Chapter 2 - Hidden
Katy was taken aback by the portrait she had found in the attic. Her interest in the nearby box disappeared as she stared into the familiar face in the painting. The red curls were the same as hers, the blue eyes and even the mole under her lip were the same, too. Confusion reigned. She stared at the painting, taking in every detail, every brush stroke. She turned the canvas over, sideways and upside down, looking for some indication of who the subject of the portrait was. After a while she searched around the attic for a looking glass, certain of the likeness with her own image. Pulling boxes, furniture and picture frames aside she eventually found what she was looking forward. She raised the mirror up to her face and looked directly into it. Sure enough, the likeness was striking. The woman in the picture was older than she but they were so alike it was uncanny. Was this why Jameson had been looking at her the way he had been? Was this why he had helped her or was this just a huge coincidence that no one else was aware of?
It can’t be a coincidence. There was a reason she was here, the letter from her mother had led her to this place. Why?
Katy’s mind was in a whirl. Jameson had clearly been shocked by her appearance, as had Mrs Carter. Mesmerised by the woman in the portrait, Katy continued to question who the woman was and what possible connection they could have to one another. They must be related.
Considering that neither she nor the woman in the portrait looked anything like her mother, Katy deduced that the woman must be related to her father. Maybe it was a portrait of her Grandmother when she was young. That was the most logical conclusion and that explanation was enough to satisfy Katy’s curiosity. Until someone told her otherwise, she had decided that the portrait she held in her hand was a painting of her Grandmother.
Excited by the thought of a whole family she never knew she had, for a moment Katy allowed herself to feel the butterflies doing somersaults in her stomach. She laid back in her bed, hugging the portrait closely, finally feeling safe. If this was her Grandmother’s house then her father might even be here. Was it possible that she was about to meet him?
Katy leapt from her bed and dashed to the window to see if she could see anyone who might be a relative, her Father, her Grandmother, an Aunt or Uncle, even nieces and nephews. The lack of people in the grounds did nothing to quell the excitement that filled her mind. For the first time since her mother’s death she felt happy and safe. Finally, she belonged somewhere. She belonged to someone.
Katy was eager to go downstairs and meet her new family but she remembered the reactions of Jameson and Mrs Carter the previous night and realised this was probably a delicate situation that needed to be handled properly. So, she decided to stay put and explore the attic room a little more to see if there was any more evidence of her family to be found.
She pulled furniture out to access shelves and cupboards, she rummaged through boxes and drawers. She found a few smaller family portraits, one with a woman in it who could have been the same woman in the bigger portrait. That picture was of a family of four, a man, a woman, a boy and a girl. She looked closely at the little boy. Was it possible that he was her father? He looked very unfamiliar, he was a short, stocky boy with collar length straight, blonde hair and a long, roman nose. He looked nothing at all like Katy or the woman in the portrait. Deciding this was probably another branch of the family, she set the picture aside.
The wait for Jameson seemed even longer now. She had so many questions she needed to ask him. She was desperate to be allowed out of the room to meet the family but she knew she had to be patient.
Katy’s stomach continued to rumble. She hadn’t eaten for more than a day and with the excitement of her find, she began to feel a little queasy and dizzy. She laid back in her bed again and decided to try to have a nap to help pass the time.
When she awoke, the sun was starting to set. She looked around the room, had Jameson come back whilst she was asleep? There was no sign that anyone had been there. Katy was now feeling very hungry. She took another drink from the pitcher of water and went back to the window. As before, there was no sign of anyone around. She began to question why Jameson had not come back. What if something had happened to him and no one knew she was here? She decided to take a look outside of the room to see if he was around but she was surprised to find the door locked. Katy rattled the door handle to see if it was just stuck but it was clearly locked. Realising she had no choice but to wait, she returned to her bed and settled herself down for the night.
The cockerel’s morning call awakened Katy to her second day in the attic. She immediately tried the door handle but it was still locked. She went to the window and looked out. In the distance, a groundsman was tending to a hedge. She waved to try to catch his attention but to no avail. She knocked on the window and shouted but her efforts were futile. She returned to the door and rattled at the handle again and knocked on the door, trying to catch someone’s attention. There was no response. By now, her stomach was hurting and she was feeling sick with hunger. She took another drink from the pitcher and sat on the edge of her bed, trying to work out what to do next. She needed to get out of the room so she searched everywhere for a key, or anything that would help her open the door. She found nothing. No matter how many times she returned to the door, yanked at the handle and bashed at the wood, she was unable to open it. And no matter how many times she hammered at the window and shouted for help, no one heard her.
