Sir Hugo Townsend, the 9th Duke of Knightlow, was grumpy almost 100% of the time these days, ever since his wife died of cancer and his children went to university and got lives of their own.
He was a recluse, and rarely left the honey coloured Knightlow Hall except to occasionally walk in the grounds for some fresh air. Because of this, no one really knew much about him and probably won’t for some time, unless Hugo finally decides to open his estate up to public, despite that fact that he has to get the permission of the Scottish Duke in Dumfries who actually owns the estate first1.
Hugo was grumpy about a lot of things, mainly that he was the Duke of a sub-division of a county that very few people know about and the fact the estate he lives on is actually owned by a Scottish Duke who he has to pay rent to every year on the 11th November, early in the morning, in the freezing cold, in the middle of a field.
But today, Hugo was angry about something else, a priceless Ming dynasty vase had seemingly fallen from it’s stand and smashed to pieces on the floor, and he was not having it.
“NESTOR!”, Sir Hugo screamed, to his long suffering butler Nestor Crabtree.
“Coming, sir”, Nestor replied from the other end of the Long Gallery. Nestor ran along the gallery towards his master, eventually arriving at the other end out of breath.
“What is it, sir?”, Nestor asked calmly.
“What does it look like?!”, Hugo shouted whilst gesturing the broken pieces of china on the floor, “another Ming vase has fallen off it’s stand!”
“I see, so you had a little accident”, Nestor responded reassuringly.
“No, it is the ghost, the ghost has done it again!”, Hugo exclaimed, clearly extremely stressed by the situation.
“It’s ok, sir, I’ll sort this out.”, said Doris, Hugo’s cleaner, who ran over to the Duke and his butler, bent down, and swept away the broken pieces of china, before walking away again to dispose of it.
“Don’t you see what this means, Nestor?!”, Hugo asked his butler, “we have to get an exorcist in!”
“I’m sure you just accidentally pushed it over as you were walking along the long gallery, easily done, sir,” the butler replied.
“No I didn’t! I was over there when it happened!”, Hugo exclaimed whilst pointing to the far end of the long gallery, “I heard the sound of something being smashed, turned round, and saw the vase smashed to pieces on the floor.”
“I’m sure there’s a more rational explanation than that, sir”, Nestor replied.
“No, there isn’t”, Hugo protested, “this house has been haunted for years, and have you done anything about it? No!”
In fact, there had been known paranormal activity at the house for 104 years, coincidently (or perhaps not) a few weeks after the death of Geoffrey Townsend, 6th Duke of Knightlow, Hugo’s great grandfather.
There had been various strange incidences throughout Hugo’s life, but things got particularly bad at Hugo’s Brexit celebration party on the eve of the 31st January. The windows opened and shut by themselves, vases fell to the floor, paintings fell from their walls, and an electric fire started when the equipment used by the live music entertainment sparked. This all happened whilst the room was in pitch blackness, as the wind from outside had blown out the chandeliers.
Hugo knew full well that the house was haunted, but unfortunately he was the only one.
“It was probably just those socialist protesters who hate the peerage system and want Knightlow Hall to be under public ownership”, Nestor suggested in earnest.
“No, I would have seen them if that was the case”, Hugo replied, “anyway, I’m sure those feelings would have died down now that Labour has moved back to the moderate left”.
“But maybe the recent protests have set off a spark once again, a statue of a slave trader in Bristol was pulled down and thrown in the river Avon”, Nestor said, “maybe that has inspired the socialists to once again try to bring down the establishment.”
“No, it’s a ghost alright”, Hugo protested, “this house has been haunted for over a century, it’s time to do something about it.”
“If you say so, sir”, the ever loyal Mr Crabtree replied, “if you say so.
Just then, as if on cue, another vase fell at the other end of the house. Hugo and Nestor looked down the hall to it.
“You see?! You see?!”, Hugo screeched, “how could that have been a lefty?!”
For the first time during this little exchange, the butler was stumped, after a while, Nestor responded “Perhaps it was the breeze”.
Hugo threw a small tantrum. “How could it have been?! The window is closed!”, he screamed.
“Ok, sir, why don’t you go for a walk in the grounds to cool off a bit”, Nestor suggested.
“Don’t tell me to ‘cool off a bit'”, Hugo replied.
Nestor sighed, “Well, why don’t we move away from the hall at any rate.”
“Fine”, said Hugo, “but only if you finally get an exorcist in to get rid of the ghost.”
Hugo and Nestor left the long gallery and walked into the great hall.
“Ok, sir”, said Nestor, “I’ll see what I can do.”
But of course Nestor didn’t do anything, as he felt his master was just suffering delusions in his old age, he was in his early eighties after all.
Coincidentally, no other strange occurrences happened that day, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t happen again……
1Which he probably won’t, because he doesn’t want to.