The Cornish Curse: Chapter 13

Phlebotomous walked into the garden and looked at the spot where the wolfsbane had been. He saw that it all been picked. He was wondering if there was enough to prevent du Bois turning into a werewolf, when Patience arrived.

CC Ch 13“Ow-oooh!”

“Hello Mr Bosch,” she said. “How are you this night?”

“Very well, er, Patience,” he said. “Isn’t a little late for you to be out?”

“Oh I’m a big girl,” said Patience. “Besides, it was you who wanted to meet by moonlight. Very romantic, B.”

“Excuse me?” said Phlebotomous.

“Excuse me, too,” said Joy, coming to join them. “What are you doing here, Patience? Are you trying to ruin my rendezvous like you ruin everything else?”

“Me!” said Patience. “What are you doing here? I was invited. I had a note.”

“Well I had one too!” said Joy.

“Really? Then show me,” said Patience. Joy’s face fell, further than usual.

“I … I can’t,” she said, “I lost the note.”

Patience looked triumphant when Prudence arrived.

“Why don’t you show us your note, Patience?” she said. “Or don’t you have it either.”

“Prudence, you too?” said Joy.

“The note was mine first, you stole it, I’m sure. It was on the seat when you all left,” said Prudence.

“Ladies,” said Phlebotomous, “I’m sure there’s been some simple mix up.”

“I don’t have it either!” shouted Patience. “It was stolen from me.”

“Do you mean this note?” said Constance, joining the quartet and brandishing a piece of paper.

“You stole it!” said Patience.

“I didn’t steal it, it was given to me,” said Constance.

“You stole it from me,” said Joy to Patience.

“No, you did from me,” said Prudence.

There was a quiet moment where the girls all glared at each other.

“Ladies…” started Phlebotomous.

“It’s obvious Mr Bosch would prefer me because I’m the most sophisticated,” said Patience. Constance made a snorting noise.

“If staring out of the window is sophistication then you may be right, but I think sophistication comes from knowledge, and that comes from reading,” she said.

“But what you read is immoral fantasy,” said Joy. “At least I read something about the ethics of proper conduct, as befitting to Mr Bosch.”

“Mr Bosch is a sensitive soul who needs an artistic companion,” said Prudence. “Besides you are all ugly hags.”

The other sisters gasped at Prudence.

“Ladies, please …” started Phlebotomous.

“Please, Mr Bosch, let me defend you from these slurs on your character,” said Constance.

“Slurs! I’ll show you slurs,” growled Joy.

“Are you threatening me?” snarled Constance.

“You are both, tedious bookworms,” barked Patience.

“Shut up!” snapped Prudence.

“Ow-oooh!” said Patience. Phlebotomous looked at her. Her nose had started to extend and hair was growing over her face. She fell to her hands and knees and her arms shortened and thickened. A long tail came from her back. Her mutation complete, she stood nearly to Phlebotomous’ chest. Her breathing was low and heavy.

“Girls!” said Phlebotomous to the other three. “I think you sister’s a werewolf.”

He heard no reply, so he turned to look at them. Three more wolves looked back at him. At his feet he saw the patch where the wolfsbane had been, now removed.

“Who’s a good girl?” he said hesitantly to the quartet of werewolves.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 14

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 12

Lord du Bois was dressed in fine clothes and with a rose in his top button. He was just leaving the front door of Bennet House when Sir John arrived. The evening was deepening into night and the full moon was just showing

CC Ch 12“I Know”

“Good evening Sir John,” said du Bois.

“Good evening Vulpine,” said Sir John, “are you going out?”

“Yes … I rather fancied an evening constitutional,” said du Bois.

“Without Arthur?” said Sir John.

“Ah … yes … he is a little overtired. At the ball, he was rather popular with the children and has needed to rest. If you’ll excuse me,” said du Bois.

“Perhaps I could accompany you,” said Sir John.

“Ah … perhaps it would be best if you didn’t,” said du Bois. “The ground is rather muddy  and I’d hate you to spoil your clothes.”

