‘Fine Mr Beamish, we just thought we’d pop in and say hello.’
‘Well that’s nice, I’ve been meaning to come over and see how you have settled in. Come on in and I will put the kettle on.’
‘Is it alright if we bring the dog in? He’s a bit wet,’ said Kitty glancing down at Nero. His fur was soaked; the mud from the lane had splashed up around his legs and stomach and was slowly dripping off in wet muddy rivulets onto the doorstep.
‘Of course, I’m used to wet and muddy dogs, he can sit in front of the Rayburn and dry off.’
Gordon opened the front door and stepped into the stone flagged hallway, Kitty carefully wiped her feet on the doormat before following him inside. Mr Beamish stood in the open doorway of the kitchen, a smile of welcome on his face.
‘Come on in you two, the kettle has just boiled.’
Nero sat down with a sigh and stretched out on the rug in front of the glowing stove.
‘It’s lovely and warm in here Mr Beamish,’ Kitty held her cold hands over the range. ‘I would have liked one of these in our kitchen but there wasn’t enough room as we had the gas oven as well.’
‘This has a back boiler so I get hot water from it as well, nice in the winter but it gets a bit warm in here in the summer,’ he said ruefully.
‘I prefer something a bit more up to date,’ said Gordon. He looked at the ageing range. ‘I remember having to clean out my parent's Aga every weekend and I swore then I would never have one of the damn things.’
Mr Beamish shrugged and put the teapot on the table. ‘Well I suppose I’m used to it, there’s many a cold night that I’ve spent in front of it with a sick lamb so it has had a lot of use over the years.’
They sat down at the kitchen table with their mugs of tea.
‘Hope you don’t mind sitting in the kitchen but I spend most of my time in here as it’s the warmest room in the house, and to be honest,’ he smiled slightly and looked embarrassed. ‘I find it a bit more comfortable.’
‘Not at all.... We walked up to the cottage on Castle hill this morning, I didn’t realise that land belonged to you. It must have been a lovely place to live, what a view,’ said Gordon.
Mr Beamish stirred his tea. ‘It’s alright in nice weather, but there’s no electricity, water or drainage. I thought about renovating it and renting it out for holiday lets but the costs of getting all the amenities up there was just too much. So in the end I just took everything out of the cottage and sold it off.’
‘There’s not much of the building left now.’
‘I know, it seems a shame to let the cottage fall down but getting up there on foot is difficult enough, I would have had to put a road in and that would have been really expensive.’
‘We saw Mrs Leavenham up there walking her dog.’ Kitty leaned forward and looked at him keenly.
‘Is she still managing to walk up there? She ought to be careful, she’s getting on a bit now and if she should fall...’
‘Mrs Leavenham did say she found it a struggle to get up the hill these days,’ Kitty said stirring her tea. ‘She was telling us all about Hannah and Samuel.’
‘Oh yes, I believe her grandmother knew Hannah well.’
‘The strange thing is..’ started Gordon. ‘That the fireplace that I bought from the
reclamation yard is Hannah’s, from the cottage.’
‘Really?’ Mr Beamish looked surprised. ‘I sold all that off several years ago.’
‘It’s quite a coincidence isn’t it? I checked with the chap at the yard and it is definitely the same one.’
‘Well I never! So it’s come home to roost.’
‘Do you know why she was known as a witch? From what Mrs Leavenham has said she was no such thing,’ asked Kitty.
‘Oh that was just some rumours that started, it was a long time ago and I don’t think anybody really knows what went on then.’
‘We first heard about it in the pub.’
‘Really? I don’t go in there now, it’s changed hands hasn’t it.’
Gordon stared thoughtfully at the old man over the table. ‘Did you know your grandfather, Robert Beamish?’
‘Not really, why?’
‘Mrs Leavenham was talking to us about him.’
‘Oh, well I just remember a very old man, although my father always said he was a very difficult man to live with.’
‘Difficult?’ inquired Gordon.
‘Well that was just my father saying that, he was always a bit tight lipped about his dad.
They didn’t get on. Gran said that father was more like granddad’s brother Samuel. He was a kind soul, when he married Hannah they moved up to the cottage on the hill.’
‘Yes we heard about that, it was a shame that he drowned.’
‘Drowned? Where did you hear that?’ Mr Beamish asked rather sharply.
‘Mrs Leavenham told us, she said that he fell into the river near your lower fields.’
