The Adventure of the Haunted Oast House at Harrow Weald
Chapter Three
by
Beverly Keith

    
      Holmes's patience definitely did not improve as we stepped from the train down onto the platform at Harrow Weald. In a most irritated manner, Holmes exclaimed, "Watson, of all of the uncivilized places that we have ever been forced to inhabit; this one is the most barbaric of all. Are we in a barn? Look at this atrocity!"
     
      I quickly took note to what my friend was referring. Walking across the dirt and straw floor was a poorly attired man leading two mules in the direction of the train, over in a corner were two goats tied to a rail, and a donkey and two chickens were peering through the entrance.
  
      Holmes continued, "This is the epitome of disgrace. This station is adjacent to one of the wealthiest estates in England. How can Lord Dunbury stand for this?" Attempting to sooth him, I offered an explanation. "Holmes, in general, this is a very small town, and obviously the simplest of people use this station. Lord Dunbury doesn't utilize it for his travel." "Very astute Watson," replied Holmes, "particularly given the pleasing aroma of the live stock. Watson let us not linger any longer than necessary. I wonder if we can find a porter among the jack-asses."
 
     Finally, we did locate a porter outside the station. An old man of approximately eighty years was napping in a broken down, wooden, rocking chair. "Do we dare to wake him from his much needed sleep?" inquired Holmes. I gently touched his shoulder, not affecting his slumber in the least. At this Holmes snapped, "This situation is becoming more intolerable by the minute," and then speculated:" Well, we could walk to Harrow Wealds, sniffing out the trail ourselves."

      Fortunately, at that precise moment a driver arrived for us in a very elegant carriage. The drive up to the main estate proved to be almost as dismal as the train station. Although the sun was beginning to come out, the scenery in this part of England's rolling countryside proved very distressing. There were run down shanties, animals roaming the hillsides aimlessly, and dirty children and adults doing farm labor. The comfort of our plush carriage did little to compensate for the view. Holmes remarked, "Watson do you think there is any possibility that things will improve?" "I would not even venture a guess at this point Holmes," I retorted.
 
     Within the half hour we arrived at Harrow Weald, and the gate was opened to one of the most spectacular castles to be beheld in all of England. We were greeted by the butler, and then a very tidy maid served us an outstanding breakfast that consisted of the finest English tea and imported delicacies. This royal breakfast definitely indeed improve Holmes's spirits considerably while we waited for the Lord of the manor in his magnificent dining room.

      Holmes curtly remarked, "Interesting Watson, how anyone can relax in this splendor, but yet endure all of the rubbish leading up to this grand estate." "I assure you that I am able to relax quite well Mr. Holmes in spite of 'all of the rubbish leading up to this grand estate' as you so eloquently put it. We turned to face perhaps the most imposing figure of a woman that we were ever to witness. And for the first time, my good friend Holmes was rendered speechless as we looked up at this Amazon of womanhood that stood over six foot and three inches tall with blazing red hair and piercing green eyes.

     "Now, now dear, I'm sure that Mr. Holmes did not mean to offend." We then turned to look down on a man that stood no more than five foot three inches in stature. "Mr. "Holmes you must forgive my wife; all of these mysterious deaths in the last year have left her nerves a bit shaky. As for the dilapidated condition of the property on the drive up here, you must understand how difficult it is to get tenant farmers to take any pride in our property." "Especially, since they have outlawed using the whip on them." Lady Dunbury kindly inserted. "However, Mr. Holmes, my Sophia, generously began a wonderful merit program for our best workers here at Harrow Wealds."

      "Let me explain Horace; yes Mr. Holmes about eighteen months ago I sent word to all of our workers that the ones who worked doubly hard and yielded Harrow Wealds the most profit would be rewarded by being permitted to live in the most lavish servant accommodations on the property."

      "And exactly how many workers had the ambition to take advantage of your generosity Lady Dunbury?"
 
     "Well, only the three gentlemen found dead Mr. Holmes."       "Exactly, where are the lavish accommodations located Lady Dunbury?"

      "Oh, well, Mr. Holmes, we hadn't gotten far enough to decide on where they were to be. Mr. Holmes our plans were altered dramatically, but I fully intended to keep up my end of the bargain. After all it was good business."
 
     "Lady Dunbury, you obviously have brilliant business abilities, and your generosity is unequaled in all of England," replied Holmes.      "Of course it is Mr. Holmes, and for the past year all of my hard work has been sabotaged by these unexplainable deaths."

      "Dear Lady Dunbury, I do so wish to solve this mystery for you so that you may return to business as usual; therefore, I must enlist your patience for a while longer in order to obtain the facts in these ghastly deaths."

      Holmes's kindness to Lady Dunbury did indeed produce an unimaginable softness in her...

      "Why, certainly, Mr. Holmes my husband and I will be delighted to answer all of your questions"

      "Lord and Lady Dunbury, I have been informed that the bodies of your servants have mysteriously appeared on the top floor of the Oast House?"

      "Yes, Mr. Holmes it is a real mystery considering that there is no longer a stair case going to the top floor, and it is more than forty feet up from the main floor."

      "I assume that the three laborers found dead on the upper floor were good size men?" Lady Dunbury quickly replied. "Certainly, they were Mr. Holmes. They did the heaviest of the manual labor around here-profits have certainly taken a beating in the last year."      Holmes continued, "Lord Dunbury what is the history of the Oast House?"

      "Well Mr. Holmes it has been in my family for over a hundred years. My great grand parents built it when they first laid claim to this land. They were financial concerns then, therefore, they were forced to permit the servants to live on the upper floor. At that time it did have a concealed stair case leading from the keeping room to the upper floor, but it has long since been gone."

      "Lord Dunbury, How long has it been since anyone lived in the Oast House?"

      "Uh, I'm not sure," replied Lord Dunbury, but I think it's been over forty years since it was occupied by servants."

      "You're not sure?" inquired Holmes, "Well, you see, I've never actually been in the Oast House myself; I depend on the servants to keep me informed of it's condition. Of course when drying the hops, no one lived in it."

      "You've never been in the Oast House Lord Dunbury?" Holmes persisted. "I'm not sure I understand"

      "Oh for heavens sakes," Lady Dunbury adamantly replied. "My husband is scared to death of the ghost that supposedly lives in that house. About forty-five years ago one of Horace's uncles, Uncle Beckley, was supposedly found dead under the same mysterious circumstances that our laborers have been found dead over the past year, and it was rumored that a scorned servant girl was responsible for his death."

      "How was that Lady Dunbury?"

     
"It's been said for years now that the servant girl and Horace's uncle were very close, you do understand? He abruptly threw her over when an opportunity arose for him to marry within his own class. Totally understandable to anyone with breeding,"

      "Yes, of course," Holmes replied. "Well, he was suddenly found dead, and the cause of death could never be clearly be determined. He was only twenty eight years old, and then suddenly, the servant girl was gone without a trace."

      "Mr. Holmes you know how jealous these lower classes can be of the wealthy, and since that time, it has been believed that the tart haunts the place, seeking revenge on all men who dare to enter." She added, "I, of course, have never been afraid to enter the place. On occasion, our headman escorts me down to this supposed haunted house. To check out the inventory, you see."

      "Mr. Holmes, my Sophia is always so brave."

      "Really, Lord Dunbury. How is that?"

      "Oh, Sophia always has Mr. Brown, the headman, escort her after dark. She has no fear."

      Holmes remained silent a minute then replied. "Most interesting, however, wasn't the last victim a woman?"
      "Yes Mr. Holmes," replied Lord Dunbury, "it is quite bizarre."

      "Watson, I think it's time we pay a visit to this Oast House."