“But you seem dressed rather well for such a walk?” said Sir John.

“Is everything all right?” said du Bois. “Your manner seems a little off, have I offended you? Is this because of that flower your wife had?”

“In a manner of speaking,” said Sir John. “Lord du Bois, Vulpine … I know.”

Lord du Bois’ face fell. “How, when?” he said quietly, his usual enthusiasm gone.

“At the ball, I wondered before, but the ball confirmed it.” said Sir John.

“I knew it,” said du Bois, “I went too far, it was too obvious. Talking to Marsh as I did.”

“Yes that was a large clue, letting on like that,” said Sir John.

“Will you tell anyone?” said du Bois.

“Something must be done Vulpine,” said Sir John. “For the sake of the Mallums’ reputation.”

“Oh Lord, do they know!” said du Bois.

“No,” said Sir John, “I haven’t told them.”

“But, surely you can find it in your heart to turn a blind eye. No one is being hurt,” said du Bois.

“But Lord du Bois, it’s … it’s immoral,” said Sir John.

Lord du Bois turned away to look at the moor. A tear ran down his face in the moonlight.

“So people say, but how can it be. It’s natural, it’s what I am, who I am,” said Lord du Bois.

Sir John sighed.

“You seem a decent man, I’d hoped to reason with you, to get you to stop,” said Sir John.

“I don’t want to stop … I … don’t think I should. It feels right, not wrong,” said du Bois.

“But, my god, to tear apart that livestock in that way,” said Sir John. “That can’t be natural.”

“I … what?” said du Bois.

“The savagery on the animals and the impact on the Mallums. It isn’t without consequence,” said Sir John.

“What are you talking about?” said du Bois.

“Lycanthropy,” said Sir John. “You’re a werewolf.”

“I’m a what?” said du Bois. “I thought you were here because I’m a … a confirmed bachelor.”

“A confirmed bachelor?” said Sir John.

“You know … the love that dare not speak its name. But I can speak my love’s name. It’s Marsh, the Mallums’ butler. I passed him a note that night, and I’m going to see him now. We’ve been lovers nearly since I got here.”

“Oh,” said Sir John.

“That’s … not what you meant?” said du Bois.

“No, I thought you were the beast. I think it’s a werewolf,” said Sir John.

“Why … what … why would you think that?” said du Bois.

“I, never mind,” said Sir John. “Back to square one again!”

There was a silence.

“You won’t, say anything,” said du Bois. “I have money, I can…”

“No,” said Sir John. “I don’t want any money and don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thank you,” said du Bois. “They’d throw me in jail.”

“It’s nothing,” said Sir John. “Please, go to your lover. Have your time together.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 13

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 11

“What a marvellous evening and what a marvellous host,” said Mr Mallum at the breakfast table with all the family and guests. “I had the time of my life. How did everyone else fare?”

“It was very pleasant indeed,” said Marie.

“When is it full moon?” said Patience.

“Why do ask?” said Mrs Mallum.

“No reason,” said Patience.

“Tonight,” said Constance, “I think.”

“Then I had better…” started Sir John. “I shall call on Lord du Bois to thank him for the ball.”

“Oh, what a wonderful idea!” said Mr Mallum. “I shall accompany you.”

“No!” said Sir John and Marie together.

“It will be better I go alone,” said Sir John. “Because … I have some matters to discuss.”

“I see,” said Mr Mallum uncertainly. “If you think that’s best.”

CC Ch 11“Special Place?”

“Mr Bosch, shall the maid prepare your bedtime milk drink?” said Mrs Mallum.

“That would be very nice,” said Phlebotomous,” I may take it up to my room, I’m a little overtired from the dancing.”

“Yes, it was nice of the girls to all dance with you during that waltz,” said Mr Mallum. “They practically ran across the room! Clara Monkfish was rather surprised, actually. I think she’ll recover, it was only a small fall from when Patience ran into her.”

“You room,” said Prudence, “would you say that was a special place?”

Her sisters all glared at her.

