‘The Palgrave’s End Affair

by Phineas Redux



Summary:— Periwinkle ‘Peri’ MacIntyre and her lover Maude Clarke are investigators of the Supernatural in 1880’s England.

Disclaimer:— This story is copyright ©2022 Phineas Redux. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Notes:— Aylmer Vance—fictional ghost-hunter created by Alice and Claude Askew: Thomas Carnacki—fictional ghost-hunter created by W. H. Hodgson.

Caution:— There is some light swearing in this story.


“That self-satisfied prig, Aylmer Vance, has done it again!”

Brought back so suddenly to an acknowledgement that Life existed, as she sat at the breakfast table in their set of rooms in the Axion Building, Darnley Street, Farringdon, London, on this fresh morning of February 1889, Maude Clarke shook her head to sweep the last of the night’s cobwebs from her still only barely functioning mind in order to consider the woman sitting opposite.

Peri, full name Periwinkle, though she strived to keep this a dark secret from Society, MacIntyre    was almost thirty years of age; though, again, she rather ignored than applauded this fact. Her hair was long, dark brown and wavy; physical form rather underdeveloped, she considering form-crushing corsets as works of the Devil, preferring the loose garments in the Greek style now striving to overcome the Gaiety Girl presentation of the female form. Her features long in the jaw and chin, slightly pale, with wide lips which she hardly ever allowed the freedom to smile. Her usual expression that of a Girton Girl on a mission, which was actually not so far from the truth.

Maude, as she sat contemplating her lover of ten years past, reflected on herself in comparison; daughter of a successful father who was an author of well-regarded novels, and a mother who was an established artist, exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy Summer Show, She had everything available within Human wish or need, though by nature never taking this good fortune for granted. Early in her life she had come to understand her true sexual nature and, backed by a mother who was morally open and understanding of such things and a father just as much so, she had been able to live in peace with herself against all-comers. Meeting Peri ten years previously being the turning-point in her life, they hitting it off together from their first conversation. Now living as partners, they looked the world in the eye, taking no criticism from ill-wishers—Maude, finishing her little introspection, realised she was perfectly, in the precise nature of the term, happy.

“Peri, you’ll lose your appetite snarling like that. What’s he done this time?”

Peri, on her part, crumpled the large newspaper more viciously in her enraged hands.

“Just went down to Annington House, Bedfordshire, a fortnight ago, according to the report in today’s News-Recorder, to investigate a manifestation bothering the old Earl and finished-up accusing the man’s butler of pulling some sort’a funny business in pursuit of his own end’s; the butler’s that is. Fool!”

Maude paused to consider the ramifications of this perturbing news.

“So what? He discovered the real reasons behind the haunting; ain’t that a good result?”

Peri growled like a hungry grizzly.


Five minutes later Peri boiled over once again, this time as the result of reading something in the latest Pall Mall magazine freshly delivered by post that morning into her usually eager hands.

“Look at this drivel! The idiot Carnacki, boasting in his inimitable way, about crushing a manifestation from Ancient Assyria bothering a country gentleman down in Suffolk which would have probably, if the heroic investigator had not intervened, have threatened the entire Modern civilized world, or so he says! Man’s a complete fool; don’t understand how anyone of sense can take him at his word for a single moment! He couldn’t discover a pile of horse poop if he slipped face-first into it!”


“You got everything ready for our run down to Farlingham, dear?” Peri changing the subject, throwing the offending magazine contemptuously on the floor by her chair. “We’ll need to catch the ten-fourteen from Euston, y’know.”

“All in order, love, don’t worry.”

“Ordered a Hansom?”


“Tickets handy?”


“Luggage all sorted?”


“Wonder if we should send Lord Jelliburton a telegram down to Farlingham, just to let him know we’re safely on our way there?”



“Don’t be an idiot! It’s too early in the day for nonsense like that!”


Rather than a separate house organised by servants Maude and Peri lived by themselves in a set of rooms, a suite, in the Axion House apartment building in Darnley Street just off Farringdon Road. The surrounding area was predominantly middle-class with some corners aspiring to greater levels of Society, if only the residents could convince their neighbours of such—Maude and Peri not being hoodwinked so easily, though.

At the moment, just after the breakfast things had hurriedly been given the closest to a rinse and wash in the kitchen they were likely to receive that week, the ladies retired to their shared bedroom to dress for the journey into the wilds of Bedfordshire. In this year of 1889 the predominant fashion for Ladies of Class, was the hambone-shouldered tight-waisted look, crowned with hair done in huge masses topped by hats with such extraordinarily wide brims and confusion of fol-de-rols encircling their crowns the wearer looked as if she carried a small garden on her head. Again, our heroines disdained this nonsense with the open eyes of logic, common-sense, and an innate ability to recognise foolish foppery when it was thrust before their appalled eyes.

Peri ordinarily favoured a short-brimmed yellow straw boater making her look as if about to take a voyage on a punt at Teddington Lock; Maude generally preferring a short-brimmed fedora which, if nothing else, made her stand out in a crowd—ladies faced with this apparition never able to momentarily decide whether to turn their noses up or applaud Maude’s sense of Fashion.

“Are you ready?”

Maude calling over her shoulder from the short corridor at the front door of their suite back in the direction of their living-room where, as usual, Peri was having second thoughts about the pale cream blouse she wore above her habitual rust-coloured loose-hemmed ankle-length skirt. A ghostly wail from the room answering her query.

“I’m not sure, dear,—do you think this blouse really set’s-off my skirt?”

Oh, God! Peri, we’re nearly late. One more minute and the Hansom’ll jog-off back to Central London without us. Think I hear the driver getting ready to do so as we speak!”

A clatter as something fell to the floorboards, a rustle as of piles of dry leaves in Autumn, and Peri made her appearance, ready for the World’s censure with chin high in the air. The fact she wore bright yellow gloves instead of the normal socially acceptable white being a minor point Maude valiantly decided to ignore in favor of actually catching their waiting train at Euston.

“Lovely—just, er, lovely. Come on!”


The engine, on Platform 3 at Euston Station, was a specimen of the Precedent 2-4-0 express passenger class, so had plenty of puff in reserve to haul the nine coaches making up its train; a luggage van immediately behind the tender, three 1st class compartment coaches, a dining saloon, followed by three 3rd class coaches and in the rear the conductor’s van which had space for further luggage; 3rd Class being an age-old anomaly as there was no 2nd Class on the LNWR or any other British Railway Company’s passenger stock.

The ladies found their coach and reserved compartment without trouble, settling down for the relatively short journey to Bedfordshire, cases in the netting overhead their benches, bags on the spare bench space, and other items littered around as if they lived in the coach permanently. Peri making a point of half-closing the window blinds on each side as she dearly loved her privacy when journeying anywhere in public.

“How long till we start?”

Maude consulted her watch, held on a thin gold chain clipped to the wide collar of her travelling coat; the watch itself residing in a little pocket high on her inner jacket.

“Lem’me see, er, er,—oh, ten minutes yet.”

God! We could’a walked here comfortably instead of all that rush you insisted on creating!” Peri taking it out on the world about her, as was her nature.

Maude, fully immunized to this worldly standpoint, shrugged unimpressed.

“Gives me time to glance through my Lady’s Journal. How about you, love? Tolstoy’s War and Peace to hand? Don’t you find it difficult to read anything when the train bumps over all these points and things when it gets up speed?”



The first half hour of the journey went smoothly, or as much so as the numerous switches and bumpy points allowed; then Peri sat forward on her bench opposite her partner, a scowl flickering over her face.

Oh, God! Would you believe it? Again!”

Maude, accustomed to her compere’s outbursts, merely raised an eyebrow.


“Thomas Carnacki, of course!” Peri nearly hissing the name in her rage. “There’s an interview with him in this month’s Strand. The reporter asks him what his latest triumph in the supernarural line was an’ he, the smarmy ape, says it was bringing to book a Private Secretary who was attempting to drive his master mad by making hin think his country house was haunted.”

“Much the same as we’re goin’ down t’Hampshire for, dear.” Maude attempting to pour oil on troubled water.

Har!” Peri not impressed at all. “A wholly different situation, lover. He is always out to make a splash and show himself as a great detective; we, on the other hand, are simply trying to differentiate the Normal from the Un-normal—an entirely different manner of looking at things.”

“What was his last case, then? Just out of curiousity.”

Peri sighed at the illogical desires of some.

“if you must know, it was Lord Kenham, down in Grantley Abbey. Made it known to all and sundry who’d listen to the old demented fool that he was being haunted by the ghost of his great five times removed grandmother—apparently a famous highway-woman in her time.”


“It’s down in black and white here, in The Strand, so it must be true.” Peri standing on hard fact. “Instead of going about searching for her remains or supernatural method of appearing most nights Vance brought in his heavy machinery, that dam’med infamous Electric Pentacle; electrified the whole of Kenham’s study, and caught the Private Secretary in flagrante delicto by the simple method of nearly frying the poor man alive!”

