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TITLE: Emily's Secret
By Helen Clancy

A fictional story set in 1920s London. A romantic story with an element of mystery.
Emily's Secret

Emily pauses, pen in hand, and gazes out of her

bedroom window. She loves this old carved desk,

and the view from the bay window, down over the

lawn to the lake. She used to run down the

grassy slope as a child, and play hide and seek

with her brothers and sisters in the woods. On

an antique dresser is the bunch of daffodils

that she picked yesterday afternoon. They've

opened overnight and add a touch of colour to

her room.

On the wall behind her is a painting of

her dear mother, in a crimson ball-gown. A

carved oak door leads to her husband George's

room next-door; but that door is rarely used

these days. Across the room, beside the four-

poster bed there's a dressing-table with a large

mirror and three small drawers. A log fire's

been lit in the grate, to take away the chill of

this blustery March afternoon, and her favourite

volume of poetry lies on the armchair, close to

the fireplace.

At forty-five Emily is still attractive,

in a dutiful, matronly sort of way, but her eyes

reveal that she’s experienced more than her fair

share of unhappiness. She starts as she hears

footsteps on the landing, and quickly hides her

writing under a book. But the footsteps continue

past her door. She sighs, relieved and when all

is quiet brings out her journal and continues to


Rose looks in the mirror. Yes, she does like

this new haircut. Her mother thinks it’s

boyish, but she likes it. It is sort of

liberating - fresh, young and, well, it suits

her she thinks. Her parents dislike the short

dresses she wears, and her father positively

hated the backless dress she wore to the club

last week, but then he hates anything

fashionable or fun. She must look her absolute

best tonight. Charlie's taking her to

their favourite restaurant on Curzon Street.

Charlie - well, he's the best thing that's

happened to her, so wonderfully good-looking,

and bright. And he makes her laugh. It must be

love, she tells herself; she's never felt like

this before.

At eight o'clock sharp she's sitting in the

drawing room, waiting for Charlie,

when she hears the 'honk-honk' of his motor-car

in the drive-way.

'Bye, Mother, that's Charlie, must go.'

'Have a good evening, dear, and don't be

too late.'

'No, Mother...Bye...'

She dashes outside, treading carefully

on the gravel driveway, in her new high-

heeled shoes.

'Hi, darling, you are exactly on time.'

Charlie opens the car door for her and kisses

her on the cheek.

'You look absolutely fabulous. Let's go,


'Here we are, Rose. Are you hungry?'

'I'm famished!'

They enter the smart restaurant. A waiter sees

them and immediately comes over.

'Good evening, Sir, Ma'am. Your usual


'Please Miles'.

They are escorted to a window table, overlooking

a small courtyard garden. Charlie helps Rose

into her seat, and sits opposite her.

'What will you have tonight, dear?'

'Oh, I'll have the lobster again, I


'I'll order the wine.'

'The lobster, and a bottle of Chablis,

please Miles'.

'Shall we go to the club later, or would

you prefer to go to the pictures?'

'Oh, let's go to the club.'

The waiter approaches with a bottle of wine,

which he proceeds to uncork and pours a

little into a crystal glass for Charlie to taste.

'That's fine.'

Later, they are finishing their dessert, when

the waiter comes over to the table.

'Are you ready now, Sir?'

'Yes, I think so, Miles.'

Miles signals to the conductor and the band

strikes up....

'Oh, Charlie, that's our tune. How


At the end of the song, Miles comes over with a

trolley; on it is the most enormous

vase of red roses.

'What's this Charlie? Oh, they're


'They're for you darling, and don't

worry, I've asked Miles to have them

dropped off for you, so we don't have to cart

them around...'

'Everyone's staring at us Charlie.'

'Yes, I know, and now they'll stare even


He gets down on one knee, and pulls out a small

box, which he opens to reveal an

exquisite diamond ring.

'Oh... Charlie...'

'Well, will you, Rosie? I mean; please

darling, will you marry me? I love you

with all my heart.'

'Oh, yes. I love you too. Yes. Yes, I

will. I'd love to marry you.'

He stands and puts his arms around her and

kisses her full on the lips.

Everyone claps, and there are some shouts

of 'hooray, bravo'.