“It’s … a pleasant room,” said Phlebotomous warily.

“But not … special?” said Prudence.

“I’m sure Mr Bosch’s room is perfectly adequate,” said Mrs Mallum.

“Mrs Jennings, you may care to go for a walk this afternoon,” said Phlebotomous. “Before Sir Jennings goes out.”

“Oh!” said Marie. “Yes, thats a very good idea.”

“To the special place,” said Phlebotomous to Marie, and the four sisters all watched him attentively.

“Yes, I understand,” said Marie.

“Where the flowers are, in fact,” said Phlebotomous, “where I walked last night.”

“Yes,” said Marie, “it is perfectly clear.”

“So that…” continued Phlebotomous.

“Yes,” said Sir John, “we understand.”

“Well, I shall be off to sleep then,” said Phlebotomous.

“So Mr Bosch,” said Constance, “the special place is on your evening walk?”

“Yes,” said Phlebotomous. “Oh, wasn’t that clear, I can explain again.”

“No,” said Constance, “I understand.”

The maid brought Phlebotomous a cup of warm milk with a spice infusion, and he left the room.

“Mr Mallum, is this silverware real silver?” asked Sir John.

“Yes, Sir Jennings,” said Mr Mallum. “Unlike Lord du Bois we must make do with the basics. But it is of the highest quality for the material.”

“Could I borrow this knife?” said Sir John.

“Of course,” said Mr Mallum. “Er … any particular reason?”

“Not really,” said Sir John.

“Well I must say, everyone is being very cryptic this morning,” said Mr Mallum. “No doubt there is some jolly jape I’m not aware of. Maybe … did somebody have a special conversation with Lord du Bois?”

Mr Mallum looked meaningfully at his daughters who all groaned quietly.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 12

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 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.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 5

The girls and Marie sat in the Mallum’s front room. Patience was staring out of the window, Joy was reading a religious tract, Constance a novel and Prudence was sketching. Marie was busy with crochet.

Mallum Girls Processed“And … Fussy”

“It must be very exciting living in London,” said Patience to Marie. Marie smiled.

“It is an interesting city,” she said. “I like living there. I’m sure you’ll get to visit some day.”

“Oh, I’d love to go,” said Prudence. “All those art galleries.”

“All those museums!” said Constance and the youngest two sighed in unison.

“Mr Bosch is quite an interesting man,” said Patience, absently. “Are there a lot of people like him in London?”

“I think he is one of a kind,” said Marie.

“He seems very principled,” said Joy, “telling us he was a vegetarian and eating so little at dinner.”

“It’s strange how he sleeps all day,” said Prudence. “I think he must have an artistic temperament.”

“But he’s an inventor, a scientist,” said Constance. “Remember, he told us about his inventions at dinner.”

“He’s so unlike the local boys,” said Patience to Marie. “They are so, tanned, muscular and uncomplicated. Mr Bosch is so pale and thin and … fussy.”

There was an audible sigh from all the girls.

“And now he risks his life for us, walking on the moor at night,” said Patience, looking out the window.

“With Sir Jennings, of course,” she added.

“Does Mr Bosch have a lady friend,” asked Joy. “A … special lady friend.”

Marie made a strange noise and started coughing. She reached for some water and drank.

“Excuse me,” she said, “perhaps the air is a little dry. I don’t believe Mr Bosch has a … special friend.”

All four girls made a contented sound and went back to their diversions.

“Oh, no!” said Patience as the sound of a horse came from outside. There was a knock at the door and some sound of conversation. The butler opened the door.

“Lord du Bois,” he announced. The girls all stood and Marie did automatically, despite herself.

“Good evening, ladies,” said du Bois. “Please be seated, I shall tarry you but a short while.”

“Good evening, Lord du Bois,” the girls said in a half hearted manner as they sat down.

“Good evening,” said Marie.

“Mrs Jennings!” said du Bois heartily, “A pleasure to see you again and hear your delightful accent. How are we all this fine evening?”

“Very well, sir,” said Prudence, “and you, sir?”