Dear me!”

Peri had read enough about her opposite number in the Supernatural Investigatory stakes.

“Here, swap. What’re you reading|?”


“Not much better than the Strand. Throw it over, if you may, anyway.”

Five minutes passed by peacefully before Peri hit once again on a reef in her calm day.

“Would you believe it!”

Maude glanced up from reading the latest Amelia Edwards’ mystery story.

“What? You’re easily annoyed today, lady.”

“It’s that fool Aylmer vance once again; can’t I ever avoid him! He’s up to his tricks again.” Peri tight-lipped with fury. “Some rubbish about a young lady being possessed, at some country house in Devon. Lady, in her twenties, started exhibiting signs of being taken over by a Presence or Spirit, or some such nonsense. Father brought in Vance who immediately put it down to poison, or at least a strong drug. Local Doctor pooh-poohed the suggestion, he having had the Lady under his eye for the last three years. But Vance finaly proved, so this story goes, that the Doctor himself was adminitering an hitherto unknown drug he had brought back from South America after an expedition he had participated in some five years earlier. The said Doctor having developd a crazed passion for the lady whm he wanted under his sole control, apparently? Tosh from start to finish! Never read such nonsense in my life. Why’d you give me this rag, dear? Have you no taste at all?”

Maude, driven to extremities, sighed loudly, giving her partner what she cheerfully hoped was something approximate to the Evil Eye.

“Peri, pull yourself together. Everytime you talk or read about Carnacki or Vance you go off at full-cock. Get a grip, woman.”

“Well, who with any sense at all wouldn’t? Carnacki!—him and his dam’ Sigsand Manuscript! Whatever the hell it is in reality; if it actually exists outside his cracked mentality! And as for the sideshow speiler, Vance—”

“Peri!” Maude now beginning to really worry abut her companion. “Leave it alone, for goodness sake; there’s a delightful recipe for making coddled eggs on page fifty-four.”

“As for the Saamaa Ritual he often uses, poppycock; somewhere he read something about Ancient Egyptian rites and it stuck in what passes for his mind—all nonsense!” Peri continuing unabated. “And his Electric Pentacle! Hope he coils it round himself one day an’ fries himself for a change—World’d be a better place, believe me!”

“Well, ignore them all, then.” Maude making what she firmly believed a comprehensive rejoinder. “They go about things their ways, we ours—let’s just get along, shall we?”

“As long as we don’t bump into each other again.” Peri here referring to a meeting at a dinner given by a mutual client nearly two years ago now where Carnacki had been present. “Last time we met the moron he tried to make eyes at you, didn’t he?”

“No, he didn’t.” Maude taking umbrage at this suggestion. “He merely smiled over some humorous incident he had repeated to a group of us and you took it entirely the wrong way. Imagine making a scene as you did? I was embarrassed for a month after.”


“Here, give that mag back, it’s obviously too rich for your blood. Here’s the Lady’s Journal—dive into the latest fashions, and let’s hear no more of either Vance nor Carnacki.”

Oh, alright!”


Farlingham, their destination in the central wastes of Bedfordshire, arrived well within three hours journey time to the satisfaction of both women. A hurried swirl of activity, getting together all their worldly goods in preparation for the stop, a quick jump out of the coach compartment onto the stone of the platform, an impatient whistle from the engine immersed in a cloud of acidic steam, and the train went on its way, leaving the women alone on the small town station’s single platform.

“Where’s a dam’ porter?”

Maude, seeing this representative of the Railway coming out from an office at the further end of the platform gave a wave beckoning the man in their direction.

“Just a mo’, darlin’. So, we’re here?”

“Would seem so.” Peri never impressed by any destination they ever washed up at during their many journeys round the country. “Now all we need to do is find Palgrave’s End.”

“Shouldn’t be difficult, this porter ought to know where it is to the nearest inch.” Maude taking the wholly pragmatic outlook on their position. “Hi, there, d’you happen to know where Palgrave’s End House is, at all?”

The porter, a man who had filled his important position for over thirty years, nodded sagely but with a well-practiced wiggle of the lips under his wide moustache instantly recognisable as the universal notice that money would have to be exchanged before his memory could be assisted into doing its duty.

Huur!” Maude reaching into her purse with no good grace. “Can see we’ll be paupers before we leave this hole. There! So?”

Five minutes later, though not before Maude had strenuously haggled over the cost like a fisherwoman, the travelers found themselves wending their way in a small pony-trap along a bewildering array of country lanes in search of their destination; the pony nominally leading the way hardly looking as if capable of completing a couple of miles before succumbing to old age.

“Bet we finish up walking.”

“Peri, darlin’, put a sock in it!”

Har! Hey, look, a big house over the fields there, to your right.”

“Think that’s Palgrave’s End?”

“Dam’ hope so, looks like it’s gon’na rain soon.”

Three minutes onwards, the pony surviving the ordeal though not without snorting deeply for breath as it went, they rolled up at the front door of an imposing edifice which looked to both womens’ wholly inexperienced eyes in such things as if it had been built around the time of William the Conqueror.

“Ancient sort’a hole, ain’t it?” Maude refusing to feel over-awed by her surroundings.

“Probably Norman, or something.” Peri coming out with what came to mind first. “Oh, God! The butler!”

“Good Afternoon, madam—madam!” The butler, for such he indeed was, facing them with all the ingrained might of a lifetime’s putting people in their places. “The servants will take care of your luggage; please follow me—the Drawing-room is this way. Lord Jelliburton awaits. Allow me to elucidate the usual form of address, this being ‘My Lord’ on first acquaintance, after which ‘Sir’ in all following converse will be sufficient.”

Hey, laddie?” Peri kicking this suggested mode of intercourse into the long grass without hesitation.

“Madam?” The butler stopping in his tracks, giving his guests a look as of complete failure to understand her remark.


“I fail to understand, madam?”

“Your name?” Peri unrelentingly determined to have her question answered satisfactorily.

“My name is Hobson, madam.” He admitting this with the pursed lip of someone having just bitten into a slightly decaying lemon.

“Well, Hobson, let me tell you, I and my friend here are Englishwomen, just as much as your Master, whatever his title, is an Englishman, but nothing more! We’ll, therefore, talk to him any way we like, and be dam’med to precedent, OK?”


“Lead the way, Hobson, time’s wastin’.” Peri’s last word on the matter.

In the Drawing-room, a vast space high as a church interior and pretty much as wide, a lone tall man in his late seventies awaited the arrival of his guests standing by an enormous open fireplace that looked more like the entrance to a railway tunnel than anything else.

“Lord Jelliburton—The Misses MacIntyre and Clarke.”

“Afternoon, glad t’see you arrived safely—never happy when travelin’ by train myself, y’know—the dam’ speed an’ all that. How are you, then? Miss Clarke?”

“Yep, this’s Miss MacIntyre.”

“Hallo.” Peri thrusting a hand out to shake that of her Host without the slightest embarrassment. “Hell of a journey on our parts, too. Just glad to have arrived. Any chance of a cup of tea?”

Lord Jelliburton raised his left eyebrow perhaps three-sixteenths of an inch, the most he ever allowed himself to register astonishment in public, then ran with the flow, obviously amused by his guests’ natures.

“Quite understand, tea, yes, at once. Hobson, tea for three, here, thanks.”

Hobson quitted the room with all the chill hostility of a Vandal meeting a Goth round a blind corner, closing the door behind him with the practiced silence of decades past.

“Take seats, ladies, mustn’t keep you standin’. Tea’ll be along in a jiffy—er, So?”

“We finally found your place, but not without effort.” Peri seating herself on a long sofa, Maude by her side. “Curious backwater to live in; what’d your ancestors find to make them settle here, I wonder?”

At this wholly democratic attitude shown to his very face even the usually calm and refined nature of the man began to feel the strain.

“May I, er, remind you of whom you are in the presence? A certain level of, uum, politeness and strict attention to, ah, a required level of etiquette is surely obligatory, wouldn’t you say?”

Peri and Maude glanced at each other as one, before Maude took up the strain of putting the Earl in the picture and his place.

“Mister Jelliburton, neither my partner not I give a fig for formality or social etiquette, of any sort. You may continue being and living your Earl-Lordship life to as great an extent as you wish, just don’t involve either myself nor Peri in pandering to your egotistical susceptibilities, thanks. We’re Republicans by nature and mean to stay so against all odds to the contrary.”

Lord Jelliburton never quite having been in this defensive position before, except for a hot half-hour somewhere in the middle of the Khyber Pass fifteen years earlier when a group of Pashtun natives in the hills had attempted to shoot his head off with Jezail long rifles, took a few deep breaths before to his credit, regaining most of his composure.

