The Bell in the Well in the Dell

The Bell in the Well in the Dell

A Story by Lea Sheryn
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A young woman's frightful experience in Romania

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The Bell in the Well in the Dell

By Lea Sheryn

 

I

 

Mama is dead.  Her spirit has gone away. Something gnawing at my heart indicates she no longer walks with the living.  How I know this, I cannot comprehend.  All I know is Mama is dead.

 

Why did she bring us to this Godforsaken place?  In those long sleepless nights since she suddenly disappeared, I ask myself this question over and over.  Romania.  It’s a long way from Victorian England and the comforts of my father’s home.  Yet this is the place my mother chose to flee to once tragedy struck our little family. 

 

The dark gothic castle perched high on the hill sent chills down my spine.  The first time my eyes caught a glimpse of it as we traveled toward our final destination, I hated the sight of it.  As much as I hadn’t wanted to enter the place, I knew there was no other alternative.  When we entered it’s portals that first windswept night, I felt the screams welling up inside me.  Only a glance from Mama kept them from pouring forth. 

 

Three years.  It was three years since that first night.  None of them were what I would call pleasant.  Yet mama kept her chin up through it all and never once showed that she was scared or worried or concerned.  For all I knew, she liked Romania, the castle and it’s bizarre inmates. 

 

II

 

My father was a fine man.  As the vicar of the parish church, he was respected and kind to all.  When Sterling Chamberlain gave a sermon, people came from miles around to hear him; the church was always packed with parishioners crammed into the pews and standing in the aisles.  Papa made me feel proud I was his daughter. 

 

One day Papa came home from London town with a look of sorrow on his face.  Papa killed a man.  Horrorstruck, he hid his eyes from mama and me as we waited for an explanation from the kindest and gentlest man I had ever known.  “It was quite by mistake, Isabelle.  I didn’t mean to do it, Nora,” he stated with tears welling up in his eyes.  Sadly, he sat behind the big oak desk in his office until the law came to take him away.   

 

On a cold crisp November morning, Papa swung from the hangman’s noose.  Although he had shot a man who was in the act of molesting a woman, there was no mercy for a murderer.  He knew he had to pay the price for breaking the law and the commandments of the church that he held so dear.

 

With Papa gone, Mama and I were left homeless.  A new vicar arrived with his large family to take his place.  Forced to leave everything behind, we stayed with family and friends while Mama searched for a position as a governess.  Under the circumstances of father’s death, no one would consider her until she received notice from Romania.  Baron von Helfin had three children who he wished to educate.  With little choice, an agreement was reached to teach them English, dancing and drawing along with the regular curriculum.   And so, we made our way to Romania. 

 

III

 

Although the hour was just striking midnight as we arrived, the Baron greeted us warmly and invited us into a private drawing room.  Offering us a customary array of traditional English teas and delicate pastries, we were made welcome in every way.  The children, who should have been tucked up in their beds, were brought in and introduced.  Vlad, at thirteen, was tall with brown eyes and jet-black hair; twelve-year-old Luiza resembled her elder brother while the youngest one, who was only eight, attempted to hide behind the elder two.  Once she was brought forward, she shyly announced that her name was Vanda.  All three children were as pale as death.  

 

Hidden in the very depths of the room was a figure that sent shivers down my spine.  Clad in hooded black cloak fully covering his head and body, Ranulf blended into the background with the appearance of a shadow.  Although he never moved into the light of the flickering candles, his presence was well noted by all.  He was Baron von Helfin’s seventeen-year-old nephew and ward.        

 

And so we settled into the strangest household I had ever encountered.  Since I was fourteen when we arrived, I was expected in the schoolroom in the west tower each morning to participate in lessons with the other children.  Mama made every lesson as normal as possible even though it was obvious there was nothing normal about the lessons or the children. 

