and The Quest to See
Chapter 17 - The Hen of the Ghaspervilles
The guests of the Black clan had arrived at 222a Silverglade Road the
morning of the new year and were then escorted over into the fenced,
though vacant allotment of 222b where a rather large excavation had
finally taken place. There they had partaken of pool-party cuisine,
minus the pool. There were trays of canapes and cocktails, supplied by
on-location caterers, and loads of people avoiding the plunge into the
pit, which was in fact cordoned off with poles and red/white plastic
taping. Four portable barbecue's dealt with the usual main-course luncheon
Harry had a wonderful time, dancing around the feet of the guests and
picking up all manner of offered goodies.
After lunch, when everyone had eaten their fill and the afternoon had
lulled them into a sense of comfy benevolence, fuelled by sunny glasses
of wine, Henry trotted out the latest of his send-up-movie pot-boilers
entitled, 'The Hen of the Ghaspervilles.'
'Ladies, Gentlemen, Girls, Dudes and Dogs.' said Henry, over the odd
screel of feed-back from the sound system. 'Well, Harry is our pal and
he needs to be included and so does Marsha's Johny-Boy. I think it's
just the right time for me to release my newest creation, with the help
of my school pals and my Dad, and my Mum. They're going to do the voices
of the characters. Please take it easy and enjoy. Oh, and a special
thanks to Gran who helped me with some of the techie words, I mean who
ever heard of a ar-pegg-io?'
The rest of the cast members, scripts in hand, assembled around several
microphones, some actually wearing silly hats or holding props like
pipes and pistols and fans. Henry, as the narrator led off.
'Grey mists seeped slowly across the More-or-less Mire, and faraway
there came a distant chilling crow, punctuated with the odd 'Booc-booc!'
Doctor Watson, yes that Doctor Watson, cocked his gun. He prepared as best
he could for the advent of... The Chook!
The thought of so many victims, pecked to grisly death, caused him to
involuntarily shake as he approached the gloomy outline of seemingly
random, jumbled stones that formed a kind of ancient structure.
Cautiously peering in he saw that there were signs of recent occupation:
a rocking chair, still swinging slowly to a halt in the shadows, an old
brier pipe with a faint haze of smoke issuing from its bowl and a half
full, cut-glass tumbler resting beside it.
'Praise be to the almighty!' he whispered, darting forward and downing
the contents in one gulp.
'That's the kind of thing that could bring you undone, me Deary,' said a
cackling voice from somewhere close behind.
Making sure he had drained the last drop, Watson slowly turned his
revolver in the direction of the voice. Only darkness met his steely
stare. 'What the devil d'you mean by that?' he asked, inching his way
toward the cover of an upright stone. 'Not poisoned is it?'
'Only with girl-germs,' said the voice directly into his right ear.
Watson was startled almost out of his wits, as the hand of a crone
descended upon his, the one carrying the pistol, and he shuddered.
What do you want,' he managed.
'Only this Ducky, put away yer weapon and let's have a little chat.'
The figure of a hag emerged before him and settled into the rocker.
'Take the weight off yer feet Doctor. Mind, use that old newspaper on
the stone; piles, ya know.'
'Now really Miss... er Missus... hag... crone...'
You can call me Aunt Polly, Doc. And no, I ain't crackers. There's
somthin' queer goin' on in these parts, somethin' private...'
'Private parts! Go on, go on,' urged Watson.
'I seen a movement...'
'Seen many m'self, had a lot in my own lifetime.'
'Do be quiet Doctor Watson. This concerns the aft port...'
There's a small bay, hidden away it is. No one knows its whereabouts
'ceptin' those who... know... its whereabouts.'
'Righto, I'm with you so far.'
'Those who know its whereabouts call it... "The Back Passage"!'
'Get out of the village! The Devil you say!' Watson leaned forward eager
to hear more. 'And what goes on there?
'Ah-ha-ha! Ha-ha-harr!' cackled the vision before him. 'Wouldn't you
like ta know! Well... the answers you be a-seeking might just be found
at the Inn.'
'And what Inn would that be madam?'
'Well no, of course not. I mean... really... I only insist... wait a
moment, what are you talking about old girl?'
'Why the Jamaichergo Inn o'course. Now if you'll just be so kind as ta
reach behind tha' stone yer sittin' on and hand me up the jug...'