Rose was walking through catacombs, with arches

leading from one dark, bricked space - she

couldn't really describe them as rooms - to

another, with just arches in the bare walls

separating the different spaces. She eventually

came to this heavy wooden door. Behind it she

could hear someone shouting to her. This

person's cries got louder and louder:

‘Rose, Rose...help me.’

Then the knocking started, the knocking

and desperate banging on the door.

She tried to open it. There was a huge rusty

bolt, which she managed to pull back,

after a bit of a struggle, but then there was

the huge key, which, however hard

she tried, she just could not move.

She heard a shriek and then the crying

and banging stopped abruptly. She

stepped back from the door, and fell over a

metal pipe lying on the brick floor. She

cried out in pain, and grasped her ankle which

rapidly started to swell. Calling for

help, the only reply was the empty echo of the

catacomb walls.

A dazzling flash of light is shining into her

eyes. Her ankle is throbbing. Where is

she? She cries out in fear.

'Are you alright, Ma'am? You've been

crying out. Was it a nightmare?'.

It's Mary. The sun's shining through a chink in

the closed curtains. Rose blinks in an

attempt to cope with the brightness. Rose rubs

her eyes. Mary hands her a handkerchief.

'Here, Ma'am, wipe your eyes, whatever's

the matter?'

She sits up in bed, trying to shield her eyes

with her hands.

'It must've been a nightmare, Mary. Can

you close those curtains properly?

That light...too bright.'

Mary closes the heavy velvet curtains.

'Is that better, Ma'am?'

'Thanks... can you bring me some coffee,

and aspirins? I feel quite unwell.'

'I'll be right back, Ma'am.' says Mary,

leaving the room.

Her younger sister, Olive, has told her stories

about the ghost, rumoured to haunt the huge

basement under their house, but she's never seen

it. Anyway, she doesn't really believe in that

sort of thing - all a load of rubbish, surely.

But then, this nightmare, which somehow seems so

much more than just a dream, appears to fit

the stories of a gardener, locked away in the

dungeon...she shudders, and speaks very

sternly to herself:

'Pull yourself together Rose. This is


[In the dining room a little later]

'No, Rose. I absolutely forbid it. You

will NOT marry him...that's final.'

George brings his hand down on the table so

firmly that the cups and sauces rattle,

and a half-empty cup of tea spills it contents

into the saucer, and a little onto the

crisp white tablecloth.

'Now look what you've done, George.'

Emily exclaimed.

'Call the maid, Olive, she'll have to

clear up that mess.'

'No wait, Emily. This is

private...Beatrice can clear up later.'

'Are you absolutely clear now, Rose?

I 'll hear no more about it.'

'Father, it's so unfair. Why shouldn't I

marry him? I love him.

Anyway....You can't stop me. I'll marry him with

or without your consent.'

She limps out of the room in tears...

Emily sighs, and follows her daughter

out of the room.

That night - Rose finds herself back in the

catacombs, (whether it is a nightmare or

real she no longer knows) but this time a

ghostly figure walks through the locked

door and stands in front of her. He's tall, with

black hair and he comes right up to her,

touches her on the cheek. Rose screams, but he


'Don't be alarmed. I won't hurt you. You

need to know the truth... You must

ask your mother ... ask her about Henry. There's

a secret compartment ...in the dressing table

behind the centre drawer... look there. Ask her

to tell you... her secret.

Ask her... Ask her... Ask her...'

The next morning Rose can't get the ghostly

figure out of her mind. What on

earth did he mean? She must find out. Does her

mother really have a secret? There's

only one way to find out. She must have a look,

but when? Then she remembers that her mother is

going out to lunch with a friend. That settles

it, she'll look for this secret compartment

today while she's out.

The morning goes by extremely slowly

until at last her mother leaves. Rose

creeps into her room, making sure that she's not

noticed by the servants. She goes over to the

dressing table and finds the secret compartment,

exactly as she was told in her dream. In it she

finds a personal journal. As she picks it up, a

piece of paper falls out. It's an old photo of a

handsome looking young man, with dark hair,

sitting beside the lake in the gardens.

The falls open and she reads:

26th June 1901

My heart is broken.

How can my parents be so unkind? I love

Henry so much, but have been forbidden to marry

him. It is not considered suitable for me to

marry a gardener, a servant. It would bring

shame and scandal to the family, my father says.