‘Well I don’t why Sybil would have said that.... not that I know much about his death.’
‘Well we found a newspaper report about it,’ said Gordon firmly.
Kitty looked at Mr Beamish in concern, his face had become very still and he was staring blankly at his hands clasped around the mug of tea.
‘The report said that Samuel had slipped while helping Robert with some fencing and had fallen into the river and drowned,’ continued Gordon.
‘Drowned.. I hadn’t heard that before,’ he said quietly.
‘It must have been dreadful for Hannah,’ said Kitty.
Mr Beamish ignored her and continued ‘Nobody ever spoke about Samuel’s death. I don’t see how he could have drowned there. Where our fields run down to the river it runs wide and shallow. I have fallen in enough times myself and the water only reached my knees. It’s strange the report said he drowned, my father never mentioned anything about it.’
‘What was he like?’ asked Gordon.
‘Oh... Like I said he and father didn’t get on, he liked his gardening and books and grandfather despised anything like that. I don’t think anybody was sorry when he died. The first thing that father did after the funeral was drag out all of grandfather’s things into the orchard and he burned the lot. I remember watching him, I still remember it as though it was yesterday the look on his face especially when he burned grandfather’s walking stick.’
His face became vacant as he stared back in time. ‘I do know he had an awful temper,’ Mr Beamish continued quietly. ‘He beat one of the farm dogs to death. Dad could do anything with those dogs but it was different with granddad. All the dogs would slink off and hide when they heard him walking into the yard. The dog wouldn’t come when it was called so he caught it and beat it with that stick,’ he paused and went on sadly, ‘...broke the poor thing’s back. He wouldn’t stop even when father went for him. He said it was as though the old man had the devil in him.’
Gordon and Kitty sat at the table, the tea forgotten and cold.
‘How did he get on with Hannah?’ asked Kitty quietly staring across the table at him, feeling guilty that they had stirred so many painful memories up for the old man.
‘I have no idea; it was a long time ago.’
‘It’s just that we read an article on Hannah and one interesting part was that a local farmer paid a white witch to get rid of her because he thought she was causing all his bad luck. Do you know anything about that?’ asked Gordon.
‘We went to ask Mrs Leavenham but the shop was closed,’ interrupted Kitty.
The old man looked at her and blinked, he seemed very confused.
‘Well, it’s half day closing, Sybil will be at home,’ he said slowly. ‘Why are you so interested in Hannah and Samuel?’
Kitty started to answer but Gordon put a hand on her arm.
‘Well we have Hannah’s fireplace and we have become interested in the history of it and Mrs Leavenham seems to know so much about the families of the village.’
Mr Beamish smiled slightly.
‘Sybil is related to most of the people here. She was the youngest of ten children; her mother came from a large family as well. They all lived in the village at one time or another so I suppose she would know all about the families here.’
‘Do you have children Mr Beamish?’ asked Kitty.
He brightened. ‘Oh yes I have two boys, well, not boys now of course. Edwin lives in New Zealand, he had a sheep farm out there; his son has taken that on now he’s retired. My eldest son Derek lives in Poole, he was an accountant.’
‘So he won’t be taking on the farm?’
‘No, he has no interest in farming or his children and I can’t imagine Sharon, his wife, moving to the country.’
‘So how do you manage on your own?’ Kitty glanced around the untidy kitchen.
‘I don’t farm now; I rent out the fields to Mr Squires. He has the farm just past the village.’
‘Do you miss it?’
‘Not the work,’ he laughed. ‘I don’t miss that at all but I do miss having the animals about. Sybil’s granddaughter stables her horse here so I do have Jester to talk to.’
‘We saw her coming out of the yard, it’s a lovely horse,’ Kitty carried on. ‘I used to ride years ago before the children were born.’
‘Jester is getting on a bit now; I think Debbie said he was about fourteen. He’s the only animal left on the farm now.’
‘Isn’t that grey cat yours then?’
William looked surprised. ‘It turned up at the weekend so I assumed it was yours.’
‘Maybe it’s a stray or from the village then, it’s sneaked into the house several times already,’ said Kitty.
‘Really? It didn’t seem too friendly. It hissed and spat when it saw me yesterday.’
‘Oh dear,’ laughed Kitty. ‘Then it definitely isn’t mine, I disown it.’
‘Where does Mrs Leavenham live?’ interrupted Gordon, determined not to be sidetracked by the talk of horses and cats.
