The Cornish Curse: Chapter 10

“Well, Sir John, how goes the investigation,” said Lord du Bois to Sir John as the ball whirled around them. “Any new leads?’

“Not as such,” said Sir John. “We’ve heard a number of hair-raisings stories, more than a few of which were a little tall. But nothing that forms a pattern, nothing to help us find the creature.”

“Oh well,” said du Bois. “If the worst that happens is you meet a few souls and dance a few reels, the night won’t be a complete loss. Have some food as well, I had this all specially made.”

Lord du Bois indicated the spread of food next to them, which was equally matched in its generosity and quality.

“Thank you, Lord du Bois,” started Sir John.

“Vulpine, please!” said du Bois. “Ah, here comes your lovely wife. Bonsoir madame.”

“Bonsoir, Lord du Bois,” said Marie. “This is a most pleasant evening.”

“As I hoped,” said du Bois. “And I … is that aconite?”

“Maybe,” said Marie. “It was picked locally.”

“Good God, you must take it off at once!” said du Bois. Marie looked shocked.

“What is the matter?” she said. Lord du Bois quickly grabbed a napkin and took the flower and put it in his pocket.

“I am sorry for the drama,” said du Bois, “but it’s highly poisonous. If you’re eating any food a petal could fall on your plate and …”

“I … am sorry,” said Marie.

“Please, no harm done,” said du Bois. “You can now, safely, enjoy the food. Please excuse me for a moment.”

wolfsbane“Vulpine, Please”

“What happened?’ said Phlebotomous who just arrived as du Bois left. “I saw him grab at you from the other side of the room. Is that a sort of dance?”

“No,” said Marie. “He removed my flower. He said it’s poisonous.”

“Oh,” said Phlebotomous, “yes, to humans it is. I forgot.”

“Well, I must say were running out of luck here,” said Sir John. “The flower is gone. The silverware is made of gold, and I haven’t seen a drop of vinegar.”

“No, apparently Lord du Bois doesn’t like vinegar,” said Phlebotomous. “I overheard him telling the Mallum’s butler.”

“Strange thing to … wait, he doesn’t like vinegar?” said Sir John.

“Yes, that’s what I just said,” said Phlebotomous,

“But why deny your guests?” said Sir John. “I don’t like mustard, but I would still serve it.”

“Unless you didn’t want it around you at all,” said Marie.

“Didn’t want what around you?” said du Bois, reappearing. The trio all looked at him guiltily.

“I brought you this, Mrs Jennings,” said du Bois, holding out a rose. “I felt guilty for wrenching your flower from you earlier, so fetched a replacement from the garden.”

“Thank you,” said Marie, “We we’re remarking on your silverware.”

Lord du Bois chuckled.

“The goldware you mean,” he said. “Actually, it’s only goldplated, but I much prefer the colour to silver. I imagine it looks a little ostentatious. The locals regard it with a kind of awe.”

“It’s … different,” said Marie, “but each to his own.”

“Oh!” said du Bois, “On that we can certainly agree! But, please, permit me license to abandon you again.”

Lord du Bois left and the Jennings and Phlebotomous stood there.

“Are you wondering what I’m wondering?” said Sir John.

“Whether this is a waltz or not?” said Phlebotomous.

“No,” said Sir John. “We came here looking for someone who hates wolfsbane, vinegar, and silver. I think we may have found him.”

He glanced at Lord du Bois standing on the other side of the room.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 9

Music was playing, people were talking, so the air was filled with merry sounds. On a large chair sat Phlebotomous Bosch with the four Mallum sisters around him. The sisters were glaring at each other, even Prudence and Constance. Phlebotomous sat staring ahead of him, oblivious to the girls’ attentions.

“Mr Bosch, have you considered dancing at all?” asked Patience.

“Is this a waltz?” asked Phlebotomous.

“No, Mr Bosch, it is a circle dance, a country dance,” said Patience.

“I can only dance a waltz,” said Phlebotomous. “And I don’t have much experience of that.”

Joy looked smugly at her sisters who glared back at her.

“Was that why you were dancing the waltz with Mrs Jennings yesterday?” said Constance. Her other sisters looked shocked at her.

“Yes,” said Phlebotomous. “That was the total of my experience.”

“Mrs Jennings has rather a strange flower pinned to her gown,” said Constance. “It’s not very becoming.”

“It’s an aconite,” said Phlebotomous. “I picked it for her.”

The girls all looked shocked at this, and a small tear formed in Prudence’s eye.

“I’d better go and speak to Sir John and Mrs Jennings,” said Phlebotomous and got up to leave.

note 6“A Waltz?”

Three of the girls rose and followed, but Prudence stayed behind. After they had gone she stretched out onto the chair and wiped the corner of her eye with a handkerchief. It slipped from her fingers and as she knelt down to pick it up she saw a scrap of paper. She looked at it, puzzled, then her eyes lit up.

