“I were coming over the moor under the moonlight when I heard this unearthly sound…” started Old Jim, looking dramatically into middle distance. He was a gentleman of advancing years with wild grey hair and bushy eyebrows. The wrinkled thick skin on his face came from a lifetime of work outdoors and the glassy look in his eyes from an afternoon spent drinking whisky.
“I see,” said Sir John. “Perhaps we can get a bit more specific.”
He produced a map of the area and laid it on the table of the public house, between Old Jim and himself and Marie.
“Could you indicate where you were exactly?” asked Sir John.
“I couldn’t be right sure,” said Jim. “It were dark and I had been … visiting friends.”
“Maybe you recall passing some landmark, or seeing one ahead?” asked Sir John.
Old Jim though for a minute.
“Reckon I’d just passed Devil’s Peak,” said Old Jim
“On the right? Left?” asked Sir John.
“On … the right I imagine,” said Old Jim. “I were heading back to the village.”
“So you were around here,” said Sir John, looking at the map. “There looks to be a well here, was that in front or behind of you.”
“That would be the Old Well, it were … in front,” said Jim, eyes screwed tight in remembrance.
“Was it far?” asked Sir John.
“Mebbe … fifty feet?” said Old Jim.
“So, that puts you quarter of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet north-east of the Dry Well.”
“Yes,” said Old Jim, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Dry Well, under the moonlight.”
“Where was the moon?” asked Marie.
“In the sky?” said Old Jim, confused.
“Where in the sky I mean?” asked Marie.
“It were … over the village, I suppose,” said Old Jim.
“So south-west?” said Sir John. He got out an almanac. “And this was a week ago, yes, so it must have been pretty full?”
“Yes,” said Old Jim, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Old Well, lit by the nearly full moon from the south-west when…”
“You heard a sound, yes, could you describe it?” said SIr John.
“It were unlike nothing I heard before. It went ‘oow-ooo’,” said Old Jim, with some theatre.
Sir John produced a small set of panpipes from his bag.
“Could you do that again please?” he asked. Old Jim repeated the sound and Sir John blew in the pipes.
“A little higher, mon cher,” said Marie, and SIr John blew again. Marie nodded at the note produced.
“F sharp,” said Sir John. “Sorry Jim, would you mind doing that again?”
Looking sheepish, Old Jim made the sound again. Sir John tried a couple of notes until Marie nodded and wrote them down.
“So thats two notes, a quaver of F sharp and a dotted minim of A sharp,” said Sir John. He played them again.
“Which direction did it come from?” asked Marie.
Old Jim looked exasperated. He pointed to the left of him.
“Due south.” said Sir John, making notes. He showed Old Jim the paper. “Is this correct?”
Old Jim pulled himself up and looked into middle distance again.
“Yes,” he said, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Old Well, lit by the nearly full moon from the south west when I heard a quaver of F sharp with a dotted minim of A sharp coming from the due south.”
“Thank you” said Marie, smiling. “‘Ave we missed anything?”
Old Jim leaned in at the pair, looking a little crestfallen.
“It were … unearthly,” he said.
“How interesting,” said Sir John.
The Cornish Curse: Chapter 3