‘Priddy Cottage, it’s the little cottage near the church.’
‘Is she in the phone book?’
Mr Beamish put his hands on the table and pushed himself up. ‘I’ll get her phone number for you.’ He rummaged about in the piles of paper and books on the dresser and pulled out a small address book. ‘Ah, here it is.’ he copied it out onto a piece of torn off newspaper and handed it to Gordon.
‘Thanks Mr Beamish, I’ll call her later. I’m sure she won’t mind.’
‘I doubt it, she loves talking about the village and what goes on here. Well she just loves talking; it’s harder trying to get her to stop.’
Gordon stood up and took his empty cup over to the sink. There was a pile of dirty crockery in the sink.
‘Oh leave that,’ Mr Beamish waved his hand in the general direction of the sink. ‘I will get round to it later.’
‘Thanks for the tea,’ Kitty stood up and tucked the chair under the table. ‘You must come over for coffee,’ she reminded him.
‘I will indeed, I would have been over before but I have had a bit of a cold and haven’t been out much.’
‘I hope you’re feeling better?’
‘I’m fine now, Sybil brought up a bottle of that foul mixture she sells, the miracle cure.’
‘I have had some of that, it tasted disgusting.’
‘She forces me to take it and then tells me I’m feeling better whether I do or not!’
Mr Beamish stood in the doorway and looked out into the yard. ‘It’s a good job you haven’t got far to go.’
The rain was coming down heavily and it had become quite murky outside.
‘Debbie won’t be out long in this,’ he said looking out into the falling rain.
‘Now you must come over and see the house sometime,’ said Kitty firmly.
‘I certainly will,’ he replied, patting Kitty on the arm. She smiled at him, she felt quite a fool for thinking him capable of any ill feeling towards them.
A flicker caught her eye. ‘Oh there’s the bat,’ she exclaimed.
‘They’re in the feed store,’ gesturing to the stone building on the right, a flight of stone stairs led up to a plank door. ‘There is quite a colony in there; nobody goes in there now so they don’t get disturbed.’
‘Doesn’t Debbie keep the horse feed in there?’
‘It’s in the stable next to Jester. I haven’t been in there for years.’
‘It’s a shame to see it so quiet here.’
‘This isn’t how a farm should be,’ he said sadly looking around the empty yard. ‘I had hoped that one of the boys would take it on but they weren’t interested. This farm has been in our family for five generations, still... what they do with it after I’m gone is up to them.’
‘Well they won’t have to worry about that for a while Mr Beamish,’ she said smiling up at him.
He looked at her and grinned. ‘I am ninety four; I’m not going to go on forever although I have told Sybil that I want my telegram from the Queen.’
‘You don’t look ninety four,’ said Kitty looking surprised.
‘Well I don’t feel it but I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t get one,’ He looked over at Gordon who was walking out the gate with the dog in tow. ‘You had better hurry; your husband is leaving without you.’
Kitty sighed and watched as Gordon disappeared through the gate into the lane.
‘I suppose I had better go and catch him up.’
Mr Beamish turned back to the front door. ‘I hope this rain soon eases up, it makes my bones ache.’
‘Perhaps Sybil has a cure,’ Kitty joked.
‘Oh no, don’t mention it to her, I dread to think what she would find for that.’
He stood in the doorway and watched as Kitty walked across the yard, as she got to the gate she turned, meaning to wave but a flicker of movement in an upstairs window caught her eye. She paused, staring up at the window
‘I hope you’re not looking at the peeling paint,’ he smiled ruefully at her. ‘It’s a lovely house isn’t it? It’s a grade II listed building but it’s sadly needs a bit of TLC now,’ he called across.
‘No of course not William, it’s just that..,’ she answered still staring at the dark second floor window, then jumped slightly on hearing footsteps behind her.
A hand tugged at her arm.
‘Come on Kitty, stop chatting. I’m getting wet.’
They waved to Mr Beamish and watched as he went inside and shut the door. Without the light flooding from the open door the yard seemed very dark and quiet. Gordon slipped his arm through Kitty’s.
‘Come on, let’s get going.’
They walked quickly back along the lane to their front drive, as they rounded the corner they could see a small blue car in the drive.
‘It’s Eve’s car,’ as he spoke, their daughter opened the car door and got out.
‘There you are. I’ve been so worried; I’ve been ringing since this morning, where have you been?’ she called.