He would disinherit me, and Henry would lose his

job, we would not be able to survive, with no

home, and no money.

I have been told to forget him. But I

will never forget him.

I am to be married to George two weeks

from today. He is from a 'suitable family',

although they have fallen on hard times. No-one

must know about Henry, or about our child,

except for my parents. George knows about the

child, but has been persuaded to keep the

secret, because of my inheritance.

Oh, my heart is broken, beyond belief. I

cry myself to sleep each night with longing for

the man I love. If only things could be

different. If only we could be together, raise

our child and live as a family.

But I am told it is not possible. This

must remain a secret - no one must know

that this baby is Henry's child. I have no

choice but to obey my father.

But I will never forget him, my dearest


Rose sits down, shaken by what she has

just read. Forgetting the time, she reads

through her mother's journal. She'd realised her

mother was unhappy, noticed the weariness and

sighs, and the distance between her and George,

but this was still a shock to her. Tears start

to fall down Rose's face, as she thought of her

mother living through the same nightmare that’s

now threatening her and her beloved Charlie. But

this is 1922 and in these modern days, a girl is

not obliged to obey her father's wishes.

Her father will not stop her marrying Charlie,

after all she is over twenty-one. Or, as

an alarming thought occurs to her - is George

really her father after all?

Engrossed in these thoughts, she fails

to notice how much time passes, as she

begins to understand more and more about her

mother. So it startles her when she

hears footsteps at the door. She quickly tries

to put the journal away, but is too late, as

her mother walks into the room.

‘What on earth?’

‘Oh, sorry mother. I...’

‘Put that back. Get out of here at once!’

Rose rushes out of the room, and Emily

picks up her journal, and places it on

her desk. How dare Rose snoop through her

private things?... That girl is really getting

out of hand. She goes over to the dressing table

and tidies up her hair, checking her

reflection in the mirror, and changes into her

indoor shoes. As she changes into a more

comfortable outfit she starts to wonder exactly

how much Rose has read. She really

needs to know. Has Rose discovered her secret?

It would really be a bit of a relief if

she knew about her father; after all she's

longed to tell her for ages, but George...

has categorically forbidden her to tell anyone,

and she, being the dutiful wife, has obeyed him

for all these years. It's a good job youngsters

these days have more spirit. Rose won't let

George stop her from marrying the man she

loves. She'll have a word with Rose later...find

out how much she knows...

Her opportunity came that evening, when Rose and

Emily were relaxing by the fire in the drawing

room after dinner. Olive was out with friends,

and George had retreated, as usual to his

library, with his pipe and a glass of claret.

'Rose, I'm sorry for shouting at you

earlier, but you really shouldn't be looking

through my personal things...'

'Sorry, mother. It's just...well the

strangest thing has happened... I've

seen this ghost... I mean, it must be a

dream...and not just once...'

Rose tells her mother about the ghostly

figure in the dungeons and how he told

her to look for the secret compartment, and ask

her about him. Her mother seems remarkably calm

and does not appear to be at all surprised by

this unusual story.

'So, you found the journal...'

'Yes...Sorry...But, I don't understand

why you went along with it, mother.

Why didn't you stand up to your father, run away

with Henry, if you loved him?'

' I'd no choice, dear. I was so young.

I'd no money, and I would've lost this

home. Henry had nothing. His only home, his only

income came from my father. We'd have been

destitute...and for the sake of the child...I

really had no choice...'

'So, the child... (she hesitates) ...am

I the child?'

'Yes, you are, dear...'(she pauses for a

moment)...' Henry was your father. He

was found dead in the catacombs, locked in.

Personally, I think he was murdered, but

the case was never solved, it was all hushed up,

the court ruled it was an accident, and

maybe...it could have been, if someone didn't

realise he was there, I suppose, but I

think it's unlikely...’

'Henry...my father...Oh my...' (she

pauses as the realisation sinks in). 'So

...that's why he was calling to me...He wanted

me to know he was my father...That

means...George... isn't my father after all...'

‘I 've longed to tell you...but

George...well he forbade it...but, when he

forbade you to marry your Charlie...'

'I won't let him stop me...you must help

me, Mother...'

'That's why Henry appeared to you Rose,

and we must heed his warning.

We can't let history repeat itself.'

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