 

Much to my chagrin, after the second year, Mama became the Baroness von Helfin; she and the Baron were suddenly man and wife.  How happy she made everything seem when she became the mistress of the castle.  Despite the strangeness of the situation, she made all the peculiarities seem every day occurrences. 

 

In the third year, she disappeared. 

 

IV

 

Homeless, penniless and in a strange foreign country, I lived on in that eerie gothic castle in the remotest part of Romania.  Back in England, people had probably forgotten all about Sterling, Isabelle and Nora Chamberlain.  No one would come looking for the little girl who used to sit in the front pew with her mother while her father gave the sermon from the pulpit.  Now that Sterling and Isabelle were gone, only Nora was left.  I was but a poor girl of seventeen held captive by the Baron von Helfin and his unusually strange family. 

 

“Oh Mama, where are you?” I cried out loud as I sat on the stone bench inside the castle walls.  “Will no one help me?”  Surely my despair couldn’t have been greater.  The Baron wouldn’t even acknowledge there was anything wrong so whom else could I turn to? 

 

“Psst, psst,” whispered a small voice close at hand.  Slightly turning my head, I noticed a small head peeping from the shrubbery near the bench.  It was the little chambermaid, Helga.  As I bent my head in her direction, she whispered into my ear: “My granny could tell you where your mama is.  If she can hold something, a piece of jewelry or a comb from her hair, she will know the answer.  Cross her palm with silver and she will tell you all you wish to know. My granny’s a gypsy.”

 

Carefully I touched Mama’s cameo broach in my pocket.  It is the only possession I had of hers since everything else has disappeared.  Should I or shouldn’t I trust the gypsy woman? I asked myself.  Should I trust a woman versed in psychometry�"the ability to discover facts about a person by touching an item belonging to them?  Papa always preached against those who practiced the Black Arts.  If not, where else was I to turn?

 

V

 

Throwing caution to the wind, I followed Helga into the shrubbery and through a hidden door in the caste wall.  The woods we traversed were as eerie as the castle itself.  Dark and dreary was the path to the single gypsy caravan nestled amongst the crabbed and gnarled trees.  The old crone sat upon the step of the caravan singing a hellish melody that made me want to turn and runaway as fast as my legs could carry me.  Still, I was compelled to approach her.  For she and only she might have the answers that I so desperately sought. 

 

With greedy fingers, the old devil grasped Mama’s precious Cameo.  Clutching it tightly in a fist webbed with veins that stood out from her skin, the woman continued to sing her hellish dirge.  Suddenly her tune changed as her rheumy eyes met mine.  “The Bell in the Well in the Dell,” she sang, her voice becoming a singsong.  Again she chanted the words.  “The Bell in the Well in the Dell.” 

 

“Is that all you have to say?” I shrieked as I felt myself becoming unhinged.  “This is nonsense.  Utter and complete nonsense.”  Without care, I grabbed the Cameo and turned on my heels to stalk away. 

 

Again the crone sang out, “The Bell in the Well in the Dell,” before she let out a hellish cackle.  Scared, I plunged into the deep dark woods. 

 

“The silver, the silver,” Helga cried, as she grabbed my arm to pull me to a standstill.  “You must cross her palm with silver or else she will curse you and you will never find your mama.”  Before I could react, she plunged her hand into my pocket, grabbed the coins and ran back to her gypsy granny. 

 

VI

 

The words “The Bell in the Well in the Dell” wouldn’t leave my mind.  The gypsy song was a continual nightmare chasing itself around my head.  Oh Mama, where are you?  I couldn’t take the agony any longer.  In order to remove myself from the current situation, I allowed myself to fall back into the past and the good days when Papa was alive.  Recalling him coming in from the parish church office in the late afternoon, I pictured him bending forward to kiss Mama and pull her into his arms.  Always he would whisper into her hair, “Oh my beautiful Belle.” 

