The four-seater train compartment was filled with boxes and a man and a woman. The man was frowning and obsessively hanging on to the boxes as the train made its bone-shaking journey. At each jolt and rattle he seemed to be trying to hang on to all the boxes at once. The woman gazed out the window at the rainy landscape with a half smile on her face.
“I am truly sorry my dear for this intolerable form of transport,” said Sir John Jennings, trying to hold down a small tube which was rolling back and forth.
“Mon cher,” said Marie Jennings, “it is fine, it is nice to journey out of London and have this pleasant view.”
“Pleasant view?” said Sir John, “How can you see a thing with that downpour? If I had known that this investigation would require such deprivations… Are you sure you can bear it?”
“It is nothing,” said Marie, “but you do need to do something.”
“I do?” said Sir John. “Do you want a different compartment? I’m not sure I can…”
“Non, mon cher,” said Marie. “You have told me so little of this investigation. Just there is a wealthy man who lives in Manchester, a sickly daughter, I don’t know a thing really.”
“I’m sorry, dear,” said Sir John, “I’ve been so busy making arrangements for the journey. Well, let me tell you about the letter I received. It was from a Henry Copperwaite, apparently a man of industry, a man of progress. He is what you might call self made, working his way up from low origins to becoming an owner of a number of factories and works. He’s funded some interesting scientific projects. I have some hope that … well, never mind. His main concern, as he relayed to me on the telephonic device, is his daughter Lillian. You see, this esteemed gentleman is not of good health and is nearing the end of his days. He is thinking of his legacy and the future of his name. He has but one daughter and no sons, and the daughter is most unwell.”
Marie looked puzzled. “That seems a shame, but what is it to us? Are we not supposed to be investigators into the paranormal or the bizarre? This sounds like a job for a physician.”
“Oh drat it all, this confounded contraption will drive us to distraction,” exclaimed Sir John after a particularly strong bump sent a small suitcase flying. “I’m sorry, dear, but this is almost too much to endure. Yes, I said the same to the gentleman, but he has insisted Miss Copperwaite has been seen by a number of physicians. The best money can buy, he said, and none of them can give an explanation for her ailment. It is like a sort of catatonia. She lies all day in bed, cannot be roused but her eyes stare open, vacant at the ceiling.”
“She is, er, not dead?” said Marie.
“I was uncertain how to raise that with him myself, but he said she breathes and she will take a little food. But no other activity. He is convinced it has a supernatural cause, and after the Howarth case, he asked us to come to see.”
“It seems most strange, I agree,” said Marie, “but this isn’t like anything we have read about or seen.”
“No, I know. It was the intrigue that caused me to consider this journey.” The train bumped violently. “Well, curiosity may not have killed this cat, but he is not too comfortable. Do try to be patient, Marie, it’s not too many more hours now,” said Sir John.
Marie continued to gaze out of the window, a serene look on her face. She watched the countryside racing past along with the occasional small town. She wondered at how different this all seemed from her native France and at how calming it was to watch the rain run diagonally across the window. It was a most interesting and relaxing journey, giving her time to pause and reflect.
“Oh damn and blast,” shouted Sir John as a small box fell from the rack onto his head.