Without further encouragement, Watson began to fumble about, only to
come up empty handed. 'I say, old girl, there doesn't appear to be
any... Oh, she's gone.'
The rocker was slowly halting its back and forth progress and the pipe
'Must have popped out for a breath of fresh air I expect.' said the good
doctor, fingering his moustache.
There suddenly arose a blood curdling 'Bacawww!' from somewhere across
the wastes and Watson was prompted to make away in the direction of
Surrey, (sorry, misprint,) his surrey. It was fully commissioned for the
Doctor and had all his kit mounted above, including a large syringe.
It was like, a surrey with the syringe on top.
Through a sleeting drizzle, Watson located the Jamaichergo Inn, which
was perilously perched atop a bluff overlooking the roaring ocean, the
bay below lit by a ragged, fleeting full moon. Longinus J. Silver, the
Inn's most recent Master and Host, drew him inside toward an inviting
fire crackling away in an inglenook that could have accommodated a small
'So good to be in front of a blazing hearth with a steaming toddy in
hand and a welcoming meal to come,' said Watson, rubbing his palms
together. (And wondering no doubt, how he could be holding a goblet and
warming his hands at the same time.)
'Ye're most welcome Doctor. We seldom have such salubrious visitors as
yer goodly self in this part o' tha' world.' replied the Landlord.
'Now as to accommodation. We has the The Black-Spot Room, The Keelhaul
Room with surf-spa, The Jolly-Roger Bridal-suite, complete with The Ben
Gunn bathroom and toilet. The toilet is actually the bath and
vice-versa. A little surprise for newly-weds, ha! And all are available.'
'All are available arkk!' Squawked the brightly plumed bird with one
leg, a crutch under its wing and wearing an iPod, iPad... eye-patch, perched on
the Land-Lord's shoulder. 'Aye-aye, the plank, the plank! Pieces of
four, pieces of four, arkk!'
'Don't mind old Roger me parrot, 'e came from a poor nest. They never
'ad pieces of eight.'
'Seems that your shoulder is sporting pieces of something my good man.'
said Watson, turning toward the dining room.
Following a fulsome dinner that same night, Watson was completing his
ablutions in The Mizzen-Mast room (He had decided against The Poop-deck
suite after his encounter with Roger the parrot.) and was just bending
over to retrieve his false teeth, which were leering up at him from the
hand basin, when the waspish sound of a swiftly approaching poisoned
dart zapped across the nape of his neck and vanished out the open
Straightening and peering alertly about, (Whilst re-locating his
dentures,) Watson failed to notice the concealed blade that scythed into
the exact space where his face had been but moments before.
'Ooorhh!' He yawned, stretching his more than ample frame and preparing
to settle amongst the covers, 'Holmes might well be happy in Baker
Street where all kinds of mayhem abound, but down here is my kind of
country. Wholesome: fresh air from the sea, good company,
neighbourliness, peace and tranquility.'
He snuffed the candle and settled to his well-earned rest as slow, acrid
fumes began puffing beneath his bedroom door.
The thud of an arrow striking its target and the sloshing of rum-punch
swilling into china cups were the first sounds to awaken Watson's mind
that following morning. He found himself on a golf course alongside an
archery practise range. Smoke was in his nostrils, though not of his own
making. Someone had tried to suffocate him through the night.
'Whato!' He cried as Teddy of Frederick Teddleton's Manor sauntered up.
'Watson! Hail and well met, my dear Doctor. Good to see you out and
about this fine morning. Have you fully recovered from the worst of the
'Just about, thought I'd have a bit of smoked haddock for breakfast,
ha-ha! But on a serious note Old Boy, how can I ever thank you for
getting me out of my predicament? Quick thinking to throw those
smouldering rags out of the hall window.'
'Not rags Old Stick, bed sheets in truth, and some old hag caught up
amongst them. I mean I know people will go to any length to avoid doing
the laundry but that is the absolute end.'
'It's what was secreted amongst the sheets that I need to know about Old
Far... Fellow. Whatever, it was almost the end of me. Punch?'
'Is that all the thanks I get? Oh, yes please Doctor, see what you mean.
Just a thimble full... Right up to the rim of the flagon...'
'The one with the dragon crest?'
'Can't do that joke Doctor, Danny Kaye hasn't been born yet.'
'Oh well, tipple away, we shan't be Caught Jesting ha ha!'
