The Cornish Curse: Chapter 7

The moose, boar, lion and tiger all stared down with a glassy gaze at and Sir John and Marie. They in turn looked up at the stuffed animal heads as they sat in the large wood panelled room. They looked down to see a leopard skin on the floor. The far door opened and Lord du Bois came in with his dog Arthur, smiling broadly.

cc-ch-7“Frightful Things!”

“You found my little abode then!” he said, indicating the roomy interior.

“Indeed,” said Sir John. “I take it you like hunting?”

Lord du Bois roared with laughter.

“Oh dear, quite the reverse,” he said, “I inherited these frightful things when I took possession of the house. Since they’d lived here so long I felt unable to evict them. In any way, they seem to add a touch of authentic rustic atmosphere.”

“Lord du Bois,” said Sir John,”whilst it’s pleasant to make your acquaintance again we have also come in something of a professional capacity.”

“Oh dear, this sounds deadly,” he said. “And I’d just sent for the best brandy to warm us.”

“It’s nothing, I think,” said Sir John, “We just wanted to check if you had heard anything strange last full moon.”

“Something strange?” said Lord du Bois.

“Yes a sound like this,” said Sir John and made the howling sound that Old Jim had told them he had heard. Instantly Arthur sat down, put his head back and made the same noise. Lord du Bois nearly fell off his chair laughing.

“Oh, my dear fellow,” said du Bois. “You’ve been talking to Old Jim, I wager. He’s told this story down the Old Lamb any number of times. Each time it gets more dramatic I swear. Yes, I know that noise; old Arthur here makes that when he’s lonely. Oh, I’m afraid he may have taken you down the wrong path.”

“Or off it completely,” said Sir John, looking crestfallen. At this point a maid entered with a decanter of brandy and three glasses. She carefully filled the glasses then left. Lord du Bois passed them round.

“Bottoms up!” he said and took a large gulp of the brandy.

“It’s a little early for me,” said Sir John sipping lightly.

“Mon Dieu!” said Marie taking a sip, “I ‘ave not had brandy this good since I was in France.”

“Yes, I’m afraid I’m a bit of a snob about it,” said Lord du Bois. “I only buy the best. It’s a devil to get it shipped here, but I lived too long in the city to give up all my creature comforts.”

“So you aren’t … a country gentlemen?” said Maire.

“Lord no!” said du Bois. “I’m a Bristol boy born and bred. Father made a packet from the shipping and I inherited it. I was rather bored of life by the docks so thought I’d try my arm in farming instead. It’s been the making of me.”

“You feel … at home here?” asked Marie.

“Mrs Jennings,” said du Bois. “I can honestly say that since I’ve got here I’ve felt a new man.”

The trio sipped or gulped their brandy in silence whilst Sir John looked a little forlorn.

“Ah!” said du Bois suddenly, “I’ve just had a most marvelous idea. We can kill two birds with one stone here. You need to meet all the villagers to find out who knows what, and I’ve promised a certain someone in the Mallum house to hold a ball.”

“I don’t follow,” said Sir John.

“Well,” said du Bois. “If I keep my promise and throw a ball, you can get to meet everyone from the village, make some useful friends, maybe, and after a few drinks, who knows, you may even find something useful.”

“What a marvelous idea!” said Sir John and took a big gulp of brandy.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 8

Man-filled Park


Gentle Reader

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer possessed of good talent, must be in want of a parody. The eagle-eyed and literary minded amongst you – and I imagine that is all of you – may have noticed that our current Jennings and Jennings story The Cornish Curse is in some small way indebted to the wonderful writing of Jane Austen. We hope that this is considered more homage than parody, more celebration than denigration, and more affection than affliction and that you, and indeed Jane, would forgive us.

Last year when we were resident in the wonderful seaside town of Brighton, which incidentally does not possess a large number of officers, a point on which Miss Austen is unfortunately inaccurate, we enjoyed another homage, parody, or whimsical what-you-will riffing on Austen’s oeuvre. This was the wonderful improvisational theatre group going by the name Austentatious. In short, this was an entirely improvised play, derived from a title suggested by the audience and performed in the manner of Miss Austen’s writing. We can only say that the pleasure this show brought to us was immense indeed, and heartily recommend it to you, that you may share in the merriment that we did.

