Marie sat in the chair in the bedroom and tried to calm her mind with some crochet. Sir John was with Lady Howarth and the Bishop and they were getting ready to start the third attempt to rid Grimley Hall of its unwanted guest. Marie was thinking of the crying boy, trying to solve the puzzle before it was too late. There was a knock at the door and she went over.
“Tea, Madam,” said a quavering voice outside the door.
“But I didn’t…” started Marie then opened the door. Outside was the maid from the day before. She held a silver tray with a pot of tea and a cup. It was shaking so much the tea things were rattling. Also on the tray was a set of letters, tied with ribbon.
“I’m sorry Madam,” said the maid, “but I couldn’t help overhearing you yesterday. About AC and EH and… and some letters. Alice Copsey. She’s my aunt, see. Well my great aunt. There were rumours of her and… and the old master…”
“Rumours?” said Marie.
“Well, more sort of facts. They were sweet on each other ‘parently. She told me about these letters what he wrote, showed me in secret. But she couldn’t read nor write, and she was embarrassed to say, Madam.”
“You’ve read them?” asked Marie.
The girl hung her head. “I can’t read nor write neither. She said, my aunt, I mean, she said when he left, he never said a word of goodbye to her and when he come back, he wouldn’t go anywhere near her. He were like a different man. I thought maybe you could find out what happened. And maybe it’s something to do with all this business, like what you and Sir Jenkins was saying. She said it broke her heart Madam, when he left. She’s never looked at another man all her life, not even now in her dotage.”
And with that the girl, turned and practically ran away.
“The letters spell it out,” said Marie. She sat back down and looked at them all. The first few were love letters from an Edward Howarth to Alice Copsey. He regaled her with fine words and regretted the circumstances that kept them apart. Marie snorted. She looked at latter letters and he was worrying about his forthcoming enlistment to the navy, how he would miss her, how he feared she’d find someone else. Marie went to the last letter and started to read.
“I have a made a plan, a wild plan, maybe, but one I will carry out. I have spoken with Robert and everything is arranged. On the day we leave for Portsmouth, I’ll stop the carriage by the woods, and will go deep inside. Meet me where we went last summer and sheltered from the rain. Robert will disguise himself as me and will join the Navy on my behalf. His friend Cuthbert will go disguised as him. It will be a good life for Robert, being a naval officer, better than he could have hoped for. As for us, I shall bring a little money and we can elope and start a new life. We will be poor Alice, but we will be together. I gladly, madly throw this manor, title, and fortune away to be with you. I choose you Alice. I choose you.”
“It’s beautiful,” said Marie, “but it’s not what happened. What happened to you?” She said it idly to herself then looked up and, with no surprise, she saw the apparition looking at her. The ghost boy pointed at the Thanatograph, which began to spin without assistance…
“Where is she? I don’t understand,” said a voice. “You gave her the letter, Robert?”
“That I did, Edward. Same as all the others,” said another voice.
“Then why isn’t she here,” said Edward. “Your friend Cuthbert manage to make it.”
“Maybe because it’s cos she can’t read,” said Robert.
“She can’t… then how did she read the others?” asked Edward.
“She didn’t, but she was too embarrassed to say, and you was too arrogant to ask,” said Robert.
“Well, if she hasn’t read it, she doesn’t know I’m here,” said Edward.
“No. No-one knows you’re here,” said Robert. “…‘cept me and Cuthbert.”
“What’s that, what do you have there?” said Edward. “Is that a knife? What are you? My God!”
There was a nasty sound, wet and harsh, and Edward made a gurgling sound.
“But, I gave you everything,” moaned the dying Edward.
“Let’s just say I wants to make sure you ain’t coming back, if you changes your mind.”
The Thanatograph stopped, and Marie leaned back. “Mon Dieu,” she said. The boy with the tear pointed at the Thanatograph again and it spun some more.
“Why are we stopping here?” said Cuthbert, but it was a new voice, a man’s voice.
“I want the staff to go ahead, make sure that all the old faces have left in case they recognise me, and make our bedrooms nice and warm.” said Robert’s voice, sounding rougher, older, and more assured.
“But why here, Bobby, of all places. It gives me the creeps, you know, when I think about it.”
“Oh grow up, Cuthbert. And it’s Lord Edward to you. Here, get digging, we’re going to take him, or what’s left of him back to the Mansion so no-one ever finds out.”
“Why me, though?” wailed Cuthbert.
“Well for one, I’m Lord of the Manor now, and for another, because you done him in the first place.”
“Don’t remind me,” moaned Cuthbert. “I sees him in my mind every day.”
“Oh cheer up – look here’s ten pounds, you can take that to the tavern afterwards and see if you can’t forget your worries.”
The Thanatograph ground to a halt and Marie ran out of the room, heading to the exorcism.