“Splendid!” said du Bois, by way of response to both comments. There was a short silence in the room.

“Well,” said du Bois, “I must go and speak to your father. Take care, ladies.”

He left the room and the girls all sighed. Patience muttered something under her breath.

“He seems a pleasant man,” said Marie. Joy looked appalled from behind her pamphlet.

“He’s not the sort of man I like at all,” said Patience. “He’s so … loud and garrulous. And so certain of himself and his place in the world.”

“Not like Mr Bosch,” said Marie slyly and there was a murmur of consent in the room.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 6

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 3

Sir John and Marie stood shivering on the moor a quarter of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet north east of the Old Well and looked due south.

“Nothing,” said Sir John. “There’s nothing for miles.”

“Well, that’s the countryside, mon cher,” said Marie with a wry smile. “It’s not so easy to find things here.”

“We should have asked him how loud it was, or if it moved,” said Sir John. “Then maybe we could have estimated the distance.”

“I think we asked him enough,” said Marie. “He was quite cross-eyed at the end.”

“I’m not sure that was the questions,” said Sir John. “Well, let’s look at the map. I’ve marked the killings. This thing must sleep somewhere. Maybe we can draw a line south from here and see if there’s a pattern.”

He took the map out and tried to lay it on the ground, but the wind kept catching it. After a minute of fighting with the map he crumpled it up and put it back in his pocket.

“Perhaps we can do that later,” he said. “I hate to ask, Marie, is there some magical thing we, well you, can do? If we believe this is a magical creature, of course.”

“Which you don’t?” said Marie.

“Not entirely,” said Sir John. “The only spirits I’ve seen so far are the one’s in Old Jim’s glass.”

“Maybe I can try and look for a big dog,” said Marie. “I can use a pendulum.”

Sir John shrugged and Marie took off her necklace. She held it in her fingers and let it dangle.

Trouver,” said Maire and instantly the pendulum shot horizontal north toward the summit.

“My word!” said Sir John. “Good show!”

Just then a large dog appeared over the summit. It was nearly as tall as Marie and at the sight of them it bounded forward barking.

“Run!” shouted Sir John.

Marie just waved her hand and said, “calmer.” Instantly the dog sat down and Sir John stayed where he was.

“Was that for me or the dog,” asked Sir John.

“The dog,” said Marie, “mostly.”

du-bois-dog“Good Show”

A tall well-built and immaculately dressed man mounted the crest of the hill.

“Hoy, Arthur,” called the man. “Here, boy.”

The dog ran back to the man wagging his tail and the pair walked down to Sir John and Marie.

“Good morrow, good sir, good lady” said the man as he approached. “Please let me introduce myself, I am Lord Vulpine du Bois and this is my, rather enthusiastic Irish Wolfhound, Arthur. I hope he didn’t startle you.”

“Not at all,” said Sir John. “I’m Sir John Jennings, and this is my wife, Marie.”

“Oh, I’ve heard all about you two,” said Lord du Bois, “I get all the gossip. You’re staying with the Mallums, yes? Looking for the mystery beast.”

“For a moment we rather thought we found him,” said Sir John, looking at the dog. Lord du Bois roared with laughter.

“Oh, that’s a good one,” he said. “Old Arthur here is daft as a brush. The only danger is he’d lick you to death.”

As they talked the dog nudged his nose into Marie’s hand and made a whining noise. She stroked his head and he fell onto his back, sticking his legs into the air.

“Why don’t you come for tea one day?” said Lord du Bois. “I’ve not been long here myself, and I could use some news from the outside word. This little village is very pleasant but a little isolated.”

“We’d be delighted to,” said Marie. “Where do you live.”

“See that frightful old pile,” said du Bois, pointing to a mansion on the eastern edge of the village. “That’s Bennet House. Come see me anytime.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 4

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 2

“I were coming over the moor under the moonlight when I heard this unearthly sound…” started Old Jim, looking dramatically into middle distance.  He was a gentleman of advancing years with wild grey hair and bushy eyebrows. The wrinkled thick skin on his face came from a lifetime of work outdoors and the glassy look in his eyes from an afternoon spent drinking whisky.