‘Why, what’s wrong?’ Kitty hurried forward; she could see a small hand waving from the child seat in the back. ‘Is everybody okay?’
‘We’re fine; it’s you two I have been worried about.’
Gordon gave his daughter a hug. ‘We’re fine,’ he reassured her.
‘I popped into your office this morning and you weren’t there. Your secretary said you called in early and told her you weren’t going to come in. I’ve been ringing all morning!’
‘There’s nothing wrong, I decided to stay home today. We had a few things to sort out that’s all.’
Kitty looked at him worried that he was going to tell Eve. He caught the look and shook his head.
‘But you never have time off,’ Eve persisted.
‘Well, I am today,’ he said firmly. ‘Come on let’s get out of the rain,’ he pushed them towards the house and then opened the back door of the car. ‘I’ll get Emily, you two go on in.’
Gordon unbuckled the seat and lifted out the little girl. ‘Hello my little poppet, have you come to see gramps then?’
‘Dad, can you bring in the pink bag as well?’ called Eve from the front door.
‘Yep,’ he slung the strap over his shoulder, pulled Emily’s hood up and hurried into the house. Kitty closed the door after him and locked it.
‘Not a word mind!’ he warned her quietly.
‘I wasn’t going to say anything.’
Eve was taking off her coat in the kitchen and didn’t hear them whispering in the hall.
‘Your neighbour’s not very friendly is he?’ she called to them.
‘The old guy, you know. He was glaring at us from the lane. I was going to talk to him but he looked so fierce that I didn’t bother.’
‘When was this?’ asked Gordon.
‘Just before you came back. I hope you’re not going to have problems with him.’
‘That wasn’t Mr Beamish; we were just talking to him in the farmhouse.’
‘Well it looked like him. I have met him before, remember?’ Eve said indignantly.
Emily was wriggling in Gordon’s arms, she had spotted Nero.
‘Go on then, down you go’
She pottered over to the dog. ‘Nero’s wet dog.’
‘Yes he is a wet doggie,’ agreed Kitty. ‘Let’s go and dry him off,’ she took Emily’s hand and led her into the kitchen. ‘Come on Nero.’
Gordon followed and put the bag down on the table. Eve unzipped it and pulled out a handful of letters.
‘Mrs Walker gave them to me this morning, that’s why I went into your office.’
‘Why didn’t she just redirect them?’ he said picking them up.
‘Well she was going to but then she saw me so I said I would drop them off.’
Gordon leafed through them. ‘It’s nothing important, just junk mail.’
‘Oh well, it gave me an excuse to come round.’
‘You don’t need an excuse Eve.’
‘I was going to come over yesterday but it was the mother- in- law’s birthday so we went out for a meal,’ she looked around the kitchen. ‘This looks really nice. It’s quite different from the last time I was here.’
‘Once the windows were in, the builder really cracked on with it all and he finished on schedule.’
‘Well that’s a first isn’t it!’ Eve looked at her mother kneeling in front of Emily taking off the little girl’s coat. ‘Are you happy with it mum?’
Kitty looked up and hesitated. ‘Yes of course’
Gordon looked at Kitty and smiled. ‘Mum hasn’t got used to it being so quiet out here yet.’
Kitty pulled herself up. ‘I’ll get used to it.’
‘Have you done anything to the garden yet?’ Eve leaned on the edge of the sink and stared out of the kitchen window. ‘What’s that?’
‘Just some rubbish I was going to burn.’
‘Why don’t you take it to the dump?’
‘Are you staying long?’ interrupted Gordon.
She laughed. ‘I’ve only just got here and you are trying to get rid of me already.’
‘Dad didn’t mean that,’ Kitty glanced warningly at him. ‘It’s just that it’s a horrible night for driving.’
‘Oh I’ll be fine, stop fussing mum.’
‘Well okay then, I’ll put the kettle on,’ Kitty stared out of the window as she was filling the kettle and could just see the figure of Mr Beamish walking out of the farmyard. ‘I wonder what he’s doing out in this weather?’ she said in surprise. ‘That’s not going to do his aches and pains any good.’
Gordon stood up from the table and looked over her shoulder.
‘Shut the blind as it such a horrible night Kitty. Why don’t we take the tea into the front room and I’ll light the fire,’ He picked up Emily and carried her out into the hall. ‘Make sure the back door is locked,’ he called back.
