The singing began as soon as she laid her head upon her pillow. Every night for the two weeks that Miss Emmaline Lenoir had spent at the home of her dearest friend Miss Julia Harte had been disturbed by the sound of a child singing and she rose from her bed every morning feeling stupid and heavy headed.
On the first occasion, there had been a storm blowing around Harte Hall and she had persuaded herself that what she heard was a trick of the wind in the chimney. The next night, however, was still and calm and her mind could find no other explanation than that she had received a visitation from a restless spirit. Fear had settled its chilly fingers around her heart and she had found little rest until the first rays of the morning sun had banished the voice back to the shadows from whence it came.
When she had questioned her friend the next morning, she had learned that a number of spectres had been seen at various times in different parts of Harte Hall but none were said to sing. However, Emmaline had been given a room that was in a little used part of the house, so it could be that nobody had witnessed this particular spirit before. That night, pure terror had gripped her and she had been unable to sleep at all.
And so it had continued night after night. From the moment she lay down until the arrival of the blushing dawn, she heard a child singing nonsense rhymes with the voice of an angel. She had asked if she might move to another room but this had proved impossible. Julia's elder sister was getting married at the end of the month and a large house party had been gathered to share the celebrations.
Over time, she had grown less afraid of the voice and more annoyed. She knew that lying down triggered the start of the singing but it did not end when she sat up nor even when she paced around the room, waiting for the dawn to arrive that she might snatch a little sleep. Neither did it stop if she left her room, although it did grow quieter.
This knowledge had given her the beginnings of an idea. It seemed that the child was somewhere within her own room but she had never actually seen the apparition, only heard it. She knew, partly from her history lessons, but more particularly from her choice of novels, that old houses always contained secret passages and rooms. What if her visitor was trapped in such a place?
One night, she retired early and did not undress, but lay immediately upon the bed. As usual, the singing began at once and she arose and began her exploration. A huge, bright moon shone in through the open curtains and she had no need of a candle.
Walking around the perimeter of the room, accompanied by the sound of singing, she ran her hands over the bare stones of the walls, feeling for gaps between them but her search was fruitless. And suddenly, just as she was about to concede, her fingers slipped between two large stones. She felt a small bump or irregularity within the gap and pushed. Silently, without warning, part of the wall next to her swung outwards revealing a space behind it.
The singing stopped abruptly.
With her heart thumping as though it would burst out of her chest, Emmaline peered inside the opening she had created. A shriek escaped her throat and she drew back a step as a pair of bright eyes met her own. But this would not do at all. Gathering all the courage she could muster, she forced herself to look inside again.
She saw a boy of perhaps ten years old sitting in an old chair. But he was insubstantial; at moments he seemed almost solid but at others he all but disappeared. As he stood and walked towards her, he left behind a tiny skeleton and the full horror of what had happened to him washed over her making her feel ill.
He stared about him as he left his prison behind, unable to grasp the fact of his freedom, even as he experienced it. Then he looked again at Emmaline, whispered, “Thank you!”, and was gone.
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