“What are you doing?” said Patience, who was returning with a glass of wine.

“Nothing,” said Prudence who quickly folded the paper and hid it in her sleeve. “I had better get some wine, too.”

Prudence left with a skip in her stride and didn’t notice the piece of paper fall out of her sleeve as she left. Patience was staring at her sister leave and then noticed a bit of paper on the chair. She read it and her eyes widened. She hastily tucked it into her sash and smiled behind the wine. Joy came and sat next to her and looked at her sister disapprovingly. A gentleman invited Patience to dance, which she accepted with a flourish, causing the paper to slip, unnoticed, onto the seat.

Joy watched sourly as her sister walked to the dancefloor. She spotted the scrap of paper on the chair with puzzlement. She picked it up and read it, and a slow smile spread across her face. She dropped the paper on the tray of food she had and reclined happily with a religious book, as a servant came and took the tray away.

The servant noticed the paper as he was taking the tray and saw Constance walking back to the seat where the sisters had been sitting.

“Miss, I believe this is yours,” he said to Constance and passed her the paper.

Constance took it and read the paper.

“Dearest M, Meet me at the full moon at the special place. B.”

She beamed with happiness and put the paper in her purse.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 10

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 8

“A ball!” shouted Patience. “Really, a ball! A real one! In Bennet House?”

“That is what Lord du Bois said,” said Sir John, standing, with Marie, just in the doorway to the Mallum’s front room. The announcement he had just made had had a profound impact on the family which was gathered there along with Phlebotomous.

“I shall not go,” said Joy firmly.

“Everyone shall go!” said Mr Mallum, “We shall show our appreciation for Lord du Bois’ generosity.”

Joy started to open her mouth, but her mother patted her gently on the hand and smiled at her.

“Will there be music? Maybe I can play!” said Prudence.

“Oh, no! Oh, no!” wailed Patience.

“I don’t play so poorly,” said Prudence, looking distraught.

“No sister, it’s not your piano playing. Oh Father, our clothes are seasons out of date. We shall be laughing stocks. Tell them, Mrs Jennings,” said Patience.

Mr Mallum looked panicked.

“Is this true?” he said to Marie. She hesitated to speak.

“It is true, see!” said Patience. “It’s a disaster.”

“We must make for Plymouth at once!” said Mr Mallum. He opened the door and shouted,

“Marsh! Marsh! Prepare the carriage. Girls, Mrs Mallum, we must leave at once.”

With much noise, dissention and excitement, the Mallums left the room. A quiet descended.

cc-ch-8“A Ball?”

“So,” said Phlebotomous, “I gather there is to be a ball.”

“Yes,” said Sir John, “and it’s a bit of luck for us. Lord du Bois has set it deliberately so we may meet the villagers. But I rather hope we can use it to find our werewolf.”

“At the ball?” said Phlebotomous.

“Indeed,” said Sir John. “Blast, if only we had our books on magical creatures. There must be some tell-tale signs of lycanthropy.”

“That we can check at the ball?” said Phlebotomous.

“Yes, I wonder if we can get Miss Henderson to send the relevant volumes,” mused Sir John.

“Oh, no need,” said Phlebotomous. “I know a surprising amount about them. But I may need some help from you first.”

“What is it?” said Sir John.

“What exactly happens at a ball?” asked Phlebotomus. Sir John and Marie looked at him.

“I know people go there to dance, but I haven’t been to one myself,” said Phlebotomus.

“Well, as you say, people gather there to dance and er … Marie?” said Sir John.

“I will explain after, Mr Bosch,” said Marie, “and I will teach you a few dance steps. I ‘ave a feeling you will need them.”

Phlebotomous looked puzzled at that.

“Well, for the werewolf, we’ll need silver, vinegar, or wolfsbane. Werewolves can be killed by silver weapons, vinegar can be used, rather gruesomely, as a cure, and wolfsbane forces them to assume their human state. So, as a general rule, a werewolf will avoid these things.”

“Well, I imagine they’ll be some silverware and vinegar at the ball,” said Sir John, “but where can we get wolfsbane?”

“What is the name in French?” said Marie. “I may have seen some.”

“I don’t know, but it’s also called monkshood or aconite,” said Phlebotomous.

“Ah, aconite!” said Marie. “There is some around the garden, I think. I can find it.”

“Tell me where it is and I can pick it by moonlight,” said Phlebotomous. “It’s more efficacious if picked then, and I often take a walk at night. Close to the house, of course.”

“Of course,” said Sir John, as you’re afraid of the dark.”

Marie found it necessary to place a handkerchief in front of her mouth.

“Then it’s settled,” said Sir John. “We shall unmask the lycanthrope at the ball.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 9

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 7

The moose, boar, lion and tiger all stared down with a glassy gaze at 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 event, 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’ve 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

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.