‘I’ll do it. Yep it’s locked, bolted and drawbridge up,’ Eve looked across the kitchen at her mother who was fussing nervously with the cups. ‘I didn’t think there was any crime in the country.’
‘It doesn’t shut properly so we have to lock it,’ Kitty looked away from her daughter as she answered and concentrated on making the tea.
Eve stared at her mother ‘Are you sure you two are alright?’
‘Of course, we’re fine,’ Kitty smiled reassuringly at her daughter. ‘Bring the biscuit tin, it’s in that cupboard,’ she nodded to the cupboard near the door. ‘Let’s see if dad has got the fire going yet.’
Emily was standing in front of the fireplace watching the first few flames licking around the kindling. She turned to her mother and pointed at the flames.
‘Look what gramp’s done.’
Eve pulled her back. ‘Not too close Emily.’
‘Oh she’s fine, stop fussing,’ said Gordon. ‘I’m here to watch her.’
‘I think she ought to come out of the way Gordon, that kindling can spit.’
‘Okay, okay,’ he stood up and picked up Emily and put her into his chair. ‘There now you can sit in gramp’s chair and watch the fire or those two won’t give me any peace.’
Eve passed him a cup of tea before flopping onto the sofa. ‘Poor old granddad,’ she yawned and curled her legs up on the cushions.
‘Are you going to stay to tea?’
‘No, I had better get back soon or Rob will wonder where I am,’ Eve stared at the fire watching the flames licking round the logs. ‘I love the fireplace.’
‘Haven’t you seen it before?’
‘No, dad told me about it but it hadn’t been delivered the last time I was here.’
‘Mum was worried it was too big for the room,’ he said dunking a biscuit in his tea.
‘No, it’s fine. Where did it come from?’
‘Near Ilminster,’ interrupted Gordon. ‘It’s been treated for worm and I think it looks great,’ he added firmly.
‘Well I do as well,’ Kitty stared at him. ‘It’s just that I was worried it was too big but I’ve got used to the size now.’
Over the crackling of the logs Kitty could hear footsteps approaching up the gravel drive. She stiffened and stared warily at the window. Gordon followed her gaze; he too had heard the footsteps.
‘I’ll just see who that is,’ he said keeping calm. He pulled back the curtains and stared out into the darkness. There was a muffled crunch and a car alarm started its insistent beeping.
‘My car!’ Eve leapt to her feet and ran towards the front door.
‘Wait a minute,’ Gordon darted forward and caught her by the arm. ‘Stay here and I will go and look. You need to watch Emily with the fire.’
‘Well, mum can do that,’ she said impatiently and pulled open the door.
Kitty picked up Emily from the chair and held her close.
‘Nothing Emily,’ she brushed off the biscuit crumbs from her sticky little face and smoothed back the wispy hair. ‘Gramps will see to it.’
‘Mummas gone,’ she said pointing to the door.
‘No she’s just outside with gramps, look,’ Kitty carried her over to the window and pulled back the curtains, she pointed to the two figures outside. ‘There’s mummy.’
They were bent over examining the side of Eve’s car. She let the curtains drop back and walked back to the chair near the fireplace.
A few minutes later the front door slammed open and Eve burst in, flushed with annoyance.
‘Oh dear, what’s happened?’ Kitty asked her daughter.
‘Something’s hit my car’ Eve said indignantly. ‘The door looks as though it’s been kicked!’
‘There’s nobody out there but we did hear footsteps on the gravel.’
‘Yes, yes I did as well,’ she said faintly. ‘Where’s dad?’
‘He’s gone to look in the lane and see if he can see anybody. Who would do that!’ she exploded. ‘Are you having problems with your neighbour?’ she rounded on her mother. ‘Is that what’s going on?’
‘No not really, it’s a bit more complicated than that,’ said Kitty hesitantly. She pulled her daughter further into the hall and shut the door. ‘Dad’s not going to be happy I told you, but the house is haunted.’
Eve stared at her mother.
‘Oh for God’s sake mum, somebody has just put their size tens into my car door and you’re babbling about ghosts!’
‘I’m not babbling Eve,’ she said crossly. ‘Strange things have been happening and even dad has seen her.’
‘Dad has seen what?’ he asked opening the front door and coming in.
‘Your ghost,’ Eve snapped.
‘Ah.. I didn’t want mum to tell you,’ he sounded annoyed.
‘You mean she’s serious?’
‘Yep, it seems we have acquired a ghost but I’m going to solve the whys and the wherefores so there is no reason to worry.’
