The man opened the door and let Sir John and Marie into the entrance hall of Deer Abbey in Headbourne Smithy. He was dishevelled with unkempt hair, unironed clothes and a wild manic stare from his red beady eyes.
“You, you came,” he exclaimed, tears in his eyes. “My god, you came. It is you isn’t it, not some fiendish trick?”
“Er…yes,” said Sir John. “I’m Sir John Jennings and this is my wife Marie. Is Lord Arlington in?”
“Is he in? Is he in?” chuckled the man. “He’s always in. Always.”
“I see,” said Sir John. “May we… meet him perchance?”
At that the man’s chuckles erupted into hysterical laughter.
“Seem I that strange to you?” he said. “I must, I must. It is me, I am him. I am Lord Arlington!”
“Oh,” said Sir John. “My apologies, pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine, all mine, Sir John, Mrs Jennings,” said Lord Arlington. “Please call me Edward.”
“Enchante,” said Marie. She kept a little distance from the deranged man.
“Well this is indeed a magnificent house,” said Sir John. He cast his eyes around the hall, the wide stairs and the gallery above.
“No!” shouted Lord Arlington, making Sir John jump. “No… it is… it is… you will see. You will see. Come, come.”
Lord Arlington took Sir John’s sleeve and tried to drag him into the room to the right.
“If I may… just unpack some of my tools,” said Sir John, looking alarmed. “To help?”
“Of course, of course,” said Lord Arlington. “Forgive my haste, I just need you…need someone to see it.”
“He’s quite mad you know,” said a female voice from above.
Sir John and Marie looked up to see a woman dressed in white. She stood in the gallery, and was looking down with a wry expression on her face.
“Lady Arlington,” said the woman by way of explanation. “I fear your journey here may be in vain, if you hope to find something supernatural. I’m afraid my husband is merely… overwrought.”
“Hurry, hurry,” hissed Lord Arlington, ignoring the woman.
“You don’t think anything is amiss?” said Marie while Sir John unpacked a suitcase he had been carrying.
“Oh something is very much amiss,” said Lady Arlington. “You see, my husband was rather unlucky in some business dealings. We had to let the staff go, sell off a few things. It quite unhinged him. I’ve tried, God knows, to keep him calm. The doctor won’t let him out of the house, but that doesn’t stop him writing letters.”
“Quickly!” said Lord Arlington.
Sir John was by now wearing a hat with metallic arms protruding from it and a jacket bulging with mechanical devices.
“Perhaps I’d better…,” said Sir John to Marie and was promptly dragged into the room next door.
“Behold the study!” said Lord Arlington from the room.
Lady Arlington sighed.
“Still, this may yet do some good,” she said. “If Sir John tells him the truth of the situation, that there is nothing even slightly unearthly to see, he may come to his senses. Or at least realise they have deserted him.”
“I had better join them,” said Marie.
“Oh really, don’t bother yourself,” said Lady Arlington. “There is nothing to see but a perfectly ordinary mansion, absent a few pieces here and there. Rather, come up here with me. We’ll have a lovely cup of tea and I can explain what’s really going on.”
Marie glanced into the study and saw her husband and Lord Arlington. The latter was pointing here and there wildly and Sir John just looked puzzled.
“Alors,” said Marie. “I shall come up and join you.”