The Cornish Curse: Chapter 14

Marie and the adult Mallums were sitting in the parlour when Sir John came in. Marie looked up at him, concerned.

“How was Lord du Bois, mon cher?” she asked.

“I think I rather startled him at first, but after a brief conversation he recovered his composure,” said Sir John. Mr Mallum looked a little concerned.

“I trust you didn’t put him in an ill humour,” he said.

“Not at all,” said Sir John, “when I left he was distinctly gay.”

“So,” said Marie, ”there was nothing of concern?”

“Nothing at all,” said Sir John. “Where are Mr Bosch and the girls on this moonlit evening?”

“Mr Bosch is taking his walk and the girls have retired to bed early. I think they are tired from the ball,” said Mr Mallum.

“What’s that noise?” said Mrs Mallum. “It’s sounds like a kettle.”

They all listened as a high pitched sound got louder and louder. Finally there was the crash of the front door opening, and then the parlour door as Phlebotomous came in screeching.

CC Ch 14“Your Girls!”

“Wolves! They’re wolves!” he said, and presently four giant wolves came in after him. Instantly, everyone jumped on the furniture. The four wolves started circling around the chair Phlebotomous was standing on.

“Oh, my girls! We must warn them!” said Mr Mallum. “The beasts are in the house!”

“Mr Mallum, these are your girls,” said Phlebotomous.

“What!” he said.

“They’re werewolves,” said Phlebotomous. One of the quartet nudged the chair and it wobbled, provoking a strangulated noise from Phlebotomous.

“I really hate heights,” he said. Suddenly, Mrs Mallum burst into tears.

“This is all my fault!” she said.

“What?” said Mr Mallum.

“It skips a generation or two, my mother was … I hoped our daughters would be spared,” she said.

“You knew?” said Mr Mallum.

“I didn’t dare admit it, even to myself,” said Mrs Mallum.

“What are we going to do,” wailed Mr Mallum.

“Look, a coach has drawn up,” said Marie.

“Who is it?” said Mr Mallum, “I can’t see from this chaise-longue.”

“Someone tall, I think, with a dog,” said Marie.

“Lord du Bois!” said Mr Mallum. “He has come to save us!”

The figures approached the house and could be heard coming in the front door. A large dog came into the room. Instantly the dog barked and growled at the four werewolves. The four turned to face her and the largest wolf started to growl back, before the dog barked ferociously. At this, all four wolves lay down and made whimpering noises. The Jennings and the Mallums got down from the furniture. Phlebotomous stayed on the chair.

“Honestly!” said the dog. “What kind of a numpty halfwit goes looking for a magical dog and leaves the one they have sitting at home?”

Instead of Lord du Bois, a young lady came into the room.

“Have you managed to successfully intoxicate them?” she said to the dog.

“Morag! Miss Henderson!” said Sir John. “We are most delighted to receive your presence here this evening.”

“Aye, I imagine ye are!” said Morag.

The Cornish Curse: Epilogue

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 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