‘And you are telling me that a ghost has just damaged my car?’
‘I’m not sure that a ghost can do that but I am not going to discount anything just yet.’
She stared from one to another.
‘How am I going to claim that on my Insurance, “I was hit by a runaway ghost”?’
‘This is no joking matter Eve; mum has been getting really upset over it.’
He took Emily from Kitty’s arms.
‘This is a new house... so where did it come from?’ asked Eve incredulously.
‘Let’s go and sit down and I’ll try to explain. Well, I will tell you what we have found out so far,’ he led the way back into the front room. ‘Our fireplace used to belong to a woman who lived on Castle Hill. She was rumoured to be a witch. Now hang on..’ he held up a hand as Eve tried to interrupt. ‘Our neighbours disagree with that but she did die in a very strange way and I think she was murdered. I also think it was her ghost that I saw inside the house last night.’
Eve stared at her father open mouthed. ‘Are you serious? You actually saw a ghost? You? Mister Cynical?’
‘What... oh this just gets better. Why would she damage my car?’
‘I don’t know,’ he shrugged and stared at his daughter. ‘But I think you should go before anything else happens.’
‘But you can’t stay here, if you seriously think that.’
Gordon hesitated. ‘And I would like you to take mum with you,’ he glanced across at his wife.
‘I’m not going if you’re not,’ Kitty stood up from the sofa and glared at him. ‘It’s me that she spoke to remember.’
‘I know,’ he said trying to be patient. ‘That’s why I think you should go with Eve. Spend the night there and I will pick you up in the morning.’
‘No, if you are staying then so am I.’
‘I think you have both gone mad, ghosts can’t kick holes in cars.’
‘Since when have you become an expert?’ he asked sarcastically. ’I don’t know what she’s capable of and I’d rather not find out but I think we haven’t seen the last of her yet.’
‘Mrs Leavenham knows a lot about Hannah and we want to see her and see if she can help in any way.’
‘Who is Hannah? And who is Mrs Leavenham?’
Kitty looked at her blankly. ‘Oh, of course sorry dear, let’s start from the beginning. Hannah who was supposed to be a witch but wasn’t of course, lived at Castle Hill with her husband Samuel who was our Mr Beamish ’s grandfather’s brother and......’
Eve put her head in her hands and groaned. ‘Oh God no, Dad, you explain please!’
‘Gordon stop laughing!’
‘It’s simple, Hannah was accused of being a witch by a local farmer, he paid a white witch to get rid of her and she died in mysterious circumstances. Okay, with me so far?’
‘Who was the farmer?’
‘We don’t know and that is why we want to see Mrs Leavenham who knows all there is to know about the village, plus her grandmother was friends with Hannah.’
‘Show Eve what you found on the computer about Hannah,’ suggested Kitty.
Gordon put Emily back into his chair and strode off into the study to find his laptop.
‘Right, shove up you two so I can sit in the middle,’ he opened the laptop and plugged in the memory stick. ‘Now here we are, this is what I found earlier, read it’
Eve read it and then read it again, a puzzled expression on her face.
‘This doesn’t make any sense dad.’
‘No it doesn’t, mum has an idea that Mrs Leavenham’s grandmother was the little girl. So we think she may be able to help.’
‘Why don’t you try tracing Hannah through the census records?’
Gordon clapped a hand to his head. ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of that!’ and pulled the laptop towards him.
‘The 1841 Census is the earliest so start with that one,’ Eve suggested peering over his arm at the screen.
Kitty pulled Emily on to her lap and put her arms around the little girl, she was starting to grizzle and rub her eyes.
‘Emily’s getting tired Eve.’
‘Just give her a cuddle mum, I’m sure she’ll be fine,’ said Eve not looking up from the computer. She pointed at the screen. ‘Dad, just put in 1841 census.’
‘Can you do that? Just look up records of people?’
‘You can find out anything on the internet these days mum, you should really get out more you know,’ Eve said half sarcastically.
‘Now, now, mum doesn’t do technology,’ said Gordon calmly. ‘She has enough problems working the dishwasher.’
Kitty hugged her granddaughter and whispered in her ear, ‘Aren’t they a pair of meanies Emily?’
They stared intently at the screen while Gordon clicked on different sites to find the right census records.
‘What’s that one?’
‘Family search, let’s try on this site. Right, 1841 Census this is it,’ He tapped in Hannah Beamish. ‘Date of birth?’ he queried.
