The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 10

Marie and Sir John sat in a small sitting room and were preparing to take afternoon tea. A collection of dainty sandwiches and small cakes were already on a tiered tray next to a line drawing of the HMS Dreadnought, signed ‘E Howarth’. 

“So I spoke again to Lady Howarth, and she explained her latest initiative,” said Sir John to his wife. “She has sent for the Bishop. Apparently he can perform an exorcism which is guaranteed to work, no matter how diabolical or malevolent the haunting. He should arrive tomorrow.”

Sir John sat back and looked at the small pile of sandwiches and cakes in front of him, without touching one.

“I’m invited to attend to observe, and in Lady Howarth’s words, ‘learn’.”

He continued to look at the pile in front of him without moving.

“You are not ‘ungry?” said Marie. “You are waiting for the tea?”

“More the former,” admitted Sir John. “It’s our first case, and we don’t have an answer to our mystery. I’m not even sure if the ghost is this peasant boy or the gambling ancestor… or somebody else”

The maid came into the room carrying a tray with a teapot, cups, and sugar and walked carefully over to the couple.

Butter Fingers 2“Butter Fingers!”

“I know what you mean,” said Marie. “I am sure there is more to this than it seems. But we are not completely lost. We ‘ave some clues. For example, we ‘ave ‘EH + AC’.”

A loud crash interrupted the two, and they saw the maid had dropped the tray a few feet away from them. She looked white with shock at the act.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” she said and started to gather up the pot and things. “Really, really sorry.”

“Never mind,” said Marie. “No one is ‘urt.”

She took the tray out, and the Jennings continued their gloomy reverie.

“Of course, we don’t know who AC is … and it ends tomorrow for sure?” said Marie, thinking of the mournful boy she had seen.

“It seems that way. The Thanatograph is not to come to the exorcism, either. Apparently Lady Howarth did not appreciate its presence. I’m paraphrasing; what she said was a bit more direct than that.”

“We ‘ave so little time,” said Marie, as the maid brought another tray. “If only we knew what it meant, ‘the letters spell it out’.”

There was another crash, and the Jennings both looked at the maid. She had dropped the second tray and the tea things were scattered on the floor.

“Butter fingers!” she said absently and began picking up the things, flushing red.

“No problem,” said Sir John with a forced jollity. “Er, perhaps we’ll leave the tea for today, just the, er, sandwiches and cake will be fine.”

The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 9

Marie was sitting in the bedroom crocheting a shawl when her husband returned, pushing the Thanatograph into the room.

“Ow did it go?” she said.

“Not terribly well,” said Sir John. “In fact, it was awful. The exorcism was a disaster. The Thanatograph insulted Lady Howarth, and the priest had to be given gin to calm down.”

“I ‘eard,” said Marie. “Well, the screaming at least.”

“Lady Howarth was most animated,” continued Sir John, “and she used some very colourful language. It’s not really the sort of thing one says in front of a man of the cloth.”

“Oh dear,” said Marie. “ Still, I have some good news.”

“You do?” said Sir John, the colour returning to his cheeks.

“Yes, I did my little sneaking and I found something.”

“Really!” said Sir John, becoming animated.“What was it?”

“On the back of the painting…” started Marie.

“Yes!” said Sir John eagerly.

“Some initials were etched – EH + AC” Marie said.

“Is that it?” said Sir John, looking a little dubious.

Mon cher – don’t you see – EH is Edward Howarth – the father.”

“Yes?” said Sir John.

“So ‘oo is AC?” asked Marie.

“I dont know,” said Sir John.

“Exactly!” said Marie, looking triumphant.

alice“Just Nonsense!”

“My dear,” said Sir John, gently, “I’ve had rather a long day, so maybe I’m missing something, but don’t we now have two mysteries instead of one.”

“Yes,” said Marie, but I ‘ave an idea.”

“Oh, good!” said Sir John.

“We use the board.”

“Oh, dear,” said Sir John.

Mon cher, I know you don’t like this way, but it works sometimes, no?”

“It just so … unscientific,” said Sir John.

“What can be the harm?” said Marie,

“Very well then,” said Sir John, “but I remain skeptical on this issue.”

Marie  pulled the cloth off the table to reveal a set of bits of paper with hand-drawn letters in a neat circle. She took the glass near her and turned it upside down and put it in the centre of the table. She closed her eyes and rested her finger lightly on the glass.

“Ready,” she said, and heard her husband swallow hard and say, “Yes.” in a croaky voice. He had fished out his notebook in readiness.

Marie said, “Ok then – I ask ‘oo is AC?”

The glass shook a little and started to move across the table under Marie’s fingers. Sir John frantically scribbled down the letters that were touched by the glass. At first there was a slow graceful movement, but gradually the glass moved quicker, barely touching each card as it swung wildly from one to another. Finally, the glass lurched crazily around the table before Marie gasped as it flew out of her fingers and across the room. Letters scattered from the table in the wake of the glass.

“What do we ‘ave?” she asked.

“Let me see,” said Sir John, who started reading his notes.

“What are the words?” said Marie. “I can’t tell.”

TLSIO

“Oh, for goodness sake,” said Sir John. “Well, I presume that’s some sort of supernatural joke.  It says the letters spell it out. You see, it’s not anything meaningful – just nonsense.”