 

“Belle”�"Papa’s name for Mama.  He was the only one who ever called her by that name.  Suddenly I sat up in bed.  “The Bell in the Well in the Dell.”  The words haunted me.  Without hesitation, I slipped out of my room with a lighted taper and, in the darkness of night, investigated every well within the castle walls.  No sign of Mama.  Disappointed, I made my way back to my lonely chamber to wait away the rest of that horrible night.

 

The next morning, I sought out Helga in the kitchens.  Cornering her, I urgently whispered, “Where is the Well in the Dell?” 

 

Oh, she didn’t want to tell me but I made her.  Helga begged and pleaded with me not to go alone.  “The Baron, the Baron,” she whispered in a haunted voice but wouldn’t say anymore. 

 

Out of my mind, I flew from the castle back into the woods.  I must have stumbled around for hours searching for the deserted crofter cottage in the dell.  It took ages to push the cover off the well and how sorry I was when I finally did!  What I saw caused me to scream as I had never screamed before.  On hands and knees, I crawled away until I could regain my feet and run!

 

Oh Mama!

 

VII

 

That last night in the castle was the longest I had ever spent.  Perhaps I slept in spurts but never for long.  In the wee dark hours, a hellish presence filled the room.  Peering about, I could see nothing of what I felt until a shape began to emerge from the deepest shadows.  Dressed in his black hooded cloak, Ranulf hovered over my bed.  When he noticed me staring up at him, his smile widened to show fangs of teeth. 

 

In my uncontrollable fear, I swung my legs from my bed, placed my hands firmly on his shoulders and shoved him with all my might.  The room filled with the sound of furiously flapping wings as the windows flew open and slammed shut.  Quickly lighting a torch in the dying embers in the fireplace, I boldly approached the windows.  Hanging upside down from the casement was the biggest vampire bat I had ever seen.  Ranulf!

 

“Would this night never end?”  The silent yell echoed again and again inside my head.  Finally dawn peeked weakly through the window.  It was my signal to leave the Godforsaken place I had called home for three long years.  All I had to do was make it to the village to find safety.  Surely someone there would listen to my story and help me return to England.  Better to go to a place where I knew no one than to stay and await the same fate that had taken my mother. 

 

With the same carpetbag I had arrived with in hand, I left the castle and made the long, long walk to the closest village.  Deserted!  The houses, the shops, the alehouse all had the look of long abandonment.  How could this be?  It was only three years since our arrival.  What had happened?  Perplexed, I stood in the midst of the main street and stared around me.  How had I fallen into this nightmare? 

 

VIII

 

“Hello,” a voice called and echoed around the deserted main street.  Slowly I turned toward the sound of the voice to find a young man standing alone in the doorway of the alehouse. 

 

The hideous laughter sounded both far away and close at hand as I fell to my knees in the midst of the street.  Horrorstruck, I realized it was my own.  As the man rushed to kneel beside me, I allowed myself to fall into hysterical tears.  Once I was calm enough to speak, I was able to tell him who I was and where I had come from. 

 

With a serious expression, the young man listened to my story before he sat back on his heels in the middle of the street to stare at me.  “It’s quite impossible,” he finally stated, “The Baron von Helfin, his children and his ward were all destroyed over one hundred years ago.  The villagers rose against them and slaughtered them by driving stakes through their hearts.  That’s how you kill vampires.  This place has been deserted ever since that time.”

 

I find it hard to recall the events that occurred after that point.  Somehow I returned to England where I was placed into a sanatorium.  My mind was completely gone.  Slowly it is returning.  Prentiss Wills, the young man I encountered in the village, visits me nearly every day.  He is kind and patient when he holds my hand in his as we sit in the sunshine in the gardens of the sanatorium.  He is my friend and protector.  I expect, when I am truly well again, he will ask for my hand in marriage.

 

Until that day arrives, I have to forget Romania, my years in the hellish castle, the Baron von Helfin and his ghoulish children.  But I will never forget Mama.  