“So, I take it, the whole of the Aristocratic Class are, to you, vampires of the senses against the whole population?”

Peri nodded in agreement.

“That about covers it, yeah. To tell the truth it was a toss-up whether we’d take this job on at all; only Maude here pushed me into accepting it. So, shall we get down to business, or is your ego so bruised you’d rather we went home immediately? Entirely up to you—but to us you’re Mister Jelliburton, and nothing greater; deal with it.”

Turning to the door to the Drawing-room while Lord Jelliburton stood transfixed, the ladies saw Hobson standing just within, white as a sheet and visibly quivering. Then he spoke up, voice trembling.

“Sir! Shall I fetch John and George? We can have these—interlopers, removed from your presence forthwith!”

Jelliburton, courageously facing this unexpected attack, as he had that of all those years before, took stock of his position, that of the two women visitors, and made a battlefield decision.

“No, Hobson, thank you all the same. Are those the tea things? Put them on the table, thank you. That will be all.”

Moving like a Zombie Hobson carried out his contractual duty, though with the air of a pirate denied the pleasant satisfaction of making his prisoner walk the plank, then vanished like the professional servant he was.

“Well, ladies,” Jelliburton regaining the power to converse after they had been left to themselves again. “You both have an amazing, even innate, ability to tear the usual fences of Social and Polite decorum to shreds. You put me in a quandary—first, a level of impoliteness never before experienced by anyone of standing in this House; second, my present necessity to have some sort of professional help against a situation which surely requires same; and thirdly, can I put up with the abrogation of everything I have held dear around my station in Life during the last sixty decades. I find myself wishing you had both been men, and in my regiment on the North-West Frontier in, say, Eighteen Seventy-four. Ah, those were the days! Pashtuns to your left, Afghans to your right, Kurds in front, and Punjabis to the south; none happy at our presence overall. Ah, happy days!”

“Jelliburton?” Peri striving to plug these unwanted memoirs.

Ah, yes?”

“Give it a rest, thanks! What about this supposed haunting you say you’re experiencing here? Much as I’m beginning to lose faith in the whole story, mind you. Give us the details, so we can decide whether to stay or, indeed, pack our bags an’ leave you to it.”

Changing his outlook to fit present circumstance, like the old soldier he was, Jelliburton sighed softly, shrugged his shoulders, glanced ambiguously for a second to the far wall decorated with an elephant gun of enormous proportions, then returned to sanity.

“Haunting? Well, I wouldn’t quite go so far, ladies. Yes, you may stay and lend a hand, as far as you find possible, I allow. I expecting to be able to survive the challenge without any lasting serious wounds. If you’re goin’ t’call me Mister, what do I call you? In polite circles, that is, and out loud in company?”


The man so named sighed again, looking at Peri with a new respect.

“Yes, madam?”

“Go on like this and that elephant gun on the wall over there—yeah, I noticed!—will come in very useful after all, for me!”

For the third time in under a minute Jelliburton sighed, this time from the bottom of his heart and the depths of his soul.

“Ladies, this is becoming impossible, even intolerable; may I call a truce? All I wish for is a complete ending to the situation at present unfolding within the walls of this residence—for the good and safety of the servants, if nothing else. I leaving my own comfort out of the equation, having come to understand you both. Can we continue in this direction, do you suppose? After all, it is Friday now; I have a party of week-end guests arriving in the next few hours; and by Monday one hopes there will have been a resolution to the drama goin’ on meanwhile, behind the scenes as you might say.”

Peri looked at Maude, conversation on the almost mental level ensued, then Maude nodded.

“OK, we’ll stay an’ do our best. These guests, any of them titled? Just askin’.”

Seeing clearly where this topic could only finish Jelliburton actually paled slightly at the horrible prospect in view.

Ah, let me see—yes, one Honourable, male; one Honourable, female. That’s all. Several men of high distinction in, er, trade areas; Iron-masters, grocers to Royalty, one American man of means—millionaire, I believe they call themselves over the Pond; an artist, male, very good in the portrait line I’m told. That’s about it. Oh, an author, Miss Spencer Hardinge—writes Socially conscious novels of the proletariat, or so my daughter, Lorna, informs me. You’ll like Lorna, runs along the same rail-lines as yourselves, actually—something of a Republican, as they say in the States.”

“Can’t wait!” Maude rising from the sofa with the air of someone about to get something done forthwith against all odds to the contrary.

“Are you goin’ to start right away?” Jelliburton taken somewhat aback by this call to arms so soon after their arrival.

Gracious, no!” Peri putting him straight. “We’ll go to our room first, get settled in; don’t worry, one between us both’ll be fine. Unpack our bags, set out a plan of attack then, if you can spare a half-hour between meeting guests later, we’ll get the gen from you about the, ah, situation in hand, OK?”

Ten minutes later, curtesy of a female servant who treated them both as if Royalty, Peri and Maude found themselves interred in their specified room, not much to their delight.

“Third floor backwater.” Peri making a quick round of the square apartment. “One window, one bed, one washstand, one table, two chairs. I think we’ve been relegated at the last minute to the servants’ quarters. Some scullery-maid been turfed out five minutes ago to make room for us.”

“Looks dam’ like it, yeah!” Maude wholeheartedly agreeing with her partner’s assessment. “Oh, well, been in worse holes in our time; let’s get unpacked an’ set-up—we probably havin’ to spend the whole night awake roaming the corridors of this dam’ ruin.”

“With you there, honey. OK, let’s get to it.” Peri opening one of their travelling cases and laying it on the not quite wide enough bed. “Wonder if these sheets have been changed since the last resident? These your fol-de-rols, baby?”

“Lem’me see! Yeah, that’s my case, this must be yours, change?”

“Did Jelliburton say he’d give us a short interview—when?”

“Five o’clock, just under an hour from now.” Maude on top of the chronology of their afternoon. “Guests rolling up before and after that eye of the storm, as you might say.”

“This case is goin’ downhill like a rabbit thrown out of a hot-air balloon, dear.”

Ha!” Maude taking this on the chin. “We need to find out the particular details of the case, of course. Know the main theme, but not the day to day events, or even if anyone’s been scared out of their wits or not.”

Before they could continue a sharp rap came on the door of their room, Peri moving over to open it.

Hallo, thought I’d trundle up the stairs an’ greet the guests; I’m Lorna Phillips, the Jelliburton bein’ my Father—whom I’m led to understand you’ve already met? Dad tellin’ me you both reminded him of his years on the Frontier!”

“Yeah, that’s about it; glad t’meet you—I’m Peri MacIntyre, this’s Maude Clarke.”

“Glad t’meet you both.” Lorna, a tall thin fair haired beauty in her early twenties, seeming perfectly happy in doing so. “Place needs shakin’ up, anyway; I’m sure you’ll be a great success over the weekend. Know anything of what’s goin’ on here, behind the wainscot, so to speak?”

“Reason we’re here.”

“Yeah, Ghost-hunters!” Lorna suddenly looking rather embarrassed. “That is, don’t want t’be impolite—what do you call yourselves?”

“Investigators,” Peri putting their hostess in the picture. “of supposed Supernatural entities, apparitions, and, er, hauntings. We like to take the Scientific route, though, being rather sceptical than otherwise.”

“Like, who is it now; oh, yes, Carnacki? I’ve read about his cases in the monthly magazines; seems a capable fellow—do you know him, by any chance?”

Maude glanced at her boots while Peri, before answering, sighed heavily.

“We know Carnacki, yes.” She, however, sounding less than enthused over this acquaintanceship. “We, ah,—we, ah—; yeah, we know him.”

Lorna noted this hesitancy and, like the lady she was, changed the topic with smooth efficiency.

“About our own little haunting—it’s more of what father told me is usually called a—er, a, er, pole-case? Is that right?”

“Poltergeist?” Peri coming to her assistance.

“Poltergeist! Yes, that’s it! Thanks.”

“What kind of a Poltergeist?” Maude searching for details. “Just noises? Or movement of objects? Or the appearance of extraneous objects from outside the room or building?”

We-ell!” Lorna seeming a trifle unsure.

“Many people experience it? Over how long a time?” Peri searching for facts, like Mr. Gradgrind.

“Yes,” Maude coming in with her take on the matter. “Poltergeists’ tend to weaken over time, and often disappear of their own accord thereafter.”

Lorna bucked-up at this description of the pertinent bogey.

Ah, not ours. I mean, it’s been annoying Pater these last five weeks or slightly more; things falling-off the walls, objects sliding across the floors, cutlery dancin’ around the tables just when you most want the dessert spoon, noise’s-off during the night that no amount of creeping along dark corridors with a flickering candle will clarify; female servants screaming in fright from noises behind them in the corridors when no-one’s there, that sort’a thing. Taken to carryin’ my Smith an’ Wesson with me here at night; got it with me now, matter o’fact.”