Holding the portrait of her Grandmother close, she returned to her bed, dropped to her pillow and cried. Something terrible must have happened to Jameson. If she was trapped in this room and no one knew she was here, would she die here? Katy laid in her bed, contemplating her fate. How could life be so cruel, to do this to her after she had already gone through so much, losing her mother and being thrown out of her home and losing everyone else she knew? Her mood swapped from despair to anger and back to despair. She sobbed, she thumped her pillow and sobbed some more. The sun rose to its highest point and still there was no sign of Jameson or anyone else. As it began to drop towards the horizon in the West, Katy’s anger began to turn into determination. She would not be left here to rot. One way or another she would find a way out.
Searching the room again, Katy tried to find anything she could use as a tool to prise open the door. She was just rummaging through a chest of old toys when she heard a key turn in the lock of the door. Katy rushed to the door, knocking chairs and boxes over as she went. The door opened and with great relief she saw Jameson come into the room carrying a tray.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re here”, she began to weep as she spoke. “I thought something terrible must have happened to you. I am so happy you are here. I am so hungry”. As she spoke she reached for the tray to grab the food as quickly as possible.
Jameson turned the tray away from her. He walked directly to the dresser, lifted the old pitcher and replaced it with a new one and then left without uttering a word. Shocked by what she had just witnessed, Katy didn’t have time to respond before the door closed and she heard the key turn the lock again. When her senses returned, she dashed to the door, yanking at the handle and bashing at the door.
“Help me, help me!” she screamed “Let me out!”
“Hello! Jameson? Anybody? Please, someone, let me out. Help!”
Katy dropped to her knees, her head in her hands and screamed with sheer frustration. What was going on? Why had that man locked her up in here again?
She returned to the dresser and looked into the pitcher to see if there was any food inside. There was no food only water but the water had a wretched smell. She lifted the pitcher and poured some of the foul smelling water into a cup. It was green and thick. Katy recoiled in horror. That awful man had taken away her fresh water and replaced it with this, whatever it was, this foul liquid.
Suddenly realising she was not just locked in the room but had somehow been caught up in a nightmare of some kind, it began to dawn on her that she was probably in very serious danger.
Now she more determined than ever to escape the room. Angry at what had just happened she began to throw everything about, desperately trying to find something that she could use to break down the door. When nothing useful came to hand she lifted a wooden chair high above her head and then smashed it to the ground, breaking the legs into pieces. She took one of the bigger pieces and hammered at the door with it, trying with all her might to break through the door panel. But the only impact she had was to cause minor scratches in the surface of the wood. She took up another piece, narrower this time, and jammed it into the gap between the door and the door frame, trying with all her might to force the door open, but the piece of wood broke and the door hadn’t budged at all. Katy spent the rest of the day searching for anything she could find to help her escape, but to no avail. After hours of effort and exhausted from hunger and thirst she finally gave in and returned to her bed for the night.
It was late in the night, whilst sleeping fitfully, that Katy heard the key turning in the door lock. The pitch black inside the room. She heard the door being slowly pushed open and then the deep breathing of someone nearby. She assumed it was Jameson. Afraid of what he might do, Katy lay as still as possible pretending to sleep, ears peeled to the sounds in the room. After a moment of silence, she felt a hand lift the corner of her blanket and slowly pull it back from her shoulders down to her knees. Katy’s heart pounded heavily in her chest. She didn’t know what to do but instinct told her to keep very still. That hand that had removed her blanket reached down and began to unbutton her blouse. As if shifting position in her sleep, Katy turned onto her stomach. The hand recoiled and soon she felt it go to the button on the back of her skirt and begin to loosen the button. Katy’s own hand had flopped over the side of the bed and the tips of her fingers briefly touched on one of the large shards of wood from the chair she had broken earlier. In an instant, without warning, she grabbed the wood, flipped onto her back and smashed the wood around the head of the imposter. The man stumbled sideways and fell to the floor. Katy leapt from the bed and dashed for the door. A hand grabbed at her ankle, trying to stop her from escaping. She kicked out towards the face of her attacker, twisting and shrugging her foot heavily about until she managed to loosen his grip. The moment she was free she threw herself out of the door onto the short landing and made for the stairs. She raced down the stairs as fast as her legs could carry her, tripping and stumbling as she went, grasping at the handrail to save herself from falling. She could hear Jameson behind her, chasing after her but she was younger and fitter and soon increased the space between them. At the bottom of the stairs she burst through a door into the kitchen, through the kitchen then through another door into a long hallway, Katy ran for her life, screaming as she went.
The noise from the chase woke the household and in moments, people were gathering on the galleried landing above the main staircase. She could hear women crying in fear and the men instructing them to stay back and as the hand-held paraffin lamps illuminating the approaching men, Katy cried out “Help me”. Seconds later, a heavy hand caught her by the collar and threw her back to the wall. Jameson’s face was close to hers and he was shouting to the others that he had caught her.
“It’s OK” he said to the approaching men “It seems we have an intruder. I have it under control, go back to bed, I will call the police and hold her until they arrive”.
“Good Lord”, a thick set man looked shocked “whatever are you doing in my house, you scoundrel”.