“I see,” said Sir John. “Perhaps we can get a bit more specific.”

He produced a map of the area and laid it on the table of the public house, between Old Jim and himself and Marie.

“Could you indicate where you were exactly?” asked Sir John.

“I couldn’t be right sure,” said Jim. “It were dark and I had been … visiting friends.”

“Maybe you recall passing some landmark, or seeing one ahead?” asked Sir John.

Old Jim though for a minute.

“Reckon I’d just passed Devil’s Peak,” said Old Jim

“On the right? Left?” asked Sir John.

“On … the right I imagine,” said Old Jim. “I were heading back to the village.”

“So you were around here,” said Sir John, looking at the map. “There looks to be a well here, was that in front or behind of you.”

“That would be the Old Well, it were … in front,” said Jim, eyes screwed tight in remembrance.

“Was it far?” asked Sir John.

“Mebbe … fifty feet?” said Old Jim.

“So, that puts you quarter of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet north-east of the Old Well.”

“Yes,” said Old Jim, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Old Well, under the moonlight.”

“Where was the moon?” asked Marie.

“In the sky?” said Old Jim, confused.

“Where in the sky I mean?” asked Marie.

“It were … over the village, I suppose,” said Old Jim.

“So south-west?” said Sir John. He got out an almanac. “And this was a week ago, yes, so it must have been pretty full?”

“Yes,” said Old Jim, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Old Well, lit by the nearly full moon from the south-west when…”

cc-ch-2“Unearthly Sound”

“You heard a sound, yes, could you describe it?” said SIr John.

“It were unlike nothing I heard before. It went ‘oow-ooo’,” said Old Jim, with some theatre.

Sir John produced a small set of panpipes from his bag.

“Could you do that again please?” he asked. Old Jim repeated the sound and Sir John blew in the pipes.

“A little higher, mon cher,” said Marie, and SIr John blew again. Marie nodded at the note produced.

“F sharp,” said Sir John. “Sorry Jim, would you mind doing that again?”

Looking sheepish, Old Jim made the sound again. Sir John tried a couple of notes until Marie nodded and wrote them down.

“So thats two notes, a quaver of F sharp and a dotted minim of A sharp,” said Sir John. He played them again.

“Which direction did it come from?” asked Marie.

Old Jim looked exasperated. He pointed to the left of him.

“Due south.” said Sir John, making notes. He showed Old Jim the paper. “Is this correct?”

Old Jim pulled himself up and looked into middle distance again.

“Yes,” he said, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Old Well, lit by the nearly full moon from the south west when I heard a quaver of F sharp with a dotted minim of A sharp coming from the due south.”

“Thank you” said Marie, smiling. “‘Ave we missed anything?”

Old Jim leaned in at the pair, looking a little crestfallen.

“It were … unearthly,” he said.

“How interesting,” said Sir John.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 3

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 1

The room was bright and decorated pleasantly, if a little old fashioned. Four girls and an older couple sat in the room, evidently the parents by virtue of appearance. The eldest was staring out of the window in a listless manner. Next to her, the second eldest girl was reading a book on the Temperance movement. Her sister sat next to her playing solitaire, and the final, youngest sat at a piano playing a light air. The father read a newspaper and the mother knitted. Apart from the fidgeting of the elder girl, the room seemed in calm repose.

card-game“Sisters, Please!”

Suddenly the eldest gasped, “They’re coming!” There was a sound of horse and cart and the man stood up and went to the door.

“Do you have to make such a fuss, Patience?” said the girl with the book.

“Just because you’d rather die of boredom, Joy,” pouted the eldest, “doesn’t mean we all should.”

“Sisters, please,” said the girl at the piano, “let’s not fight when we have guests.”

“Well said, Prudence,” said the girl with the cards as the other two sisters glared at each other.

The father came back in the room and everyone stood up.

