GosickS I – Prelude 6

In the men’s faculty dormitory, opposite the women’s dormitory where Cécile stayed, Mr. Jenkins and his wife had left behind their things in their room on the second floor. In that lonely room, now sealed up and darkened, their belongings evoked the strong, lingering presence of those who had once lived there.

And then, every night from that night onward, the harp in that room began to play a peculiar melody….

*****

Cécile was relaxing alone in her own room that night, filing her nails and shining her shoes. She found herself unable to quit after finishing with her own shoes, and decided to take it upon herself to polish the shoes of her friend living in the room next door. As she hummed while shining her shoes, suddenly she heard the faint sound of music being played invitingly from outside the window.

“Hmm?” Cécile looked up, and strained to listen.

But she heard only silence. She resumed her humming and shoe-shining.

Then the music began to play again.

“Huh?” Cécile jumped to her feet and opened the window.

She took a look at the second-story window of the dormitory across the way. The lights were off in the room that had belonged to Mr. Jenkins, and it seemed to be empty. But she definitely heard the sound of…

“A harp!” A chill ran down her spine.

Cécile went to rouse her sleeping friend from her bed in the next room. Her friend woke up mumbling crankily, then threw on her coat over her nightgown and ran outside with her.

“So Mr. Jenkins came back!”

“No, I doubt it.”

“But I hear his harp being played!”

“In a dark room?”

Her friend laughed. “That sounds like something a ghost would do,” she replied absently. Then she caught herself and cried out, “Eek!” and exchanged a look with Cécile. “A ghost…”

“C-can’t be…” the two of them murmured, and shook their heads.

“That’s impossible.”

“I know.”

They entered the men’s dormitory and climbed up the stairs. They warily knocked on the door of Mr. Jenkins’ room, but no one answered.

The lights inside were turned off.

All they could hear was the faltering melody of the harp.

“Mr. Jenkins? Sir?” they called out in unison.

Before long, more people came investigate, and soon a crowd of teachers gathered around, loudly talking amongst themselves. As the harp continued to play, someone walked down to the office and retrieved the key to the room, then handed it to Cécile.

With quivering hands, she inserted the key into the lock, and hesitantly opened the door.

“Mr. Jenkins…?” she called out.

There was no answer.

The sound of the harp faded away.

“It wasn’t in this room, I’m sure of it. Someone must’ve been playing in another room,” one teacher muttered.

Cécile’s friend stepped over the plush carpet and turned on a lamp in the middle of the room.

The light bathed the room in a dim orange glow.

There was no one inside.

The crowd of onlookers simultaneously gasped. Her friend shrieked like a cat whose tail had been stepped on.

“What happened?!” yelled Cécile in surprise.

Her friend stretched out a trembling hand and pointed at the harp.

Cécile’s eyes crossed. “Oh!”

The strings of the harp were faintly vibrating.

As if someone had been sitting next to it and playing only moments ago.

“A—a ghost!” screeched her friend. “The ghost of Mr. Jenkins! His ghost was sitting right here, playing the harp. That must’ve been him….”

“That’s impossible!”

“Everyone loved his performances, so he wanted us to hear him play one last time. Mr. Jenkins! Oh, how tragic! Our kind Mr. Jenkins must no longer be with us!”

“Don’t say that!”

An uproar surged through the crowd of teachers.

Cécile elbowed her way through the throng and raced down the stairs. She picked up the telephone and dialed the operator to connect her with the hospital in Sauvrème.

Mrs. Jenkins was summoned to answer the hospital’s phone. “All right. Oh, it’s you, Cécile, the one who’s terrible at the piano.”

Her uncomplimentary opening line slipped past Cécile’s notice. Cécile asked her through sobs, “Uh, Mrs. Jenkins. All of us offer you our c-condolences…”

“What?” the old woman answered bemusedly. “Your condolences? For what?”

Cécile wiped her tears. “Huh…? Didn’t Mr. Jenkins pass away…?”

“What are you talking about, Cécile! He’s alive and kicking! Right now he’s recovering in his hospital room and enjoying his dinner. What a rude thing to say!”

“What?!” Cécile hurriedly apologized, then hung up the receiver.

The new music teacher had walked over to her. “What happened?”

“Well, I called the hospital just now, about Mr. Jenkins.”

“The hospital?” A strange expression passed over the music teacher’s face as he repeated her words.

*****

The next day, Cécile walked to the gingerbread house carrying a stack of books, her eyes bleary from the commotion over the ghost on the previous night. She wound her way through the unfinished garden maze, whose construction was making steady progress under the care of the old gardener.

“Oh, no!” Just as she was about to start crying from fear that she would become stranded inside the maze, Cécile finally found the outlet and arrived at the house in the center. She set the stack of books upon a claw foot table, now so tired that she could barely speak.

“Ahh…” She fell into a chair with an sigh of relief. “They’re so heavy!”

*****

Later that night…

The same incident happened again in the faculty dormitory.

The harp played on in the empty room. When the teachers ran to open the door, they found no one inside. The window was also locked from the inside. Cécile’s friend approached the harp, and pointed at it. “Look, the strings are still quivering,” she murmured.

But when they called the hospital, they were told that Mr. Jenkins was getting better by the day.

And the next night, it occurred again….

With each time she heard the harp playing, the naturally timid Cécile found herself increasingly unable to sleep at night….

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