“Please, Sir, I have this under control. Please, go back to your bed, I will deal with this” insisted Jameson.
Katy realised she had only moments to save herself or find herself locked up in the attic again.
“No, Sir, please, don’t leave me with this man. He locked me in the attic. Please help me. Don’t leave me with him”.
The other men began to return up the stairs. The thick set man looked questioningly at Jameson.
“The ramblings of a thief caught red-handed, nothing more” said Jameson as he slammed Katy’s back against the wall again. “Go back to your bed, my Lord. I have all of this in hand”.
Two footmen joined Jameson in the hall but as his Lordship nodded his thanks and turned to return to the stairs one of the footmen recognised Katy.
“Wait a minute, isn’t that the young girl who turned up the other night to see Mrs Carter?” he asked.
Katy felt Jameson’s hand tighten its grip as Mrs Carter pushed through the group to look at the girl.
“I do believe you are right, Mr Johnson”, she looked curiously at the butler holding the girl. “wait a moment” then speaking directly to Katy she asked “What are you doing back here. I told you there was nothing here for you”.
Before the conversation could go any further, Lady Penderly came down the stairs. Her eyes staring at the young intruder.
“What is going on here? Who are you?” she asked.
Katy’s sobs stopped instantly. She was stunned. She was sure that the woman she was looking at was the very same woman who was in the portrait she had found in the attic.
Jameson immediately grabbed the girl away from the wall and headed back towards the kitchen.
“I’m sorry, my Lady, please don’t bother yourself with this. I will have this young vagabond in the hands of the police before you know it”. He pushed Katy back along the hall towards the kitchen.
“Wait a moment, Jameson. I asked the girl a question and I want to hear her answer”.
Jameson’s lip made an involuntary curl as he realised he could not avoid any further contact between them.
Katy pulled herself away from his grip.
“Please help me. This man locked me in the attic. I’ve had nothing to eat or drink for 2 days. He came into the room ...” she continued.
“Mad ramblings of a common thief trying get out of the trouble she’s got herself into” he said, making a grab for her collar again. She fought him off.
“I asked who you are” said Lady Penderly.
“Katy, M’am. Katy O’Brady.”
“O’Brady?” came the response.
“Yes M’am”, Katy sobbed continually as she tried to explain. “My mother gave me a letter and told me to come to Penderly Castle. She told me to find Tiggy” she explained. The horrors that she had experienced over the last week overwhelmed her, she was distraught. “My mother just died and she left me a letter. It said she used to work for you and you would help me. I’m sorry, I was only following her instructions. You see, Mrs Ashbourne threw me out on the street. I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to do”.
A stunned silence had fallen throughout the house. When the woman and girl were stood side by side the likeness was unmistakable. Everyone could see it. Jameson knew it. Mrs Carter knew it. Lady Penderly knew it and so did her husband.
“What is this madness?” he demanded. “Who is this urchin? Is she a relative of yours?”
Catherine Penderly’s face was white. Calmly and quietly she asked the girl two more questions.
“Who was your mother, Katy? How old are you?”
Katy’s sobs began to subside.
“My mother’s name was Polly O’Brady. I’m 15 years old” she replied.
Catherine’s hand went to her mouth and she stepped back in shock.
“Jameson, get the girl a drink, immediately” she ordered, then looking around, searching for Cook she called “somebody get this girl a drink and some food, now”.
Within minutes Katy was being ushered back into the kitchen and sat into an armchair by the fireside. A cup was placed into her hands and lifted to her lips, then a plate of bread and cheese was pushed into her lap. Katy could hardly believe her ordeal was over. Tears dropped down into the plate of food. She looked up into familiar eyes.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause a fuss” she apologised.
“No, no, my dear. I am sorry. You have been through so much already but you’re safe now. There’s no need to worry anymore”.
Lord Penderly had followed the group of people into the kitchen and stood watching the scene unfolding in front of him. He had questions that needed answering. Lots of questions and he wanted answers now. He grabbed his wife by the arm and pulled her back away from the girl. She shrugged his arm off violently and moved back towards the girl. He grabbed her again.
“I want to know what is going on and you are going to tell me” he ordered.
Catherine tried to pull away but couldn’t. She needed to think of something, fast. She spoke to her daughter as she left the room “Don’t worry Katy. You’re safe now. I will leave you in the capable care of Jameson and I will see you in the morning.” Then to Mrs Carter she said “prepare a room for her, Tiggy. Make sure she is comfortable”.
“Yes M’am” replied Mrs Carter, feeling ashamed that she had turned the girl away.
Moments later the room emptied, everyone went back to their beds and Katy was left alone with Jameson and Johnson. Jameson told the footman he could leave. As Johnson went towards the door Katy cried out to him not to leave her. Unsure of what to do, Johnson looked at Jameson nervously. Jameson lifted his hand and chased the boy away. When he was out of sight, Katy felt Jameson’s grip tighten around her arm.