Later that same day.
'Behind and through there be tha rear bay known as Tha Back Passage,
Doctor Watson.' said the dirty-faced urchin from behind the counter of
the tiny village sweet shop, holding up a rather grubby, stained and
'Humbug!' Spluttered Watson. 'A penn'th worth please. They call it the
Back-Passage do you say?'
'Strange doin's been happenin''
'Doings indeed!' Watson exclaimed, flushed with excitement, 'Doings have
only just begun!
'The Doctor strenuously stretched his arms and legs before alighting
from the horse-drawn carriage, hired deliberately so as not to
attract attention, which had brought him over many rutted and bumpy miles
all the way down to the very southernmost extremity of Cornwall. Lizard Point
to be exact. To the west, around a broad bay, lay Land's End and Penzance: home
of traditionally welcoming country folk known locally as Wreckers.
The driver handed down the good Doctor's black medical bag and a second
over-night kit-bag bulging with warm underwear, socks, mufflers,
jerseys, sleeping attire and a one man tent. The Doctor had arrived with
the intention of staying... regardless of his welcome... or lack of.
'Here's something extra for your trouble my good man,' he said, reaching
up and dropping a silver coin into the driver's palm.
'Well thankee Doctor I'm sure,' said the fellow, touching his forehead.
'Sure ye don't care fer me to wait?'
'Wont be required. Certain to have a glad meeting... and if not, well
it'll be camping out or shanks pony, ho ho!'
The driver nodded and flicked the reins. 'Seldom have I been down to
this place Doctor. The Lady has her own carriage and man. He does just
about all there needs doin' for her. Well I'll be off then and all the
best ta ye.'
Away went the carriage, the old grey mare clopping at a steady pace.
At that moment of late afternoon a rooster crowed somewhere beyond the
great hedge that marked the boundary of the house and Watson noted the
departing horse quicken its pace.
'Must be wantin' its nose-bag,' he muttered to himself, turning toward
the iron gate that marked the entry. Absentmindedly he bent to fetch his
bags, only to discover that they were not where he had placed them.
'I have them well in hand Sir.' said a smooth voice behind him. 'Please
proceed and I will follow along. My name is Morris and I am my Lady's
'Gad sir! You brought me up short! Didn't see you come upon me!' Watson
exclaimed, turning to catch a glimpse of a stocky person clad in black.
'Of course not Sir. I am employed not to be seen or heard, but simply to
ensure satisfaction for my employer and any who might visit her. Now if
you will follow, the pathway to the house is easily traversed.
The Doctor shook his head a moment, then proceeded down the gravelled
roadway and on toward a two-storied, thatched dwelling beyond. It wasn't
a mansion by any means, nor was it a simple cottage, but perhaps
somewhere in between. Again, the rooster crowed and the sky darkened toward dusk.
Inside the entrance-hall oil lamps pushed back the oncoming of night.
Watson could smell the peat burning somewhere within, no doubt in a cosy
'I shall inform my Lady of your arrival sir... And the name would be?'
'Oh of course, how foolish of me not to have given it. Doctor Watson,
which might not mean very much to your Mistress. Perhaps you could say
that I am an associate of her brother. We share rooms together in London
Morris deposited the Doctor's bags on an oaken side-table, nodded and
passed through dark-panelled doors.
Watson withdrew a meerschaum pipe from his vest and found his tobacco
tin in a coat pocket. He had only finished loading the bowl with Ships
tobacco when Morris re-appeared. 'My Lady will receive you in her study.
This way Doctor.'
'Well well, what a delightfully purple-hued room this is, to be sure,'
said Watson spontaneously as he entered.
Seated at a writing desk of inlaid mahogany, was the angular figure of
Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes' sister. Her dark hair, silvered here and
there, was piled high upon her head and she was clad in a faded, pink
gown with small, golden highlights sewn in.
'This is not a delightfully purple-hued room, Doctor. This is my study
and the colour is indeed lilac.'
'Ah yes, forgive me please, a study in lilac,' amended Watson.
'You may withdraw Morris, see to what must be seen to. Sit good Doctor,
though I have scant memory of requiring your ministrations and do not
have any desire whatsoever to have congress in regard to any relation of
my family. What is your errand here?'
'Oh! My errand... Miss... Lady... Madam?'