We wish you, Dear Reader, a most pleasant and wonderful evening and we pray beg you to let us take our leave.


The Benthic Times

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 6

“Do you see anything Phlebotomous?” said Sir John to the vampire. Phlebotomous was wearing a large contraption on his head that had two telescopic protrusions around the eyes. The two were at the site that Old Jim had talked about.

cc-ch6“Special Sight?”

“Not really,” said Phlebotomous, “A large man with a significant beard has gone into the Mallum’s house and one of the girls has pulled a face through the window.”

“That’s not due south,” said Sir John and walked over to Phlebotomous, swiveling the vampire to the correct direction. Phlebotomous let out a shriek.

“What is it?” said Sir John.

“That gives me terrible vertigo,” said Phlebotomous. He produced a small stick from one of his pockets and pressed a button on in. It extended out to a staff and he leaned on it.

“That’s better,” he said. “I can see even less now, I’m just staring into the dark countryside.”

“Don’t you have … special sight?” said Sir John.

“Why?” said Phlebotomous.

“Well, you’re, you know, a night creature,” said Sir John.

“No, I have terrible eyesight at the best of times. And I don’t like going out at night so I didn’t bother to fix anything onto this binoscope for night vision,” said Phlebotomous, tapping the apparatus.

“You don’t like going out at night?” said Sir John, perplexed.

“I don’t like the dark, it makes me nervous,” said Phlebotomous.

Sir John went to speak again then shook his head.

“Was it definitely due south?” said Phlebotomous. “That seems like a very precise direction for a man you said had consumed liquor.”

“Is there anything South-ish then?” said Sir John.

“Apart from that large mansion on the edge of the village, nothing,” said Phlebotomous.

“It’s not that,” said Sir John. “I’ve met the friendly owner and his large and even friendlier dog. Marie and I have an open invite to visit.”

“Maybe you should go visit,” said Phlebotomous, “to eliminate him from the investigation.”

“Have you been reading penny dreadfuls about crimes?” said Sir John.

“It was a long coach ride,” said Phlebotomous. He sighed.

“This is useless, and I’m not sure I believe this Jim personage. How could anyone cross the moor at night,” said Phlebotomous. “You can barely see your feet.”

“Hmm,” said Sir John, “I think Old Jim said that it was … good God!”

Phlebotomous ripped off the headpiece at this outburst.

“What is it?” he said. “Is it the beast?”

“No, and I don’t think we’ll be finding anything tonight,” said Sir John. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. Mr Bosch, what kind of creature is like a big dog and comes out at full moon?”

“Full moon!” said Phlebotomous, “Why didn’t you say … it must be a…”

“Yes,” said Sir John, “a lycanthrope.”

“Oh,” said Phlebotomous, “I was going to say werewolf.”

Sir John looked at Phlebotomous.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

“A lycanthrope isn’t just someone who dislikes people licking things?” said Phlebotomous.

“No,” said Sir John.

“Well then, cousin Vlad owes me five shillings!” said Phlebotomous.

The Valentine Victuals

valentines-card“Mon Cher”

“It’s a mystery, a complete and utter mystery!” said Sir John, looking perplexed.

“What is?” said Phlebotomous.

“I can’t find a dinner table in all of London. What’s so special about a mid-week in February?” said Sir John.

“I have one booked,” said Phlebotomous. “A lady friend who said she’d like to see me. A Miss Isabella Swan. I’m quite excited about it as I believe Miss Swan is interested in a new gearing mechanism I’ve invented.”

The vampire leaned forward.

“I intend to show her the plans,” he said conspiratorially. “In fact I’d better go and prepare. I want to make sure I have the final draft for this evening.”

Phlebotomous left the room and Miss Henderson walked in the room with a pot of tea. Her eyes were rather red.

“Miss Henderson, I know you wanted this evening off, but we’re having trouble getting a table, would tomorrow be acceptable instead?” asked Sir John.

