Soot – By Alexia, Anusha, Chahat, Despina, Eshani, Jessica and MahadIn On The Page
“Ouch,” Elizabeth flinched.
“We’ll have less of that wincing, young lady,” remarked Gertrude rapping Elizabeth across her knuckles with a ruler.
Try as she might, poor Elizabeth couldn’t restrain herself from letting out a small whimper of pain.
This sent the governess into a terrible rage. She grabbed Elizabeth severely by the shoulders and dragged her out of her seat.
“Right, Missy, it’s the coal cellar for you,” she snarled, pushing Elizabeth fiercely down the steps towards the basement. Elizabeth’s pulse quickened, adrenaline pumping through her veins. How she wished there was a life with no Gertrude, no cruelty and no isolation.
The governess was like a predator after a helpless little bird. Phwisst… she swooped! And once again the child was locked in the coal cellar.
She drifted in and out of a restless sleep until she was awoken by a cool breeze and a strange hissing sound. The noise was slight at first, but it gradually grew louder and louder until a strange vision appeared before her. It was ghost. He took the form of a young boy, with the appearance of a chimney sweep. He wore ragged dusty clothes and a sweet smile on his face.
“Hello,” whispered the ghost softly.
Elizabeth searched in vain for some means of escape.
“Please don’t be afraid. I mean no harm,” he continued.
Elizabeth wondered if she was imagining things, due to the exhaustion and hunger.
“Are you a real ghost? And if so, why are you here? Shouldn’t you be in heaven or something?”
“I do belong to the spirit world,” the chimney sweep boy replied, “though I seem to be stuck here for now.”
Elizabeth stopped for a moment in awe and wonder, thinking how amazing it was to meet a real ghost.
“I once served this house, as a chimney sweep, many years ago,” he went on to explain. “Sadly I met an unfortunate end, when a torrent of soot tumbled down on me and I was choked by the dust. My spirit never left the mansion, it seems. I think this place isn’t quite done with me yet.”
“I’m so sorry,” replied Elizabeth.
“That’s alright, what brings you here?” questioned the ghost.
“Oh, well, it seems that I am rather stuck too. My governess has locked me up. When my parents return, she’ll rub the soot and cinders off my gown, so they’ll never know the truth. I don’t think I can bear it much longer. I’m Elizabeth by the way,” she explained.
“And my name’s Soot… for obvious reasons,” he smiled, indicating the chimney brush in his hand and the black patches of dust on his clothes. “She must be really mean to do such a thing to you. But don’t worry, I’ll help you. Where does she keep the key to the coal cellar?”
“It’s in her room. Far away at the other end of the mansion,” Elizabeth sighed.
“Now, don’t you worry yourself about that. I know this place like the back of my hand.”
Straight away he left. He zoomed through a series of chimneys to reach Gertrude’s room. There he found the nasty captor snoozing away, the golden key to the cellar lying on a table beside her. Soot hastily grabbed it and floated back to the cellar.
He let Elizabeth out and she gasped in relief. “At last, some air, I thought I might have suffocated in there. I can’t thank you enough,” she said with deep gratitude.
“I haven’t finished yet. We need a bigger plan, if we’re to make your parents see your governess for the malicious prune that she truly is. Otherwise, who’s to say she won’t continue locking you in here until… until… well let’s not think of what might happen if she were to carry on like this for much longer.”
“Don’t you worry, Elizabeth,” Soot reassured her, “You just shout for help and bang on the door from the inside, very hard, and I’ll do the rest.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea? Gertrude’s sure to be maddened by this.”
“Don’t worry, it’s all part of the plan, you’ll see.” Soot did his best to reassure Elizabeth from the other side of the door. “I’ll be back.” And with that, he flew off, leaving Elizabeth pounding her fists on the door and yelling as instructed.
Soot headed into town to find Mr and Mrs Churchill in the market square where a charity tea was being held. He stole up to the Churchill’s and twisted his hands with the chill of the wind. A cool gust carried Mrs Churchill’s hat away across the square and over the hills in the direction of the mansion.
“What’s that commotion, my dear?” wondered Mr Churchill.
“I do believe it’s coming from the coal cellar,” replied Mrs Churchill.
Elizabeth’s parents rushed downstairs to find Gertrude crouched by the door of the coal cellar, hissing through the keyhole.
“Such a stubborn creature. Stop this fuss and nonsense, you wicked child, unless you know what’s good for you!” shouted Gertrude.
“Err hem,” coughed Mr Churchill. “What in heaven’s name is going on? How dare you call my daughter wicked. Is Elizabeth in there?”
“Err… I…um…” Gertrude stammered.
Mr Churchill strode forward, retrieved the cellar key, which Soot had conveniently left on a nearby side-table, and let Elizabeth out. She fell into her mother’s arms, coughing and spluttering.
“Whatever is the meaning of this?” Mrs Churchill was horrified.
Gertrude remained red-faced and speechless. She stuttered and stammered but was unable to explain herself. For how could anyone account for such unreasonable behaviour?
“She does this often, Mother,” sobbed Elizabeth.
“Mistress Gertrude, you are dismissed,” ordered Mr Churchill, “and do not expect any references. Kindly collect your belongings and leave this house at once.”
A cool breeze swept through the corridor. Elizabeth could tell her parents felt it too. She looked around for Soot, but he wasn’t putting in an appearance this time.
“Thanks to whom, Elizabeth?” questioned her father.
“No matter, I’m just ever so tired, that’s all, I really don’t know what I’m saying at the moment,” said Elizabeth.
“There, there, my dear,” reassured her mother. “Things will be much better from now on.”
Elizabeth smiled. At last she could believe that things would be. And that was indeed all thanks to Soot. But she wouldn’t tell her parents about him just yet. It was enough that they finally knew the truth about Mistress Gertrude. Expecting them to believe in ghosts too? Well, that would perhaps be best left for another day.