‘Just put her name in and see what comes up.’
‘It needs place of birth as well so if I just put in Medbury Devon and we’ll start from there.’
‘But we don’t know she was born here dad.’
‘Well we’ll assume it for now.’
‘Hey, look at all the Beamishes in Devon, are there any in Medbury?’
‘Here’s one, ah... this must be Robert Beamish. Let’s look at his record,’ Gordon clicked onto Robert‘s name and the next page opened up.
‘Damn! We have to pay to see any more, I’ll need my card number. Kitty can you fetch my wallet? I think it’s in my jacket.’
Kitty slid Emily off her lap onto the sofa and got up. ‘I won’t be a minute.’
She found his jacket hanging over the banister in the hall and paused listening to the wind howling around the house and buffeting against the windows and door. Outside there was a crash as the wheelie bin was blown over and Kitty could hear the scraping noise as it was driven across the drive.
‘What was that Kitty?’
‘It was the bin going over in the wind.’
The wind whined around the eaves of the house shrieking louder and louder as she listened.
‘Kitty! Did you find it?’
‘I’m just coming,’ she answered hurrying back into the room. ‘I was listening to the wind.’
Eve looked up. ‘I don’t think I will be driving home in this for a while, I’ll ring Rob after we have done this and warn him I’m going to be late.’
Gordon didn’t answer; he was concentrating on entering all his bank details onto the site.
‘This is going to cost me an arm and a leg,’ he grumbled.
‘If we can find out some more information about Hannah it will be worth it dad.’
Kitty knelt in front of the fire and gave the crumbling logs a poke.
‘Put some more wood on Kitty.’
‘I was just going to dear.’ she replied patiently.
She placed a log on the dying embers, the flames quickly licking up around the dry wood. The wind moaned down the chimney driving the smoke back into the room. Kitty coughed and waved a hand in front of her face.
‘Look at all this smoke, it’s being blown back down the chimney.’
She turned, neither of them were listening to her, they were intent on the laptop.
‘Look Kitty, this is the census record of Robert Beamish, he was 22 years old, unmarried and his father Joseph was the head of the household, living at Castle Hill Farm Medbury,’ Gordon scanned the rest of the household. ‘ Able Facey 27 born Seaton, unmarried Agricultural Labourer; Rosie Guppy 38, born Medbury unmarried, Dairymaid; Fred Dawes 18, born Medbury, Agricultural Labourer.’
‘Are there any other Beamishs in the village?’ asked Eve.
He put his finger on the screen and carefully went down the list. ‘Nope, no Hannah Beamish.’
Kitty looked at them from her position in front of the fire place.
‘Well she won’t be in the census forms.’
‘What?’ Gordon peered at her over his glasses.
‘The census used to be taken in the summer and Hannah died in the spring, you don’t have to be a computer genius to know that.’
‘Oh now you tell us, thanks mum!’
‘Well you two are supposed to be the computer whiz kids.’ She put another log on the fire and grinned to herself. ‘Try looking for her death,’ she suggested.
Gordon clicked onto a different list and tried the name Beamish. ‘Here’s one, Samuel Beamish, 25th April 1840.’
‘We’ve seen that already,’ said Kitty.
‘No we haven’t, this Samuel was only six weeks old when he died, must be a different family.’
Gordon sat back and rubbed his hands over his face.
‘God, this is so frustrating!’
‘So you can’t find anything for Hannah? Birth or death?’
‘Nope, not a thing.’
‘How strange,’ mused Kitty.
They fell silent while outside the wind screamed around the house.
Another puff of smoke blew into the room.
‘Smokey room Nana,’ Emily was getting tired and she rubbed her eyes which were stinging from the smoke.
‘Shall I put Emily to bed in the spare room?’
‘I ought to be going,’ Eve said uncertainly, staring at the window but the curtains were drawn against the storm outside. ‘But it sounds really bad.’
‘Perhaps you had better stay,’ said Gordon. ‘I don’t like the idea of you driving home in this.’
‘Yes,’ agreed Kitty. ‘Ring Rob and tell him you’re going to stay at least until the storm blows over.’
They sat listening to the howling wind which seemed to be mounting in intensity every minute, in the hall the letterbox started to rattle.
‘Wassat noise,’ Emily whimpered.
‘It’s just the wind; it’s making the letterbox rattle, that’s all. It’s nothing to be worried about Emily.’