Both Peri and Maude came to life at this admission, Peri taking the lead.

“Well, stop carryin’ it at once; it’ll only get you in a deal of trouble—this’s Bedfordshire, not the Colorado Strip on a Saturday night! Shoot someone here an’ you’ll pretty certainly eventually end up in Holloway Prison.”

Oh, you think so?”

Maude came to the point in question, having covered much the same ground in previous cases where clients thought firearms would be effective defences against the occult.

“We’re dealin’ here, if it turns out t’be the case, with the Supernatural—which is impervious to lead in any form! Two ways your present problem ends—it’s Supernatural, in which case there’re several methods available for bringin’ it to a satisfactory close; or it’s someone playin’ silly beggars for motives yet to be figured-out. Now, I allow, a firearm would be effective in the latter case, but the end result would be a long term in prison for you, Miss Phillips. The British Courts lookin’ less than happily on gun-totin’ Ladies of Class shootin’ the Proletariat!”

Oh, sh-t!”

“Precisely.” Maude happy her point had been recognised.

“So,” Peri, glad to have scotched a very dangerous tendency on the part of her client to attack the populace unnecessarily, now looking for more clarification. “anything else happen here, over the course of the last few weeks, of a Supernatural sort, that is?”

Lorna ruminated on the subject for a few seconds.

“Not that I know of, though there have been some very silly notions swilling around the servants’ quarters an’ kitchen.”

It was Maude’s turn to perk up, raising her eyebrows quizzingly.

“As what?”

“I’m pretty well in with the servants, y’know.” Lorna obviously trying her hardest not to sound condescending. “I’m what the Russians call a Communist, of the People for the People, sort’a thing.”

Peri exchanged a glance with her lover.

“Doesn’t sound the sort of standpoint your Father’d take to easily?”

“He loathes the whole thing; says I’m incorrect in every aspect of my politics. Would like to call me a Nihilist, but his innate politeness doesn’t allow such.”

“The talk amongst the servants?” Peri trying to bring Lorna back on track.

“Yes, of course.” Lorna nodding vigorously. “So, what I’ve heard, down in the Servants’ Hall, is that certain other things have been going on here, in the House, for many years, decades even, before now.”

“There’s a history of Supernatural events around here?” Maude putting it succinctly.

“That about covers it, yes.”

“Can you give us examples, from your servants?”

Lorna paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts.

“To start with I have to say Hobson, our butler, has a wholly sceptical outlook to anything to do with the Supernatural; ghosts, bogeys, demons, and suchlike, anyway. He being a dyed in the wool conservative Church of England member who doesn’t believe in such.”

Oh, a good start.” Maude nodding in agreement.

“What about the servants who have other outlooks?” Peri coming to the core of the matter.

“It wouldn’t be fair to mention names,” Lorna shrugging her shoulders. “so I’ll just give the transmitted, er, anecdotes, OK?”

“Sure, it’ll give some idea of what’s going on.” Peri nodding in her turn. “Do these stories cover activities specifically inside the House or outside, or both?”

“Mostly outside.” Lorna frowning as she brought the relevant details to mind. “First off, there are tales of a haunted wood on the estate, which the locals never enter after dusk; Taunton Wood, it’s called, about a half mile from here, north-west.”

“Haunted in what way? Ghosts, Demons, something else?”

“Those who have been there, in the Wood for whatever reason, have let it be known they were followed as they walked through the trees by an uncommonly nasty smell which waxes and wanes around the walker; allied to a growing sense of something evil in their close proximity. Everyone who claims to have experienced this saying they eventually broke into a run to get out of the Wood as quickly as possible.”

Peri and Maude looked at each other, hardly convinced.

Uumph! A bad smell!” Maude sounding wholly unconvinced.

“I know, sounds idiotic, I know.” Lorna accepting the realistic view.

“A nasty smell could occur for all kinds of reasons, especially in the open in a more or less wild environment.” Peri gesturing with her arm. “Are there any old dis-used coal mines on the estate? A build-up of methane could have the effects you’ve stated; if it was strong enough it would account for the feeling of evil too, a psychological reaction to breathing the gas in.”

“Yeah,” Maude backing-up her partner comprehensively. “any competent scientist would sweep that tale under the nearest carpet without breaking sweat, I’m afraid. We need something much more substantial than that.”

Lorna pondered for a few seconds.

“There’s the story, handed down from around a hundred years ago, of the Lady Graveney?”

“Who was she? Tell all.” Peri smiling encouragingly.

“Fiona Parker, married Lord Richard Graveney in 1780, died from a fall from her horse whilst riding in this estate.”

Maude was unimpressed.

“What was Supernatural about that? Didn’t lots of folks die the same way throughout history—still happens today!”

“In this case her demise was witnessed by two persons, Lord Graveney himself, and John Grahame, her equerry.” Lorna coming to the crux of the story. “Both said they were pursued by what they called a Grey Rider; a man swathed in a grey riding-coat on a grey horse, but he and his steed being clearly unsubstantial, immaterial, ghostly. After the lady fell and died he then disappearing, as if having concluded his mission; never to be seen again.”

Dramatic as the story seemed, neither Peri nor Maude showed any great interest.

“That sort of historic anecdotal tale is found all over the country, particularly in Scotland and Ireland.” Peri using her great knowledge of such instances. “All sorts of natural explanations are possible, even likely. Everything from mis-understanding, mis-identification, or hallucination up to and including certain mental problems all cover the situation.”

“Yes,” Maude agreeing wholeheartedly with her partner. “A woman fell off her horse and died; several persons were present; one person present wasn’t identified by the others, thus leading to accusations of unfounded skull-duggery. The tale just doesn’t hang together in any reasonable way.”

Lorna sat looking at her interlocutors in a perplexed manner.

Dear me! Aren’t you going to believe any story I tell you?”

“It’s not a matter of belief,” Maude smiling in as pacifying a manner as she could muster at short notice. “just rational criticism. These tales you’ve repeated so far are all liable to the most mundane explanations; there’s no need for a Supernatural basis as a foundation for them. We, Peri and I, are talking as experts of some years’ standing here. What about other stories your servants have embraced; we’re open to all sorts of scenarios, but we’ll hold them up to the light to see what makes them tick, is all.”

Lorna hardly seemed enthused but bravely carried on.

“A particular servant, I won’t name her, told me that some seventy years ago a trio of children living here were used to playing with a group of Fairies in the formal gardens to the rear of the House—”

Fairies! Oh, God!” Peri losing her patience altogether.

“I’m only relaying what I’ve been told, by those who had reason to believe such memories were true, as far as they knew.” Lorna turning more red than merely pink in the face, feeling she was now almost a defendant in the Star Chamber. “Yes, Fairies! The children, apparently, were great friends with them for several years then, as they grew up, lost contact and never saw them again. That’s all.”

Peri sighed sadly, shaking her head in negation of what she had just listened to; Maude clearly of the same opinion but speaking-up in defence of their attitude.

“Lorna, I know you’re just echoing what you’ve been told; but Fairies just won’t wash; we need something far more reliable, believable, understandable, than that dusty old myth. Anything else?”

Lorna shrugged, defeated at all points.

“No, that’s about it. Just thought it reasonable to let you know what the general talk in the House was around this topic.”

“Thanks, we realise that, of course.” Peri becoming serious at the last. “It’s actually useful to know what the old legends are surrounding the whole aura of the House and the estate around it. We’re here, though, to investigate the present activities described by the residents and servants. Something seems to be happening, certainly; it’s just up to Maude and I to investigate to the best of our abilities and discover whether these activities are Supernatural or merely Natural, in whatever way.”

“Yes, of course.” Lorna nodding, having recovered her normal joie de vivre. “I suppose we should be grateful the, er, activities here today seem to be just a minor poltergeist having fun. So, what’s your plan of action, if I may ask?”

Maude was up for this request.

“We’re going to haunt the cold corridors of this dum—er, pile, ourselves. Peri and I’ll wander around the whole place, lookin’ for waving curtains, opening and shutting doors, noises of an unexplained nature; all that sort’a thing.”

“Stayin’ up all night t’do so?” Lorna clearly amazed at such dedication.

“Nah,” Maude again ready with her answer. “only till dawn makes the sky grey; then we’ll hit our bed. Should appear at breakfast as usual, somewhere around nine-thirty or ten, perhaps; ask Hobson to keep some bacon an’ devilled kidneys for us, will you?”

“Nine-thirty for ten; devilled kidneys, got it.” Lorna grinning as she spoke. “Some of our weekend guests work on the assumption mid-mornin’ is Dawn! Well, better leave you both to it, thanks for listenin’ t’me.”

“No problem.” Peri accompanying their guest to the door. “Just, when you’re abed and hear something curious in the night don’t worry or come out gun blazin’, it’ll only be Maude an’ I wanderin’ around.”

