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 Oh Father, our clothes are seasons out of date.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 and 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 way, 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’d 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.

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 4

“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.

cc-chapter-4“Someone’s Coming”

“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.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 5

 

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 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

The Cornish Curse: Prologue

Dear Sir John,

I apologise for this unsolicited communication, but I am at my wit’s end. I hope you can forgive me and indeed find it in your heart to assist me in my most dire hour of need. I feel that only a gentlemen of your stature and talents can rescue me and my family from the pit of horror we find ourselves entangled in.

But I get ahead of myself; please, let me explain. My family is solvent with a modest sum in the bank and land sufficient to sustain us. My wife and I live on our estate with our four daughters, who are of, or are approaching, majority. Our land is in the fair county of Cornwall, so I daresay our way of life would seem old fashioned and rustic to you, but we are happy in our ways. Or at least, we have been until recently.

pawprint-copy“Giant Dogs”

You see, Sir John, a most terrible curse has descended upon my family. A fact so terrible I barely dare admit it, but I suspect I must to coax you to our aid. For it seems some manner of creature, some foul animal, some hound of hell, has taken residence on our farmlands. There are tales and rumours in the local village, such that none will venture to our house anymore. Tales of giant dogs, unearthly howls and the appalling scent of fantastic creatures. There have been killings, too; chickens at first, then sheep, now cattle. The farmhands have abandoned us for fear they are next. And I can do little to reassure them they are not.

All of this has had a devastating affect on our harvest, and our income this year has plummeted. But this is not my greatest fear. My four daughters are of marrying age. I want nothing more for them than to find suitable husbands, that they may wed and enjoy the many joys of matrimony, including the comfort and security that such a situation would supply for them. But, alas, with things as they are I feel they may be left unmatched. As our income plummets, the very land is seen as worthless and the family itself is seen as tainted and jinxed. For my own life, I care not one jot. I am an old man who has had his time. But the happiness of my daughters, and the contentment of my wife, is all that concerns me. I cannot sleep with fear for the future, for how they will live.

Sir John, I implore you to come to my estate and investigate this mysterious beast. I know you are an expert in the uncanny, and I can assure you, sir, from the reports I have seen and the animals slain, that the uncanny has come to rest in our house. I would be pleased to offer you a princely sum to come and send it back to its home.

I have enclosed our address and a photograph I had taken of a cast of the creature’s paw print. It will surprise you, sir, to learn that this was the size of man’s hand. Please send your response by telegram, and if, God willing, it is in the affirmative I will make space in our house for you to stay whilst you investigate this most disturbing and ungodly beast.

Yours faithfully,

Edward Mallum, Esq.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 1