“I don’t care if I never have an evening off again,” said Miss Henderson. “I shall die an old maid either way.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “Yes … well … just tonight, really. Oh, by the way, this was in the mail for you.”

Sir John passed Miss Henderson a letter and left the room, glancing quickly back at Miss Henderson as he did. Miss Henderson opened the letter to find a card. Her face suddenly lit up. She fell into the seat and absently reached for a biscuit. She barely noticed Marie come in the room and shot up out of the seat when she did.

“I’m sorry Mrs Jennings,” she said, “only I just had some good news.”

“It’s fine Miss Henderson,” said Marie. “Are you alright? You look like you have been crying.”

“I was … expecting something,” said Miss Henderson, “and … that something didn’t happen and then it did happen.”

Marie looked puzzled, so Miss Henderson showed her the card and Marie smiled.

“So you shall be dining with the young detective,” she said.

“Sush, Mrs Jennings,” said Miss Henderson, turning red, “or the world will… Oh no!”

“What is it?” said Marie as she saw the maid’s face fall.

“I told Sir John I would stay in this evening,” said Miss Henderson mournfully, “when I thought I was abandoned.”

“Well, we are going out ourselves,” said Marie, “so I don’t imagine that’s an inconvenience.”

“No, Mrs Jennings,” said Miss Henderson, “Sir Jennings said he couldn’t get a table. That’s why he asked me to stay.”

“Ah,” said Marie, “maybe I had better assist.”

Marie went to the telephone and picked it up. She looked in the directory then dialed a number.

“‘’Ello, is that the Ritz” she said, “I would like to book a table for two this evening.”

There was a pause and a quiet voice could be heard on the other end.

“I see, no tables at all,” said Marie. “Perhaps if you look again you could … trouver! Yes, seven pm is perfect. The name is Jennings.”

“Thank you Mrs Jennings!” said Miss Henderson. Sir John came in the room at that point and Miss Henderson bounded out.

The Jennings sat down for tea and biscuits.

“I found us a table for tonight,” said Marie, “at the Ritz.”

“Oh good, good,” said Sir John, a little distracted. There was a short pause while he slurped some tea.

“Do you think,” said Sir John, “that there’s anything amiss with Miss Henderson?”

Marie smiled a little.

“No mon cher,” she said, “not now. But it’s good of you to notice.”

Sir John munched on a biscuit.

“I really think,” said Sir John, “that I’m developing an intuition for these things.”

There was a sound from near the fireplace from Morag. It must have been a noise she was making in her sleep and sounded strangely like a chuckle.

*Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the lovely vintage Valentine’s card.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 5

The girls and Marie sat in the Mallum’s front room. Patience was staring out of the window, Joy was reading a religious tract, Constance a novel and Prudence was sketching. Marie was busy with crochet.

Mallum Girls Processed“And … Fussy”

“It must be very exciting living in London,” said Patience to Marie. Marie smiled.

“It is an interesting city,” she said. “I like living there. I’m sure you’ll get to visit some day.”

“Oh, I’d love to go,” said Prudence. “All those art galleries.”

“All those museums!” said Constance and the youngest two sighed in unison.

“Mr Bosch is quite an interesting man,” said Patience, absently. “Are there a lot of people like him in London?”

“I think he is one of a kind,” said Marie.

“He seems very principled,” said Joy, “telling us he was a vegetarian and eating so little at dinner.”

“It’s strange how he sleeps all day,” said Prudence. “I think he must have an artistic temperament.”

“But he’s an inventor, a scientist,” said Constance. “Remember, he told us about his inventions at dinner.”

“He’s so unlike the local boys,” said Patience to Marie. “They are so, tanned, muscular and uncomplicated. Mr Bosch is so pale and thin and … fussy.”

There was an audible sigh from all the girls.

“And now he risks his life for us, walking on the moor at night,” said Patience, looking out the window.

“With Sir Jennings, of course,” she added.

“Does Mr Bosch have a lady friend,” asked Joy. “A … special lady friend.”

Marie made a strange noise and started coughing. She reached for some water and drank.