Ha! Sure, I’ll remember. G’night.”


The long corridor on the first floor lay on the front elevation of the old house, running some fifteen yards in a straight line on either side of the small hall at the top of the main staircase. The women were fully dressed, boots, long skirts, tight short jerkins, and light gloves; each holding a storm lantern, the candle inside glowing brightly casting long flickering shadows along the walls, ceiling, and floor.

“What’s the time?”

So questioned Peri raised her left arm to consult her wristwatch.

“Twelve minutes after midnight.”

“OK, could we switch on the electric lights, do you suppose?” Maude looking to the soft side of their expedition. “Make a deal of improvement.”

“Switch on the electric bulbs an’ it’ll wake everyone in the house, dear.” Peri recognising the reality of their position. “Electric’s so bright it’ll shine under the doors an’ through any windows like a lighthouse, destroy the whole ambience, anyway; surprised Jelliburton is progressive enough to have allowed such a modern and untested innovation, myself. Better as we are with candles an’ lanterns.”

“Dam’, it’s just these shadows flickering everywhere.” Maude summing-up her present circumstances. “We’re here lookin’ for any activity, an’ all I can see is all sorts of movements caused by these dam’ shadows. There could be a whole community of ghosts having a banquet along there to our left an’ I can’t see a glimmer of it; at least to differentiate any such from our lanterns’ shadows, anyway.”

“Par for the course, love.” Peri hardly worried. “Anyway, Hobson shuts off the electric generator at the rear of the house every night; switches on again at seven in the mornin’. So, just sharpen your eyes like gimlets, y’know. Though I’ve never understood the metaphor myself.”

It was an irrelevancy, but Maude lived on such, so—

“Gimlets’ are sharp, dear; they punch holes in thick leather an’ whatnot.”

Oh, helpful.”

Maude changed the subject.

“Which way?”

Peri considered for a few seconds.

“Don’t suppose it matters much; bedrooms along both corridors. Just tread quietly as we pass the doors; guests asleep, y’know, or we sincerely hope so. Don’t want to bump into some man making his nefarious way along to say goodnight to some lady, do we? OK?”

Maude didn’t honor this with a reply, instead taking the fore in heading along the left corridor, windows on her right hand.

“What’s at the end of this corridor?”

“Probably a service stair for the servants, goin’ down t’the kitchen an’ up t’the second floor, attics as well, even.”

“Regular maze!”

“Follow me, an’ don’t make too much noise.”

“No, don’t wan’na disturb the ghosts, do we!”

Ten minutes later, by devious routes, they stood on the second floor at the junction of two long corridors.

“East, more bedrooms,” Peri consulting a leaf of her notebook on which she had made a temporary penciled plan of the house’s interior. “West, public rooms of various sorts.”

Hmmph, better make it the public rooms.” Maude curling a lip in something very like disdain. “More likely to find activity there than in someone’s boudoir, eh?”

“If you say so, lady.”

Opening the first door that beckoned on her left along the corridor the women found themselves in what could only be the House’s Library.

Jeez, what a lot of books! Suppose Jelliburton’s read ‘em all, dear?”

Peri snorted in reply.

“Probably sticks to the Foxhunter’s Monthly, Safari and Veldt, an’ Field an’ Gun. Likely never heard of Dickens or Trollope, even if ya held one of his elephant guns to his head.”


Further along the next door revealed an altogether more charming outlook.

Oh, a lady’s retiring-room, comfort at last.” Maude enchanted with the delightful décor of the chamber. “Wonder if this is Lorna’s retreat from the rush and struggle of daily existence?”

“Good on her if so.” Peri nodding in agreement. “Better get on, though; doesn’t look as if anything of note’ll happen here.”

As they re-emerged into the long shadowy corridor a heavy thud echoed along the passage from its further confines. Maude came to a sudden stop, almost pointing like a beagle.

“What was that?”

“Something falling-off a table somewhere?”

“Just our meat an’ drink, lover. Come on, race ya to it!”

By the time they reached the far end it felt as if they had competed in a three hundred yard sprint, both pausing to catch their breath at what seemed a small landing leading to another set of stairs going both down and up. A small round table sat against the wall while on the floor before it lay a silver salver as if newly fallen from its position on said table.

“Now, how d’you suppose that happened?” Maude scratching her chin as she held her lantern over the guilty vessel.

But Peri had already started her investigation.

“Look, see the round mark on the table? It sat more or less in the centre. No sign of it scraping over the table-top, though. Just seems to have jumped up and deposited itself on the floor out’ta pure spite.”

Ha!” Maude not in a humorous mood. “Lem’me pick the dam’ thing up, don’t want an unwary guest tripping over it in the early morning—which is dam’ near already upon us, I might remind you!”

“So much for ghostly intervention!” Peri sniffing disgustedly. “Two things—one, if it is a ghost they had better do better in future or I’m packing it in an’ going home! Second, if it’s some character in the House playing silly beggars I’m gon’na arm myself with my Webley an’ shoot their dam’ ear, or something, off at our next meeting!”

“Said like a British Lady, darling.” Maude showing her agreement in a wide grin. “Don’t worry, I’ll come regularly each month t’visit you in Holloway Prison, even if it’s for years, which it will be!”



The next morning found the intrepid investigators, after a hearty but late breakfast, sitting in their private drawing-room on the first floor debating the future course of their plans.

“Guest list.”

“Ya think, ducks?”

“Don’t call me ducks, baby.”

Oh, OK.” Maude folding under such sweet but determined pressure. “So, guests? How many are there at present?”

“Lem’me see, I’ve made a preliminary list; ah, here we are.”

“You and notes!” Maude smiling gently. “If writing had never been invented, what’d you do, I wonder?”

“Give over, serious business under way here—so, guests!” Peri holding fast before great odds. “Gerald Nixon, renowned author of contemporary novels—ever read him?”

“Never heard of him, even—next.”

“The Honorable Hortense Middlemay, scion of the Earl of Lanningham, in her fifties, terribly respectable and down on those who don’t follow the regulations of etiquette according to the Society magazines.”

“You read those rags, dear?”

“One takes one’s knowledge from whatever source presents itself, madam!” Peri coming over all superior. “Let me get on or we’ll be here till next Christmas. Then John Margerson, Iron-master from Sunderland; bags of money but said to have a temper that’d have made King Herod jealous.”


“Can I get on?” Peri exercising her innate authority. “Mr Thomas Dalton, Grocer to Her Majesty, and doesn’t he let everyone know; sells his tea at three times the price of any other competitor! Mr Josiah Beckermann the Third, American businessman and supposedly owner of enough money to buy most of the British Empire and not notice the difference in his bank statement!”

Har! Pull the other one!”

“The Honorable James Figginson, offspring of the Duke of Dalmally; reputation, in various smoking-rooms across the country when not present himself, as the greatest man-about-town and lover since Casanova.”

God!” Maude bucking-up no end. “Fella t’keep a beady eye on, for sure.”

“Oscar Narrisette, artist who insists on painting his female portraits in the nude—the sitters, not him! Works banned from the Summer Exhibition for the last four years, but sells like hot-cakes. A rising star in the artistic world, apparently.”

Huh!” Maude not in the least impressed. “Takes all sorts.”

“And last, but by no means least, Miss Spencer Hardinge, author.” Peri grinning widely for once. “She specialising in humorous skits showing the Upper Classes at play and what passes for work for them, and realistic novels of the Proletariat struggling for a bare existence; sells in the hundreds of thousands as a result of which has a flat in the Albany and a villa on the Côte d'Azur.”

Whee! Must make her acquaintance!” Maude showing all her social climbing tendencies without embarrassment.

Peri lay her notes aside, giving all her attention to her beautiful comrade.

“Would you pour me another cup of tea, dear? Thanks! So, what can we deduce from this list of dubious characters?”

Maude sniffed imperiously.

“All likely perpetrators, lover. The American millionaire’s probably lost most of his dollars in deals recently gone down the Swannee; the two Honorables, being by necessity and nature always squeezed for the next half-crown, are capable of anything in the near illegal gambit. The two authors, both of them, are of course capable of any crime from stealing a kids lollipop to outright foul murder—hope it’s the latter! An Iron-master with an uncontrollable temper—well, I ask you, need we search any further! And a Grocer and an artist! Who knows what such may be harbouring in their foul minds at any one moment? Any one of them could be our culprit, stealing around the corridors of a night knocking silver salvers off tables for their own nefarious and unexplained reasons.”

“Well, that gets us far, I’m sure.” Peri bringing all her sarcastic nature to bear on this analysis. “Can you do any better, or have you shot your bolt, dear?”

“Only trying to help’s all, lover.”

“Well, it ain’t workin’, dear!”

Five further minutes spent imbibing tea and rock cakes finally brought a new outlook to the situation.

