The Heartstone Family

  Nutwhitton Hall is the home of the Heartstone family.

The Heartstones have lived in the house continually, from the time my great-great-great- grandfather, Hugh Heartstone, the first Earl of Rolfswood, acquired the estate (there is a family rumour that he won it in a card game) towards the end of the seventeenth century, until the mid twentieth century, when it was bequeathed to a charitable organisation who have opened it to the general public. The current Heartstone family now live in London, but occasionally they do stay in the Gate Lodge, at the start of the One Mile Drive.

I am, therefore, the only Heartstone family member still resident in the house. I have been ascending and descending staircases, passing along corridors and galleries, trudging from room to room; (there are forty rooms in the house, not counting attic rooms, store rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, cellars and servants quarters) for about three hundred years, and I am bored… bored… so, so, bored.

I think I am still here as I am the only member of the family to be murdered in the house. It is so unfair. Let me tell you the story:

I had been on campaign with my regiment in Iberia We were fighting the French. Well, I wasn’t exactly fighting; I had an administrative role in headquarters a few miles behind the lines. I corresponded with my lovely wife, Fiona, fairly regularly. A few months into my tour of duty, Fiona informed me that she had given birth to my son and heir. I was eager to return home, but I was unable to get away from the hostilities, as I had another fourteen months to serve.

Eventually I was able to write and tell the love of my life, that I was due to complete my tour, and that I would be home in September. As it happened I returned earlier than expected and arrived back in England in the evening of 24th August. I landed in Bristol only two days ride away from Nutwhitton Hall.

The weather was fine, so I decided to leave at dawn and travel home in one day. I was eager to be reunited with my wife, in my opinion, the most beautiful woman in the world, and my son after an absence of nearly two years.

I was fortunate in acquiring good horses on the way and arrived at the Hall a little before midnight on 25th. I roused the stable lad and left my sweating horse in his care. I lit a torch, entered the house through the servant’s quarters and bounded up the main staircase. I threw open the door of our bedroom, which I was surprised to find, illuminated with many candles. And there she was, my wonderful wife, a vision of loveliness, her hair adorning the pillow.

But there were other heads on that pillow, the surprised face of my younger brother and the face of my wife’s chambermaid.

For a moment I was stunned and confused, but very quickly I realised what was happening. Anger and fury took over; I drew my sword and was determined to kill someone.

My brother took advantage of my delay and leapt from the bed, stark naked, retrieved his own sword and parried my vicious lunges. He was always a better swordsman than I (on reflection, perhaps in more ways than one). He fought defensively probably not wanting to hurt his older brother, but my lust for revenge was so intense, he eventually had to attack. I felt the blade enter my chest and blood, and my life, gushed out of me. My last memory is my wife looking down at my face and saying, ‘You stupid fool!’

After that I was a spectator watching from above. The butler was summoned and a doctor was fetched from the village, he was handsomely bribed to say that I had died of a fatal disease, contracted in foreign parts. The chambermaid was given enough money to start a tea shop in Taunton and the butler retired to his home village with a generous pension.

I was unable to attend my own interment, as I was, for some reason, confined to the house. Immediately after the funeral I started to patrol the house: my intention was to petrify my murderers, but they did not acknowledge me. I don’t think they even saw me. My brother succeeded me as Earl of Rolfswood, and eventually after many debauched parties, married my lovely Fiona.

You can see my portrait, painted by Joshua Reynolds, in the Long Gallery next to the portrait of my brother. Next to that there is the portrait of my son, Robert, who I never met in person. Eventually he became head of the Hearstone family and the family line continued uninterrupted, which, of course, is the most important thing.

As for me, I no longer look out of the windows at the formal gardens and the rolling hills beyond, I no longer take notice of the sumptuous furnishings and the marvellous paintings by famous artists, as I know I am confined to this house for ever, through no fault of my own.

Occasionally a visitor will notice me and tell others what they have seen, but this is usually dismissed as fantasy. The rumour that the house is haunted, is never completely denied as it helps to attract visitors. No attempt has ever been made to contact me.

I just wish that some day, a member of the family would arrange a ceremony of exorcism, to release me from this curse, and allow me to rest. But sadly, for them, and everyone else, I only exist in stories.