© 2019 Lea Sheryn


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Featured Review

The best part of your storytelling here is how you balance the realistic telling of a believable story which is woven thru with fantasy elements. Sometimes stories like this have aspects that don't ring true . . . everything in your story rings true, despite the fantasy-like construction! I just finished reading book from 30 yrs ago: "Women Who Run With Wolves" -- full of tales like this from cultures around the world, used to show life lessons, etc. The way your story reads is so much like these ancient myths & tales passed down for generations. In fact, I thought your story was much better & clearer than some of the convoluted tales shared in that book. This is top-notch storytelling, as well as near-perfect construction (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

3 Months Ago

Thank you, Margie. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because I am so pleased and touched by y.. read more



Reviews

You did an awesome job on this. The setting was so easy to see and smell. I love gothic tales and vampires. I kind of grew up around such literature and movies and you didn't miss a beat with making me feel like I was shadowing Mama and daughter. I found myself wanting to warn her of coming dangers. I felt her fear the night Ranulf hovered over her, grinning, I felt purposely, to show her his fangs. Then I felt her bravery to shove him away. The ending, I was sad to see come. I was into this and wanted more. Great job, great story.

Posted 2 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

2 Days Ago

Thank you, Rhayne. This story just fell in place for me. I enjoyed writing it and exploring a dark.. read more
What a way to drive someone mad! A very well written mysterious, ghostly story. I love it.

Posted 2 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

2 Days Ago

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Amazing story. The setting was suitably eerie, and I like your concise style; you can convey such powerful emotion with a single sentence.

Keep up the good work!

-Derekv

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

1 Month Ago

Thank you, Derekv. I appreciate your kind words.
this is so beautiful and well written! excellent story for sure.

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

2 Months Ago

Thank you, Amber.
I love the first lines of the story, although they kind of made my heart throb a little because I haven't yet made peace with the fact that one day I'm gonna wake up motherless, fortunately I found a way to connect with every line throughout the story. I really like stories that stirs up my emotions

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

2 Months Ago

I understand. I'm in the same position with my mother. Thank you for liking my story. I greatly .. read more
I enjoyed this throughout. You have the knack, for storytelling.

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

2 Months Ago

Thank you so much!

I must confess, I was hooked from the off and completely taken in... only on reflection did it begin to dawn on me that this is more a Gothic fairy-tale than part of your own autobiography....

How could anyone ever forget Mama... Neville

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

2 Months Ago

Thank you, Neville. I like to try different subjects. Gothic isn't my usual stunt so this was inte.. read more
Neville

2 Months Ago


I most certainly did :)
The best part of your storytelling here is how you balance the realistic telling of a believable story which is woven thru with fantasy elements. Sometimes stories like this have aspects that don't ring true . . . everything in your story rings true, despite the fantasy-like construction! I just finished reading book from 30 yrs ago: "Women Who Run With Wolves" -- full of tales like this from cultures around the world, used to show life lessons, etc. The way your story reads is so much like these ancient myths & tales passed down for generations. In fact, I thought your story was much better & clearer than some of the convoluted tales shared in that book. This is top-notch storytelling, as well as near-perfect construction (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

3 Months Ago

Thank you, Margie. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because I am so pleased and touched by y.. read more
A well and curiously told tale.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

3 Months Ago

Thank you! This was a new topic for me.
a thriller this one

you seem skilled at delving into the gothic


your library holds surprises yet


L.S

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lea Sheryn

3 Months Ago

I wanted to do something gothic with vampires. I like to try everything.
LitStar

3 Months Ago

so I see

impressive
Lea Sheryn

3 Months Ago

Thank you!

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Added on July 2, 2019
Last Updated on July 2, 2019
Tags: young woman, frightful, vampires, Romania

Author

Lea Sheryn
Lea Sheryn

Sarasota, FL



About
I love to write! To have the ability to put words together to express myself is an ability that I cherish. Working for years to strengthen my talent, I am a self taught Word Weaver. Up until now, I.. more..

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