“This useless swanning around everywhere at night ain’t gon’na get us anywhere; best we can hope for is coming along at the tail-end of any incident, like we did last night.” Peri musing thoughtfully on the problem. “Multiple salvers can jump off tables, or pictures from walls, or chests of drawers topple over for no discernible reason, but where’d that leave us at the end of the day, or night?”

“Where we started,” Maude speaking from long experience. “no further forward at all. We have to face the situation from some better angle—what’ll it be, lover?”

Peri snorted dismissively.

Oh, I’m suddenly the source of all Reason, am I? Thanks muchly.”

But Maude had already gone off on a trail of her own devising.



“Booby-traps, lady of my heart!” Maude nodding in satisfaction at her own perspicacity. “We stretch string across the tops of all the stairs one night, and wait to see who’s fallen down them the next morning. Probably won’t need an alarm bell or anything like that—the screams of fear and agony’ll probably wake everyone in the House!”

Ooo-aawr! Have another rock cake, dear!”


That afternoon Hobson, in full denial of his ordinary butlering duties, had been helping the ladies scour the dusty shelves of the upstairs Library in pursuit of any smallest document relating to anything supernatural to do with the ancient House’s history; the full upshot after three hours search being very little.

“A Steward in the early Eighteenth century reports he once saw a Grey Lady floating down the Long Gallery on the third floor,” Maude’s tone reflecting every iota of her disbelief in this hoary anecdote. “James Pringle, owner in Eighteen Thirty-one, says here he was standing at the top of a flight of the servant’s stairs and someone pushed him in the back making him fall down a flight of ten stairs to his physical undoing and sore injury; immediately after which no-one was seen anywhere in his vicinity! A likely story! Wonder how many bottles of port he’d already gotten on the outside of before attempting to find his way to his bedroom?”

“Anything else, Hobson?” Peri looking to the butler for some progress.

“No, ma’am, nothing else to report. That seems to be the sum total of anything of a supernatural nature being retained in the House’s records.”

“Alright, Hobson, you may go now, and thanks for your help.”

“Your servant, ma’am.”

When the door closed behind him Peri sighed deeply, flinging a dusty file down on the table where she sat alongside her lover.

“This’s getting us nowhere, too.”

Maude, however, was made of sterner stuff.

“Look on it from the positive outlook, dear.”

“What positive outlook? There ain’t any trace of so much as a forlorn banshee making a spectacle of herself anywhere in the dam’ House’s history!”

“Which is exactly the thing, dear, don’t you see?” Maude seizing her partner’s arm in an iron grip. “If there’s no trace of the Supernatural at work or play, that means there isn’t any such at all! Which in turn means we need only look to the physical, the real, for an explanation of contemporary events. In other words it definitely isn’t ghosts at work here, it’s some or one of the guests being dastardly for purely personal reasons of monetary or other substantial profit.”

Peri mused over this theory, and found it entirely acceptable.

“Yes, that does cover the whole situation. So, who’s at the bottom of the whole affair, then? Didn’t Jelliburton give us a sheet containing a list of all that had previously gone on, making up the whole of the ghostly happenings here?”

“Yes, it’s here somewhere, I brought it with me.”

Maude hunted assiduously through the piles of documents and loose sheets of paper littering the wide table, then came up trumps.

“Here we are; shall I read it out?”

“Yeah, go ahead, might provide some kind of clue.”

“Today’s October the thirteenth, the first appearance of anything unusual going-on, according to Jelliburton’s record here, was on the twelfth of June last. A female servant reporting someone whistling behind her as she walked along one of the upstairs corridors, but when she looked there was no-one there.”

“Which floor, which corridor?”

Maude scrutinized her notes.

“Doesn’t say.”


“Next, twenty-seventh of June, a male servant reported he filled a coal scuttle in the first floor sitting-room and, just as he left he heard a clang and thud; looking back he saw the scuttle on its side with the coal distributed over the carpet—no explanation.”

Huumph! Hardly interesting; the Psychical Research Society wouldn’t find that incident of much worth.”

“Third incident, Jelliburton himself was oiling a gun in his gunroom one morning when he was called to the French window by Lady Carstairs with a query. Suddenly one of his other guns went off by itself, shot narrowly missing him and the Lady—she left the same afternoon, saying that she hadn’t expected the depths of Bedfordshire to so closely resemble the Khyber Pass! Jelliburton adamant the gun simply couldn’t have gone off by itself, but he was the only person in the room and several yards away from it at the time of the incident.”

Well-well, could have been any number of explanations for that, all accidental.” Peri not impressed in the least. “Any more?”

“Only two more stories of peculiar noises in corridors as servants, female, walked along them on different nights, nobody to be seen when search was made.” Maude shrugging her shoulders as she finished. “That’s the lot to date.”

Peri was dismissive in her attitude to this list of possibilities.

“All those could easily be put down to accident, coincidence, or simple misunderstanding. Means nothing, especially in the context of anything supernatural. No-no! What we’re dealing with here is certainly something fishy perpetrated by the upstanding figure of one of the wholly corporeal guests. Have we a list of who was present in the House on the occasion of each incident? See if any one person was present on each occasion? That’d help.”

Maude frowned over this question, then shook her head.

“No, no list; don’t think anyone bothered to compile such a thing, and if we tried to jog people’s memories now I bet we’d get as many differing lists as people we speak to! Hopeless. Doesn’t sound like a case that’d interest Aylmer Vance in the least—maybe Carnacki, though!”

B-gg-r Carnacki!”

My dear, so vulgar!”

Well, he deserves it!” Peri refusing to be downcast. “It’s still our case, and we’ll dam’ well look at it from our point of view, thank you very much.”

“With you, dear, with you all the way.”


That evening at dinner found everyone sitting round the long table in the dining room, Hobson and a fleet of servants in attendance as the various courses progressed like a Sheikh’s banquet in Araby—Jelliburton liking, obviously, to do things with panache and freedom of spirit.

“No thank you, Hobson, I’ll pass on the caviar, I don’t like fish eggs.” Peri waving aside this delicacy with an affected air of ennui that fooled no-one.

Jelliburton, on his fourth glass of wine, waxed free about his days in India as a political agent.

“Did I ever tell you about the day in Jalalabad I was nearly shot by a Pashtun tribesman? Dam’ close thing it was, shot a hole in my jacket with a long range jezail; dam’ near shi—er, that is, gave me a regular turn I assure you.”

“Those Afghan natives have been uprising since the Eighteen-thirties, as I understand the situation.” The Honorable Hortense Middlemay curling a supercilious lip as she shoveled another forkful of steak and kidney pie into her mouth with a well rehearsed action of the wrist. “Would have thought the British Army had the cut of their jib by this time, surely?”

Jelliburton shook his head, as being on home ground.

“Sadly not, very good fighters, those tribesmen, madam. And, of course, the lie of their land doesn’t help at all; at least for the British defenders: high mountains and deep valleys, rocky terrain that can hide a whole army of the wretches, and don’t they know just how to harass a military column! Even snipers in large towns at one point, vide my little escapade. Said to the Governor, what about it, Jack? Bullet near enough tore me in half! Ha, sez he, cool as a cucumber in the dam’ Arctic, last victim of such got his head blown clean off: one moment he was expounding in a hearty baritone about the state of the Whig government, next moment most of his brains were decorating the road! Oh, sorry, ladies, let myself go a trifle recklessly there, didn’t I!”

“Jelliburton, you might at least keep your bloodthirsty recollections till after dinner.” Hortense giving her host the nearest to the evil eye she could manage at short notice. “Yes, thank you, Hobson, I fancy I shall take another minute serving of this delicious steak and kidney pie. No, a little more—thank you!”

Thomas Dalton, grocer to the Highest in the Land and didn’t he make sure everyone he met knew it, here felt a change of topic was vastly overdue.

“What about this dam’ supernatural haunting we’re all undergoing? Cod in French Sauce, Hobson, hmm, fancy I’ll try a morsel, yes. So, Miss MacIntyre and Miss Clarke here have been so good as to offer their professional services in the matter? I’d have thought that professional hunter, what’s his name? Oh, yes, Carnacki! He’d have settled your ghost’s hash in a jiffy, wouldn’t he, Jelliburton? But anyway, I wonder if we could prevail on the ladies to share their latest findings? Have we a ghost in the House, Miss MacIntyre?”

Caught short unexpectedly, between the Charybdis of her old enemy and the Scylla of her own activities, but being an innate businesswoman down to the soles of her shoes, Peri sat back ignoring the pigs in blankets in onion sauce on her plate and launched into her standard lecture on the subject in general.