“Excuse me,” she said, “perhaps the air is a little dry. I don’t believe Mr Bosch has a … special friend.”

All four girls made a contented sound and went back to their diversions.

“Oh, no!” said Patience as the sound of a horse came from outside. There was a knock at the door and some sound of conversation. The butler opened the door.

“Lord du Bois,” he announced. The girls all stood and Marie did automatically, despite herself.

“Good evening, ladies,” said du Bois. “Please be seated, I shall tarry you but a short while.”

“Good evening, Lord du Bois,” the girls said in a half hearted manner as they sat down.

“Good evening,” said Marie.

“Mrs Jennings!” said du Bois heartily, “A pleasure to see you again and hear your delightful accent. How are we all this fine evening?”

“Very well, sir,” said Prudence, “and you, sir?”

“Splendid!” said du Bois, by way of response to both comments. There was a short silence in the room.

“Well,” said du Bois, “I must go and speak to your father. Take care, ladies.”

He left the room and the girls all sighed. Patience muttered something under her breath.

“He seems a pleasant man,” said Marie. Joy looked appalled from behind her pamphlet.

“He’s not the sort of man I like at all,” said Patience. “He’s so … loud and garrulous. And so certain of himself and his place in the world.”

“Not like Mr Bosch,” said Marie slyly and there was a murmur of consent in the room.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 6

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 4

“So did you find anything, Sir John?” said Mr Mallum, hopefully.

The Mallum family and the Jennings were all sitting together in the front room in the darkness of late evening. Sir John looked up from the book of maps he was studying.

“Hmm, no, sadly not,” he said. “We could see nothing obvious from the direction Old Jim described. I’m looking now in the maps to see if there might be anything.”

“We did meet someone interesting,” said Marie. “Lord du Bois.”

“Oh yes, he’s a very fine fellow,” said Mr Mallum. “He visits here quite regularly. I believe he has taken a shine to our girls, and I believe they like him in return.”

Patience rolled her eyes and continued to stare out of the windows. The other girls continued with their reading or card playing in a stoic manner.

“Now then, Father,” said Mrs Mallum, “don’t vex the girls so.”

“But he’s such a wonderful gentleman,” said Mr Mallum, “with such a large estate.”

“Someone’s coming,” said Patience, who was still looking out of the window.

“That will be him now.” said Mr Mallum.

“No, it’s not his carriage, it’s … how odd, it has no horse,” said Prudence.

At this the family all looked out of the window.

cc-chapter-4“Someone’s Coming”

“Who is it?” said Joy, “I can’t see. You’re all in the way!”

“He’s coming to the door,” said Prudence, “I don’t recognise him at all.”

Sir John and Marie exchanged a quizzical glance. There was some conversation at the front door and then the butler came in.

“Sir Jennings, I believe it’s an associate of yours,” said the butler.

“Thank you, Marsh,” said Sir Jennings and a short, pale man in a baggy suit and cloak came into the room.

“I got your note and came here as soon as I could,” said the man to Sir John and Marie.

“Phlebotomous?” said Sir John.

“Mr Bosch,” said Marie, “what do you mean?”

“When I went to visit you, Miss Henderson gave me this,” said Phlebotomous, holding a card, which he began to read. “Dear Visitor, we are away on urgent business in Cornwall. We may be a few weeks.”

Sir John looked blank.

“I don’t follow?” he said. Phlebotomous took off his cloak and put it on a chair.

“Well, I understood you had an investigation so urgent that you didn’t have time to contact me,” said Phlebotomous. “But I managed to find the coach that brought you here and so found your destination. Pretty clever eh! So here I am.”

“But we didn’t…” started Sir John then looked at Phlebotomous’ proud and eager expression.

“We didn’t ‘ave time to let you know,” said Marie. “Mrs Mallum, would you have room for another guest?”

“Yes, that would be very helpful if you did,” said Sir John. “Mr Mallum, Mrs Mallum, girls, may I present Mr Phlebotomous Bosch, investigator … extraordinaire. In every sense.”

Phlebotomous looked round the room at the family as though he had only just seen them. They all looked puzzled at Phlebotomous.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m a vegetarian.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 5