Haunting Violet Page 15

We ended up outside, walking between two willow trees and then around the rosebushes along the side of the mansion. It was so large and gray, I felt like a fairy under the hulking shadow of an ogre.

“Elizabeth, there you are.” A girl about our age interrupted from where she’d been sulking over by the pink globes of a hydrangea bush. The sun gleamed blindingly on the pond in the distance behind her. On one of the benches a woman with dark blond hair in a plain bun watched us disapprovingly.

“Miss Donovan, her governess,” Elizabeth whispered to me, making a pinched face.

The girl sniffed. “She is not my governess. I’m far too old for a governess,” she insisted. She might have seemed delicate if it wasn’t for the stony glint in her eyes. Her long hair was perfectly curled and the exact shade of pale daffodils. She seemed familiar in a vague way that irritated, like a toothache. She wore a pristine white dress, not a grass stain or mud spot in sight. “It’s frightfully dull here. Everyone’s too young or too old.”

“I know,” Elizabeth agreed. “Tabitha Wentworth, this is Violet Willoughby. Tabitha lives in the white house on the hill there, with her uncle Wentworth.”

“Sir Wentworth,” the governess corrected primly from her stone perch. Elizabeth rolled her eyes. Tabitha speared me with her gaze.

“Is your mother Celeste Willoughby? The medium?”

I nodded.

“I don’t believe in ghosts and all that Spiritualist rot,” she scoffed.

“Tabitha.” Elizabeth frowned.

I just shrugged and didn’t bother defending myself. I might have hated doing it, but I kept our secret as faithfully as my mother did. What else was I to do? How would ruining myself and my family help us in any way? No one would understand. Least of all Xavier. He would never forgive me. Perhaps if he truly did offer for me as Mother was convinced he would, I could leave all of this behind, all of the pretty, sneering girls like Tabitha, who looked down their noses at me. I would never have to take part in another séance again.

I just had to remind myself of that every time I felt the urge to confess everything to Lord Jasper.

The light flashed off the water behind Tabitha. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, except that suddenly my eyes felt painfully focused. My perspective stretched, then narrowed just as abruptly. It was the oddest thing. I shivered as goose bumps rose on my skin like a lawn of new grass poking out of the ground at springtime.

More distressing yet was the fact that Tabitha seemed to waver, as if she were standing in the oppressive heat of India instead of a perfectly pleasant English summer day. She wavered again and became two Tabithas, with the one on the left as pale as almond cream.

I suddenly knew why I had thought Tabitha looked familiar.

And I didn’t like it one bit.

“Violet!” I could hear Elizabeth’s worried voice, but it seemed to be coming from very far away.

“Why is she staring at me like that?” Tabitha snapped. “Is she having some sort of a fit?”

If only.

The other Tabitha opened her mouth and water streamed out, soaking into her already waterlogged dress and creating a puddle under her bare feet. There were lilies and long grasses caught in her hair. It was the same girl I had seen in the parlor last night.

And she was identical to Tabitha.

Except, of course, she was transparent.

So much for pretending none of this was actually happening to me.

I could see the outline of the decorative yew hedge behind Tabitha’s double and, faintly, the distant pond. She reached out to touch Tabitha but her hand passed right through her shoulder. I flinched, waiting for the shrieking to begin.

There was nothing but the starlings singing from the rooftop. Tabitha didn’t so much as twitch, though I did notice gooseflesh on her neck. I stared at Elizabeth. She came from a Spiritualist family; surely she realized what was going on.

Elizabeth just stared back at me, quizzically.

“Miss Wentworth,” I finally croaked. “Do you have a twin sister?”

I don’t know who was paler, Tabitha or the suddenly excited spirit at her side.

“Excuse me?” Her tone was positively frigid, but I barely noticed. I was starting to feel faint. The governess made a strangled sound and rose to her feet.

“She drowned, didn’t she?” I paused, thinking of the water that had inexplicably filled my room last night and then just as inexplicably disappeared. Around her wrists were bruises like jet beads. “No,” I whispered, finally realizing what I was seeing. “She didn’t just drown. She was murdered.”

I swayed slightly and had to grip Elizabeth’s arm to keep from falling. Tabitha made an odd sound of fury and fear, like a wet cat. The girl beside her looked sad and then vanished.

Completely.

Only Tabitha remained, glaring at me with seething hatred.

“Stay away from me,” she hissed before turning on her heel and marching away. I couldn’t be sure but I thought there were tears on her cheeks. She pulled a small tin out of her pocket with trembling fingers, but I couldn’t see what it was.

“Oh, Violet.” Elizabeth sighed as I sank onto a stone bench. My head felt rather peculiar, my limbs weak.

“What just happened?” I asked.

She sat next to me, warily. “How did you know about Rowena?”

“Who’s Rowena?”

“Tabitha’s twin sister.” My stomach dropped clear into my shoes as she continued. “She died last year. Drowned.”

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