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.
“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.”
“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.”