“Ghosts, gentlemen and Ladies; depends on what exactly you mean, of course. There’s all sorts of possible supernatural occurrences, that can be ascribed to all manner of reasons. Bogles in Scotland, Banshees mostly in Ireland, Poltergeists in Germany, fairies, elves, dam’ annoying pixies, brownies that are even more dangerous, all sorts of sprites and fays popping up under your feet when least wanted, and gremlins of the most annoying character who just will not let go when onto a good thing. Plenty to choose from, if you believe in such, of course!”

Ah, do you have to believe then, Miss?” Miss Spencer Hardinge coming to the fore, replacing her fork already loaded with part of a succulent venison pasty. “As I understan from my reading of the popular magazines, the men Aylmer Vance and Carnacki have more or less opposing methods, do they not? I mean, Carnacki favours belief in the Un-natural and Supernatural, using strange machines and Incantations against such; while Vance leans more to the skeptic, does he not. Where does your stance lie, Mis MacIntyre? I suppose what I mean is, are such things actual, in real life, or just silly nonsense, worked-up by the imagination?”

Here Maude came to her lover’s assistance.

“There are many opinions on the matter, Miss Hardinge. Those you name have their separate methods, certainly, as you say; a bit like all the multiform types of religion, not to get too deeply into a delicate subject; what I mean is various people, of differing races or religions or countries, may well believe totally in such things, even if with no very strong verification: simply down to local tradition and a certain level of uneducation, as one might say.”

“You sound a trifle skeptical yourself, if I may say so?”

“You have to be to follow up this sort of thing.” Maude taking no criticism. “If you simply go into it believing everything everyone tells you about a particular set of occurrences well, that’s the best way to mire yourself in a swamp of unknowing, whereby you’ll never reach a concrete conclusion. You have to investigate like a police detective, taking what evidence and facts you can actually verify as happening, and then make out what set of circumstances most logically covers them all.”

“And have you yet reached a conclusion on this case?” Miss Hardinge smiling comfortably as if she gave the topic little credence. “You describe almost to the word the contents of a story, or I should rather call it an essay, in last month’s Strand wherein Vance laid out the manner in which he solved a particularly convoluted case which ended-up in being liable to a perfectly ordinary exlanation.”

“We’ve only just started,” Peri rejoining the discussion though somewhat put out by the constant reference to her two most disliked opponents. “Just over twenty-four hours, and little to show; there not having been any more happenings since our arrival, apart from a mere trifle of no moment. May I ask if anything further in this line has happened to anyone in the last couple of days? Anything at all that could be described as either supernatural, tending that way, or even possibly so if you screwed your eyes up really tightly?”

The silence round the long table gave the investigators all the answer they required.

“The Ladies have beeen kind enough to mention the two foremost investigators in the field at the present day, not forgetting yourselves, of course!” Jelliburton rather ham-handedly lumbering into the conversation during this hiatus. “Their individual methods have been glanced at, but perhaps we could persuade Miss MacIntyre or Miss Clarke to elaborate on both the men’s methods as opposed to their own?”

Trapped in a Social Impasse with no exit Peri sighed, unwillingly girding her loins to face the coming struggle.


“Carnacki, I do not know his first name—” Maude jumping in to spare her companion’s feelings.

“Thomas.” From an uncomprising Peri; so much so she ignored a tempting raspberry sponge pudding.just laid before her.

“—ah, anyway, he tends to be something of a believer.” Maude valiantly proceeding as if never having been interrupted.“He believes in the Supernatural at all points and, when on a case, looks for the mystical or paranormal first before all else. He believes in and understands to an amazing degree all the esoteric religions of Ancient Civilisations, especially the Assyrian and Chaldean. By immersive study in the British Museum and various other scrolls and papyrus over many years he has become a virtual walking encyclopedia on the abstruse and arcane. Alymer Vance, on the other hand—”

“Carnacki, as my friend would imply,” Peri no longer able to hold her tongue, and focused on her arch enemy still. “has an entirely conservative outlook and method towards religions, the Supernatural, and all the usual asociated demons, ghosts, bogles, and suchlike which come with these convictions. This explains his curious machines; the Electric Pentacle, and his use of ancient rituals he has read of in old manuscriptts and suchlike dusty tomes. Unlike Vance—for him the Supernatural is mostly a figment of people’s imaginations, there being multitudes of more ordinary explanations to hand, if searched for in the right way.”

“And what is the right way, if I may ask?” Thomas Dalton, having destroyed the most part of an orange cream éclair accompanied by half a bottle of white wine, now in a mood to take note of the surrounding conversation.

“For Vance,” Peri, never at her best when interrupted, looking daggers at her fellow guest. “that would mean concentrating on those fellow human beings around him on any particular case. By which I mean the owners, inmates, servants and guests in residence at any house, villa, or hall he may be visiting for professional purposes.”

“You mean he looks to funny business going on by one of the guests, before he thinks about a real ghostie, or whatever?” Dalton, perhaps as a result of the wine, a little out of his depth.

“It boils down to that in the end, yes.” Peri determined to finish against all odds herself. “Curiously, he is often successful in this way; he discovering perfectly ordinary explanations which often put all supposition of the Supernatural quite out of court. Maude and I tend to follow this course, to a certain extent, ourselves.”

Hmm! As far as the real ghost thing goes, what if we organised ourselves into teams?” Oscar Narrisette surprisingly coming-up with an interesting suggestion. “I mean, a couple of us could take turns all through the night patrolling the House, being relieved at regular intervals by a new couple so covering the whole night and going over the interior and most of the rooms again and again? That way we could really cover the ghost aspect—discover if there’s anything to it or not? Might work.”

Peri shook her head at this.

“Sounds good in a general sense, but the reality is we’d probably waste our time. Ghosts of whatever sort, never mind actual people simply up to no good, tend to like silence and the place to themselves. Having a guard roaming the House would probably stop either form of entity appearing at all, take it from me.”

“So, what exactly do you intend to do?”

Ah, that’s a trade secret.” Maude making sure their plans weren’t diversified to one and all. “Even we have such, you know. We have our plans, that we mean to implement as necessary.”

“Glad to hear it, I’m sure.” Mr Margitson settling down to make the most of a resplendent orange soufflé, newly placed before him. “Like a good night’s uninterrupted repose, myself. Not that I’d care a dam’ however many poltergeists were wreaking havoc all round me! Let ‘em play silly beggars if they so wish, is my outlook.”


The late evening found Peri and Maude still up, enjoying a late night mug of cocoa each in their private sitting-room on the first floor.

“What time’s it?”

Maude consulted her silver half-hunter, residing in a small nook in her blouse-jacket.

“Eleven-thirty-five. Everyone abed, do you suppose?”

“Should imagine so, though I bet Jelliburton isn’t past keeping his mates awake to the early hours over port and cigars listening to his memoirs.”

“Not tonight, I hope.” Maude shaking her head as she took another swig of her cocoa. “Mmm, so what’s the plan? Thought we were going to have a night off?”

“MacIntyre Investigators never sleeps, darling.” Peri becoming offensively overbearing. “Listening to the inmates at their feed tonight has given me ideas.”

Maude was intrigued, not herself having noticed much in the way of intellect on display there.

Oh, yes? What, lover? I’m all ears.”

Peri, however, was up for this demand.

“For a start I think we can strike the two Honorables from our list of suspects without fear or favour.”

Oh, for why, sis?”

“Because between them both they haven’t the minutest iota of common-sense. Neither of them could initiate, never mind carry out, any kind of deep complex plan along the lines needed to make something of this supposed supernatural haunting. No, they’re both out.”

Oh, well,” Maude accepting this as a done deal, not wanting an argument this late at night. “and the others?”

Peri considered the problem for a few seconds.

“Without going through them all I think we can certainly scratch the American, Beckermann, as well; he’s just too realistically American to council activity of the supernatural kind; outside his ken entirely.”

“If you say so, lady.”

“Which leaves,” Peri ignoring the less than enthusiastic tones coming from across the table. “Gerald Nixon and James Margitson. One an artist with a curious not to say middling deviant manner, the other a cold hard businessman who’d do anything to gain an extra brass farthing. I don’t trust either.”

Maude frowned in her attempt to follow along the moral route her lover seemed to be taking.

“You don’t trust either, while throwing the rest under the nearest bus? Not, if I may be allo—”

“Which means,” Peri advancing imperiously, taking no note of her followers. “we have a choice; to spy on either the bedroom door of the Iron-master, or the sensually inclined artist. Got a shilling? Lets spin for it.”


“We need to keep a close check on the likely night-time wanderings of either the one or the other.” Peri laying out her plan with authority. “As splitting-up to watch both at once is just silly as well as unprofessional, we need to take them one at a time—so, spinning the coin to decide. If nothing happens tonight then we watch the other suspect tomorrow night—can’t fail, darling.”

Maude wasn’t having any of this naïve thinking, however.

“Can’t fail? On the contrary I think it can fail spectacularly, madam! What are we, investigators of the super-normal, or schoolgirls at a bun and pop outing?”

