Read Shiverton Hall Online

Authors: Emerald Fennell

Shiverton Hall

BOOK: Shiverton Hall
12.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

For my family –

Mum, Dad,

Coco and Chris

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

 

William Shakespeare,
Macbeth

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

The Fall

Master Frederick Shiverton squashed a fly against the windowpane with his thumb. It produced a satisfying pop, and went some way to calming the itch of anger that had become quite unbearable. He had been watching the hubbub from his nursery window for nearly an hour, and still no one had come to tell him what was happening. It annoyed Frederick to be left in the dark about important family matters. It more than annoyed him, in fact: he would make sure that Nanny paid dearly for not coming up to tell him what was afoot.

He wiped the sticky fly-blood on the back of his velvet breeches. Messengers had been galloping in and out of the courtyard below all morning, and all of the servants wore a look of clammy terror. Frederick’s mother would still be in bed. Her headaches usually kept her in her chamber until the afternoon, and no one would dare to wake her before then, even for the gravest of news. Groad, the butler, paced the length of the Shivertons’ enormous town house, occasionally swapping tense words with some of the staff. Normally immaculate, Groad’s dyed-black hair was sticking out in tufts, and Frederick could see a trickle of sweat, grey with hair dye, staining his white, starched collar.

What was going on? Frederick wondered again, his nose pressed against the cold glass, leaving a greasy smear. And where was Nanny? He had been reduced to dressing himself this morning! She would pay for that too.

A sudden thought occurred to Frederick, accompanied by a little twitch of excitement. He went to his wardrobe and reached deep into its recesses, past the broken toys and specimen jars filled with dead spiders that he had forgotten to throw away. His fingers brushed what he was looking for and he snatched it up, first checking that no one was coming: he was quite alone.

He brought out the little doll. It was a figure made of felt, crudely sewn by his own small, elegant hands from scraps and thread stolen from the maids. Its eyes, two jet beads, stared back at Frederick blindly. The figure was full of pins – stuck precisely through where the heart, lungs and other organs would have been if it were real – and Frederick handled the doll delicately, conscious of pricking himself. The material was scorched in places from occasional acquaintance with Frederick’s bedtime candle, and the trace of a footprint could just be seen – the result of an afternoon spent being crushed beneath his ornate, buckled shoes. He turned the doll over, and its head lolled to one side; it was half-torn off the body, the wiry horsehair stuffing spooling out of the broken neck like cut veins.

The nursery door opened and Frederick jumped, quickly hiding the figure behind his back.

‘Oh. It’s you,’ Frederick said in his thin, cold voice.

Nanny hovered in the doorway. When she had arrived as nursemaid, she had been plump and rosy-cheeked, but years of looking after the young master had made her as scrawny and skittish as a foal: if anyone were to peel back the sleeves of her dress, they would find her as pin-pricked and burned as Frederick’s doll. Though Frederick liked to torment
her
more directly, springing out to press on her spoons heated by his candle, or catching her with his lepidoptery pins.

‘Where have you been all morning?’ he asked, taking a step towards her.

Nanny flinched. ‘Please forgive me, Master Frederick,’ she whispered, ‘but the house has been in much confusion this morning.’

‘I can see that with my own eyes,’ he sneered. ‘What I want to know is
why
it is so.’

Nanny’s eyes darted around the room nervously, checking for one of Frederick’s traps.

‘Well?’ he demanded.

Nanny hesitated. Frederick took another step nearer.

‘Your father is dead!’ she cried, desperate to prevent him from coming any closer.

Frederick stopped. ‘Dead?’ he whispered.

Nanny nodded.

‘Are you sure?’

‘He fell off his horse this morning,’ Nanny replied quietly. ‘He broke his neck.’

Frederick stood blinking at her, shocked. For the first time since he was a baby Nanny felt a rush of sympathy for the boy. He looked so small and fragile, as any boy of thirteen might, having lost his father. She wondered whether she should put her arms around him, but just as she was about to console him, he did a most extraordinary thing. He leapt up on to the day bed and began to bounce and squeal with joy.

‘Dead!’ he sang. ‘Dead! Dead! Dead! But, Nanny, how marvellous!’

Nanny was so jolted that she didn’t know quite what to do.

‘Frederick!’ she hissed, terrified that Groad might come up at any minute and see his appalling reaction. ‘Stop that this moment! Frederick, please!’

Frederick stopped bouncing and fixed her with his pale eyes. ‘It’s
Lord Shiverton
to you now, Nanny.’

He jumped off the bed and pulled her towards him by her shoulders. ‘Has anyone told Mother?’ he asked, shivering with anticipation.

‘She’s not yet awake,’ Nanny answered warily.

‘Wonderful,’ Frederick breathed. ‘I’ll tell her.’

He scampered off before Nanny could stop him, whooping and rubbing his hands with delight.

 

Later, when Frederick slipped back to the nursery, he tossed his little homemade figure on the fire – after all, he had no further use for it. As he watched the doll shrivel and burn, he marvelled at what a good likeness it was: the coal-black eyes and livid, red hair – exactly like his father’s.

 

 

Arthur Bannister

23B Sudden Street

Hammersmith

London

W6

 

 

Dear Mr Bannister

 

Shiverton Hall is pleased to offer you the Coleman Scholarship for Academic Excellence commencing at the beginning of the new school year.

The scholarship includes full board, uniform and a book allowance for the duration of your school career.

Please let us know if you would like to accept this offer. If so, we will see you at the beginning of Michaelmas Term.

 

Yours sincerely

Professor Esther Long-Pitt

 

Headmistress

Shiverton Hall

Chapter One

Arthur Bannister was ignoring his mother. Or rather, he was ignoring her voice, which travelled into his bedroom from the hallway below at exactly the same pitch and volume as a train whistle. He scrabbled frantically around his room, desperately trying to pack, knowing that any second now, his mother would burst into the room and discover just how appallingly behind schedule he was.

BOOK: Shiverton Hall
12.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Redemption of the Duke by Gayle Callen
One With the Night by Susan Squires
Eldritch Manor by Kim Thompson
Hints of Heloise by Laura Lippman
Class Reunion of Murder by Vanessa Gray Bartal
Death Springs Eternal: The Rift Book III by Robert J. Duperre, Jesse David Young
Redemption For Two by Tobias Tanner