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
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
"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
"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
"How was that Lady Dunbury?"
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
"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
"Really, Lord Dunbury. How is
"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
"Yes Mr. Holmes," replied Lord
Dunbury, "it is quite bizarre."
"Watson, I think it's time we
pay a visit to this Oast House."