Oh, here’s a bob,” Peri having not listened to a word her lover had said. “Right, here we go! Ah, tails.”

“So, which one, then?”

Peri looked slightly embarrassed.

“I hadn’t actually decided, before I spun the coin.”

Oh, God!” Maude sighing from the depths of her heart. “Give it here, darling, let me. OK, I know which it’ll be, whatever the result. Right!”

This time the silver coin landed heads-up on the table, narrowly missing depositing itself in the sugar bowl, Maude giving a loud cry of triumph.

“Just what I expected! Ha!”

“So?” Peri, in a miffed tone.

“Margitson, of course, who else.”



The landing at the top of the main stair leading from the ground to the first floor was just large enough to contain a table and two hard-backed chairs. On the table resided another large silver salver acting presently as a flower vase with dusty artificial grasses and blossoms of undetermined origin. Maude eyed the display with suspicion as they sat on the adjacent chairs.

“Wonder if you can catch an allergy from artificial flowers?”

“A nice view straight down the corridor.” Peri’s attention elsewhere. “OK, Margitson’s room is the fourth on the right, just before that plinth with the marble statue of a naked lady, got it?”

“Yeah, dam’ nude statues—why can’t a sculptor ever make one with her clothes on for a change?”

“So, we pretend, if anyone swans along in the dark reaches of the night, to be investigating the whole upper floor vide our professional standing, merely having stopped for a few minutes here for a breather—got that, lady? Are you listening?”

“Yeah, o’course; roving over the whole floor, stopped t’get our breath back, just passing clouds: dam’ silly excuse if you ask me!”

“It’ll do to pass muster; most of the guests haven’t the brain cells of a dead toad, anyway. And they’ll all be too sleepy searching for the bathroom, if they decided to perambulate the corridors any time in the night, to be interested in our presence.”

“Unless they’re the culprit!” Maude hitting the red centre of the target with her first arrow. “Then what do we do, sister?”

“Stick to our story, of course!” Peri sighing disconsolately. “Do buck up, gal. We’ll know his actual intentions by his innate guilty manner, won’t be able to hide it, I bet. Then we’ll know where we stand.”

“Won’t we need to catch him in the act, though?” Maude finally paying attention to the details. “I mean, just bumping into him in the corridor doesn’t mean diddly-squat, does it? He’s got’ta be caught actually performing one of his tricks. How do we do that?”

“By devious means, darling.” Peri scowling with intent. “The moment we see or hear Margitson’s bedroom door open we skedaddle down the left corridor here, where the unlocked box room is; wait inside till he passes, follow him, and catch him in the act when he gets up to something supernatural. A perfect plan, if I say so myself.”

Maude, on the other hand, seemed less than impressed, but valiantly remained silent on the topic.

Twenty minutes later, just past midnight, things began to happen. Along the right-hand corridor the darkness was suddenly split by the thinnest shard of flickering light as a door opened slightly to reveal itself in candlelight. Before it opened further both women, on their mettle, darted to the corner of the left-hand corridor from which protection they cautiously peered round to watch their suspect.

After a few seconds the door opened further and the watching ladies saw the silhouette of a thick-set man exit closing the door behind him. He was holding a candle in a small holder but it was insufficient to show any detail of who the stalker in the night might be.

“Was that Margitson’s room?”

Sshh!” From Peri, intent on her victim. “He’s coming this way, let’s get into the box-room, pronto.”

Inside the musty and dusty room, old packing-cases and ancient paraphernalia from past ages cluttering the floor in no sort of order, the ladies stood stock still, their ears attuned to the faintest movement or sound from outside the closed door.

“Be a lark if he decides to come in here, to carry out his nefarious doings, wouldn’t it?” Maude having this unsettling thought on the spur of the moment. “What’d we do then? Look dam’ silly, to start with!”


Footsteps, barely perceptible, passed along the corridor outside without pausing then vanished in the prevailing silence. After another minute Maude became impatient.

“Sure enough time’s gone by? We leave it any longer he’ll have had time to ramble to Bedford!”


But, taking her companion at her word, Peri cautiously opened the door to peer through the faintest of cracks into the darkness beyond.

“No sign of him, he’s gone on along. Follow me.”

“As if I was going to leave you to it! Got your Webley?”

Fool, give over.”

Fifteen yards further along, where the corridor took a sharp turn to the left, the women came to a halt as they both perceived a strange green glow permeating the atmosphere in the distance almost as if a pale mist had entered an open window from outside.

“Can you see it?”

“Yeah, don’t know what it is; think Margitson’s got some kind’a filter on a lantern, or something similar.” Peri rationalizing on the situation. “Don’t go past this corner; let’s see what the hell he’s up to.”

Round the corner the women could now see the corridor ended in another small landing, precursor to a narrow flight of stairs going both back down to the ground floor and further up to the second floor, itself bathed in a faint almost indiscernible green misty glow. At the top of these servant’s stairs the figure of their suspect seemed bent over something, though hesitant to continue whatever he was up to. As the ladies watched he suddenly stood straight and tall, gave a loud cry, and pitched forward, the thuds as his body fell down the stone stairs raising echoes in the hushed night—then silence.

What the hell!”

“Come on, the idiot’s gone an’ took a tumble; too much port earlier, I bet.”

As the investigators reached the top of the stairs they realised the green glow had disappeared, the only thing remaining to assert anyone had ever been there the now extinguished candle and its holder discarded on the stone floor.

God, he’s gone right to the bottom, can see a huddle of shadow down there on the ground floor.” Maude peering down. “Better get down an’ see if the fool’s still in the land of the living.”

But, on examination, it was found he wasn’t—a broken neck generally having that result!


The Library was host to three people the next morning, Peri, Maude, and the Host himself, Lord Jelliburton; as bemused, if not more so, than when he had first met the two investigators not so long since.

“What does it all mean, I mean?”

“We think, from papers lying around in his room, Margitson was trying to scare you into selling this dum—er, place to him at a rock bottom price. Think he was in financial straits and thought owning a large country estate and historical pile like this might see him through hard times.” Peri shrugged as she sat beside her partner. “He was up to all sorts of tricks, using an old ear-trumpet to project his voice along seemingly untenanted corridors, so scaring servants witless, tying strings to various tables or bowls and pulling at strategic moments, rolling the string up immediately so leaving no sign of what had instigated the object’s flying through the air; all that sort of physical replication of activities meant to reek of the supernatural to those weak-minded enough to believe in such things.”


Ignoring this ejaculation Maude took up the tale.

“With his latest escapade, last night, he had some idea, apparently of going further still. There was some kind of green glow in evidence, a filter over a light, we think. Though there was no sign of what its origin might have been when we investigated after the, ah, denouement! Neither do we know what scared him into losing his footing, so falling down the stairs.”

“May have heard some faint noise from us, skulking in the shadows not so very far behind him. Or perhaps a bottle too many of your port, earlier?” Peri frowning over this minor point. “His guilty conscience doing the rest, obviously.”

“So, there was never any actual supernatural basis to all these past events?”

“Yes, or to be exact, no.” Maude getting her syntax slightly muddled. “All done by smoke and mirrors—except for that last joke, the green glow and whatnot. Can’t figure out yet how he did that or what exactly he was up to, not that it matters anymore, he being completely deceased an’ all!”

“You can sit back in comfort, knowing your place ain’t haunted by things from beyond the grave, Jelliburton. That’s a positive outcome, I’d say.”

“Unless, of course, Margitson’s wraith decides to—no, won’t happen, take no notice of my words.” Maude taking back her supposition before hardly having put it in words. “Well, goodbye, and thanks for the generous salary an’ bonus; we’ve, Peri and I, been glad to assist—G’bye.”


Later that afternoon the Branch Line engine heading back towards the great metropolis hauled four coaches, only one First class; but in which Peri and Maude had secured a compartment to themselves.

“Nice of Jelliburton to give us such a large bonus.” Maude still gloating over this unexpected good luck.

“Yeah, but—!”

“But what, dearest?”

“That green glow? What was it? Where’d it come from? How’d Margitson do it? If it was him!”

“If it was him? What’d you mean?”

“I mean that green glow, and whatever caused Margitson to take a tumble, wasn’t as a result of anything you or I did, lover.”

“So,—Who, or What?”

“What is probably the more relevant question, darling; but it’s a trifle late in the day to worry over that now, don’t you think?”

Maude shook her head, somewhat nonplussed.

“Well, if it was, indeed, something supernatural I expect it’ll show its head again in the near future. We may yet get a return call from the Jelliburton, anxious to make reacquaintance with us.”

“Just as long as he doesn’t turn to Carnacki or Vance, first.”

“T’hell with the both of those grifters.”

“Maude! Such an unladylike attitude!”

“Well, they deserve it, don’t they?”



The End