, which will sever the link.

  6. Ginna
    | Reply

    Awww, I wish you would have had an explanation. And what about the miscreants whom Poirot is there to thwart?

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      Ah, Ginna, remember the old saying, “Sometimes less is more.” 🙂

      As for the miscreants, Poirot estimates no more than a few days before they will be brought to justice. Does Poirot ever fail? (well, a time or two, maybe, but not this time!)

  7. Kelly Miller
    | Reply

    What a fun way to have the Darcy’s meet Hercule Poirot! Thank you for this imaginative and clever vignette, Colin!

  8. Patty Edmisson
    | Reply

    I always like a story with D and E after their marriage and how the relationship has expanded.

    Poirot was a plus.

    Thanks

  9. Patty Edmisson
    | Reply

    Congratulations on this post. I love it when an author has our couple in their marriage and how they have grown together.

    Enjoyed Poirot being added. I do enjoy his stories.

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      As I see it, D & E are still newly-weds. Before my fingers started living their own life, I intended to have Elizabeth mention being pregnant, which so often happens to the newly married, but it got left on the cutting room floor since it didn’t fit into the words available. My wife has really become a Poirot fan also, and she was the one who suggested the Poirot slant after she read my initial draft (which was stalled because I couldn’t figure out how I wanted to end it).

  10. Anji
    | Reply

    Noooo! I want more!! Colin, I appreciate you had a word limit but I know I’m not alone in wanting to read more about the encounters between the Darcys and Monsieur Poirot. I’m pretty sure they would have ‘met’ more than once in the time they had remaining before Longbourn’s demolition.

    Many thanks for a fascinating story. I particularly love Austenesque stories that appeal to the sci-fi geek in me and this portal between times in the same location definitely ticks that box.

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      I did want to say more than the word limit allowed, but I’m in the process of doing some shorter pieces for a possible anthology. I was already thinking about expanding “The Haunting of Longbourn,” since my wife liked it so much, and your comment drives home the point. But have patience — I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now!

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      Hmmmm! My reply to your post seems to have disappeared, Anji. I suppose two comments might show up. Anyway, I was saying that I’m in the process of coming up with some shorter pieces for a possible future anthology, and “The Haunting of Longbourn” will likely be expanded and become part of that. Have patience, though. I’ve got a lot of things going on right now!

  11. Lúthien84
    | Reply

    How fascinating that a parallel world exists if only in this vignette. I enjoyed the story, Colin. Is there any plan to expand the story and then published it in an anthology? That would be good.

    • C.P. (Colin) Odom
      | Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. To answer your question, several other people have mentioned that they would like to see more, and those requests have indeed made me start to consider expanding that story for its inclusion in an anthology. I have to get past some pressing projects first, however, but hopefully I’ll put my little grey cells to work!

  12. Carole in Canada
    | Reply

    Now that is a very interesting vignette! I thoroughly enjoyed the time portal aspect of them seeing each other as wraiths. I guess the Collins family never felt Longbourn was really theirs if the final Mrs. Collins was not concerned about losing her home. Yes, to a good cause but sad nonetheless.

  13. C.P. (Colin) Odom
    | Reply

    I couldn’t do much about Mrs. Collins’ feeling one way or another because of the 3,000 word limitation. When I started out, I thought, “I’ll never come up with that many words on this topic, especially since I’m a left-brained engineer who doesn’t believe in ghosts!” Then I somehow found myself well over the word limit and having to figure out which stuff was critical and which could go away!

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