“May I present, Sir John and, er, Mrs Jennings,” he said beaming. “Sir Jennings, Mrs Jennings, may I present Mrs Mallum.”

“Delighted,” said Sir John and Mrs Mallum made a small curtsey.

“My eldest, Patience,” continued Mr Mallum. Patience made a dramatic curtsey and then giggled.

“My daughter, Joy,” said Mr Mallum, and Joy nodded briefly.

“And the youngest two, Constance and Prudence,” finished Mr Mallum. The two girls smiled warmly.

“Delighted to meet you all,” said Sir John.

“So you’re going to save us from the dreaded ghost hound?” said Patience.

“Are you really French?” said Prudence to Marie.

“Girls, please!” said Mrs Mallum, “show some decorum. I am sorry Sir Jennings, Mrs Jennings, we get so few visitors, Especially … these days.”

“Please, think nothing of it,” said Sir John.

“And yes, I am French,” said Marie smiling, drawing gasps from three of the girls.

“Well, girls, perhaps you could entertain yourselves elsewhere, so I may talk with our guests,” said Mr Mallum. After some complaining from Patience, the quartet left.

“So, to business then,” said Sir John. “First, perhaps you can tell why you are so certain this is a supernatural phenomenon?”

“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Mr Mallum, graver now that the children had left, “and I have seen every form of wildlife that lives here. I’ve seen foxes and even the odd rabid dog in the countryside. But I’ve never seen anything make paw prints like that or cause such damage to livestock. I’m not alone in that assessment either, Sir John. I hear the gossip in the local village and the verdict is the same. Something ungodly is abroad.”

“You say ungodly,” started Sir John. “What makes you say that?”

“When a fox takes a chicken, he does so for food,” said Mr Mallum. “What this beast has done, it has done for sport. No creature leaves his prey behind, or leaves it rent apart, unconsumed.”

He looked at Marie then.

“I’m sorry, madam, if…” he started.

“Please don’t apologise,” said Marie. “We need the facts and we have seen … unpleasant things too.”

“Is there a witness we could perhaps talk to?” said Sir John. “Someone that has seen the beast?”

“Seen it, no,” said Mr Mallum. “But I can introduce to one that has heard it.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 2

Making Other Plans for Sir John

So you wait months for a Benthic Times post and 3 turn up at once. All we can do, Dear Reader, is humbly apologise and explain that we have been much distracted with life in general.

I like to think that we are not alone and that other, greater literary titans have also enjoyed a similar experience. That perhaps the mammoth four year creation of Ulysses was less to Joyce’s persnickety editing and more to time spent in a Zurich Bureau des Etrangers. That maybe the Lord of the Rings prolonged production was less to do with the complexities of Elvish grammar and owed more to a tricky renovation and a problematic set of shelves.

In any event, here we are and we have finally published the last few chapters of the novel. “What next?” I hear you cry. “And should I perhaps start reading something with a more regular publishing cycle, such as the works of Harper Lee?”

Fear not, Dear Reader, as normal service, nay, exceptional service is resuming. We intend to

IMMEDIATELY commence re-publising the Cornish Curse and Sunnyport Shadow (as they follow the Paris Awakening)

SHORTLY publish both The Paris Awakening and the first Casebook as free to download ebooks

SUBSEQUENTLY create and publish brand new stories “The Clockwork Conjuror” and “The Regal Re-animator”

Well, Dear Reader, if that doesn’t make up for the disappointment of recent months, then truly we don’t know what will. With the possible exception of a large sum of money of course. Which for absolute clarity, is not on the table (either metaphorically or indeed, actually).

We thank you for your patience, and hope you are ready to get back on board the Benthic Bus to fun and adventure.

Yours

Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette

Nice Big Red Bus Attribution: By Chris Sampson (original), cropped by User:Ultra7 – Crop of File:First London Routemaster bus RM1562 (562 CLT), heritage route 9, Kensington High Street, 27 August 2011 (1) uncropped.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20226848

(Modded using superpowers by Mme Pichette)