From the corridor with the boys’ portrait, Marie could hear the activity in the next room. Although she couldn’t make out exactly what her husband was saying, it sounded like he was explaining the Thanatograph in excited tones. This was punctuated by interruptions from an irritated sounding Lady Howarth and a nervous sounding priest.
Marie studied the portrait in front of her. She was sure there was more to it than she was seeing, but what it was, was beyond her. It was a painting in a rural setting of two boys on the cusp of manhood. And the boy on the left was the same one Marie had seen in the haunted room and the bedroom.
From next door came a creaking noise that Marie knew was the Thanatograph. She had seen it before; it was like a gramophone but with a blank record. The hiss and crackles were supposed to let the voice of spirits come through. It sounded like something was happening this time, as a gravely voice came through.
Marie could just make out her husband saying, “Remarkable, isn’t it?” Then Lady Howarth said loudly, “What’s it saying – sounds like – ‘you’ something – ‘you – serpent?’ ‘YOU SERPENT’! Well what an ungrateful wretch – Priest – start the exorcism.”
Marie could hear the priest starting, speaking loudly over the increasing din of the Thanatograph, although there was a waver to his voice. He reached a crescendo shouting “in the name of the father and, and” but was interrupted by a crash and what sounded like a table falling over. Then there came a shriek, from the priest, some shouting, from Lady Howarth, and finally the sound people of running and a door slamming.
Marie sighed and turned her attention back to the painting.
“They should listen to you,” she said. “Who are you? Why are you here?”
She looked closely at the picture of the ghost boy. To Marie’s eyes it seemed like he was moving a little. His right arm had been lying casually over a gate, but now it seemed to stiffen. The boy’s head seemed to tilt and his gaze was now following his arm, indicating something to the left.
“Aha,” said Marie, and followed the line. There was a door on the left not far from the painting. She went over to it, but it was locked. Marie looked back at the painting and the boy.
“I’m sorry, but please ‘elp… I ‘ave no time,” whispered Marie.
The figure of the boy seemed to frown and the arm seemed to stiffen some more, Marie followed the line again. It pointed past the edge of the painting to the door. There could be no mistake. She was looking back and forth from the boy to the door, to see if she had missed something when she finally understood. She pulled the painting away from the wall and there on the back was written “EH + AC” in a thin pencil line. She smiled and looked back at the painting. The boy had returned to his normal relaxed pose.
She quickly headed out of the corridor, turned a corner into the main part of the house and walked straight into the butler. Marie froze.
“Madam, you can’t be here, this is off limits,” said the butler, aghast.
“Oublier!” said Marie, waving two fingers in front of his face. His expression glazed over and he looked about himself, blinked, turned around and walked away. Marie sighed in relief and went to find her husband.