'Doctor Watson, I am surely Miss Kathrill Holmes of 'The Retreat,
Hideaway' Cornwall, at Lizard Point. So now we are acquainted and I am
still awaiting your purpose.'
'Well! Dash it all! I would have thought you capable of discerning that
'Perhaps if it was one of my... brothers. They discern much more than
'Are you telling me that you are not possessed of Holmes' brilliant
abilities of deductions?'
'Why Sherlock of course.'
'Oh, he is impossible. Always has been.'
'What about your brother Mycroft?'
'Mycroft? He can at all times be aggressive, pugnacious and difficult,
though perhaps there is a more human side to his nature. Generally
'Quite so Miss Kathrill, and there is the simple answer to your
question. I have made the long journey down here in the hope that you
might take me in for a time. Your brothers, Sherlock in particular, have
given me cause for a separation from their company and all that they
draw to themselves. To put it plainly Miss Kathrill, I seek refuge and
succour for at least a week or two. I am here to throw myself upon your
mercy, since I believe that here in your residence will be the last
place that your family members might seek me. In other words I ask
'Oh Doctor Watson.' said Kathrill Holmes rising, 'I know exactly what
you mean. A kindred soul at last!'
The following morning...
'I say old gir... that is I mean to say Miss Holmes... Kathrill,'
uttered the Doctor bursting into the music room, where she was seated
before the piano.
'Yes Doctor Watson? I observe that you are extremely ruddy of face and
palpitating of breast. Too much alcoholic stimulus through the night, or
an urgent dash can do that. And by the looks of you the answer is both.
What is it you wish to tell me?'
'Well if you could cease the eternal piano tuning at that infernal
'This is not an infernal instrument, it is a Grand, and I am not tuning
Doctor. I am playing!'
'Could have fooled me Madam...'
'A phrase about fools being easily beguiled comes to me, however please
get whatever it is off your chest, the quicker I may resume my study
into the gaps between the black and white keys.'
'Oh yes, that's where the best music is to be discovered.'
'What? Sort of slipped down amongst the dust and fluff? Wonder if that
bolshy fella Tchaicow...Tchaicork...you know...one of those Russian
Revolutionists that masquerade as musicians...'
'Doctor, The Russian revolution is not to happen for quite some years,
and it is quite clear to me that you have spent far too much time in the
company of my brothers. Do spit it out.'
Watson, his face a pale shade of beetroot, looked as if he might indeed
eject his own teeth, but shaking his head, clasped his hands behind his
back and turned to face the gardens outside.
Unfortunately they weren't there and his gaze instead fell upon a
wall-sized bookcase containing many large tomes on any number of
subjects: 'How to dispatch opponents with crochet needles and finger
stalls,' 'Suffocation for fun and profit,' '100 simple cadaver
hideaways,' 'Annoying poisons,' and one rather slim volume entitled
'Wasting away your victims.'
He was about to clear his throat when his gaze fell upon a volume that
particularly caught his eye. The title made him flinch. It was 'Paltry's
Free-range Poultry - How to Make it Big.'
There came a rather indignant arpeggio on the piano keys. 'I really do
have to get on Doctor, if you please!'
'Why yes, of course my dear Miss Holmes, sorry, got side-tracked in
thoughts. It appears from the stories of the locals that there are some
activities... private goings on in the er...rear bay.'
'Then you've heard about the Back Door?'
'O'course! Did part of my doctorate on it. Called, "A Passage to Enema."
'Doctor, I am speaking about smuggling and ship-looting. Is there
anything else you need to unburden yourself of?'
'Well yes there is Miss Kathrill. It concerns the matter of a rabid
giant chicken at loose somewhere upon the More-or-less Mire.'
'That would be in the vicinity of Ghasperville Hall Doctor.'
'Indeed. Might it be timely, do you think, to journey up there and speak
with the Lord of the Manor?'
'It might be timely for an interval and a refill of our glasses!'
Interrupted one of the gathered audience.
'Absolutely! And maybe a trip to the girl's room?' Suggested Cathy
'And the boys too.' Said Peter Samos, rising.
'Good thinking Peter, time to freshen our drinks and water the horses.'
Nodded Mathew, brandishing an empty wine glass and taking note of Granny
Black's slightly stringy lips.
'And perhaps another sweet sherry for you Amelia?' Queried Stefan Mans
as he cruised past.
Chapter 18 next