“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.
“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.”