Kitty tried to soothe her but she slid off her lap, ran over to her mother and scrambled up on to her knee.
‘Let’s see what else we can find,’ said Gordon, tapping the keys.
Nero appeared in the doorway with his ears down and looking very mournful.
‘Come on Nero,’ Kitty called to him. He pattered over the carpet and came to sit by her legs, and laid his head in her lap. ‘He doesn’t like storms,’ she stroked him soothingly on the head. ‘Poor old dog.’
‘Poor doggie,’ Emily forgetting the storm for a minute scrambled down and came over to give him a pat on the head.
‘Gently Emily,’ warned Eve. The little girl’s pats could be a bit hard and Nero was already looking sorry he had come in to join them.
‘What else have you found Gordon?’
‘Nothing for Hannah and nothing else for Samuel. Robert Beamish is on the 1851 census as head of the household so I suppose his father must have died.’
‘Perhaps he’s running the farm.’
‘Let’s see now, yep he’s running the farm, no father on the census. Oh and look at this he’s married, to a Rachel born 1814 Exeter.’
‘What?’ The noise of the wind howling around the house had grown so loud that Kitty and Eve were having difficulty in hearing him.
‘Rachel,’ he said loudly. ‘Born 1814 Exeter, and they had two sons. Edward F. born 1841 Medbury and William, born 1844 Medbury.’
‘Hang on a minute, 1841? He wasn’t married in the 1841 census. He was single,’ said Eve suddenly.
Gordon looked at her surprised. ‘That’s right, he wasn’t, well, well, looks like they had the honeymoon before the wedding.’
Eve grinned. ‘I didn’t think that sort of thing went on then.’
‘Hah! Don’t you believe it, things haven’t changed that much,’ he snorted.
Kitty laughed, she was just going to speak when Nero started growling.
‘Nero stop that,’ for a minute she thought that the dog had lost patience with Emily’s attentions and was growling at the little girl. But he was staring at the door, his hackles rose and a low ominous growl rumbled around his stomach.
‘Nero shush,’ commanded Gordon.
‘Why’s Nero growling nana?’
‘He’s upset, it’s the storm,’ Kitty tried to comfort him but he stood up suddenly pushing Emily out of the way and padded towards the door with his tail and ears down.
A terrific gust of wind howled around the house, the letterbox rattled frantically and in the kitchen the back door suddenly crashed open, blowing into the room all the debris from the garden including Kitty’s carefully collected pile of leaves and cardboard.
Nero started barking frantically lunging towards the hall and then retreating back to the safety of the front room.
Amidst the wind howling, Emily shrieking and Gordon shouting at the dog to be quiet Kitty could just make out a human voice bellowing in rage.
‘Can you hear that?’
She jumped as Eve grabbed her arm. ‘Who is that shouting?’
‘I don’t know. Gordon?’
He had run into the kitchen to shut the door. ‘I thought I told you to lock it Kitty!’ he shouted.
‘I locked it dad! Well mum said it didn’t shut properly,’ Eve said indignantly and followed him into the kitchen, with Kitty hurrying after her.
Gordon had managed to push the door shut against the howling wind and push the bolt across, then dragged the table over and jammed it against the door as the lock was rattling ominously with the force of the wind. Gordon looked at the mess of leaves and rubbish on the floor.
‘Where’s the broom?’ he yelled to his wife, trying to make himself heard against the shrieking outside.
The wind buffeted the door making the table slide across the tiled floor.
‘Dammit, we need something heavy on the table. Kitty... Kitty!’
They stared wildly around the kitchen looking for something to jam against the shaking door.
‘What about jamming a chair under the handle?’ suggested Kitty pulling forward one of the pine kitchen chairs. Gordon shook his head.
‘It will just slide across the floor.’
He leant his weight against the table to keep it from sliding and looked towards the hall, the letterbox on the front door was flapping wildly and the wind shrieked louder and louder, whining and howling around the house, the rain lashing at the windows and doors.
‘Check the front door, one of you,’ he said quickly.
Eve ran to the door and tried the lock.
‘It’s okay, it is locked,’ she turned as she spoke and with one howling blast the door burst open throwing her across the hall floor.
‘Eve!’ Kitty shrieked, and struggled along the hall to reach her, forcing herself against the wind but it was blowing so hard that she could hardly stand.
‘Eve, are you okay?’
‘Yeah, I think so,’ she felt the back of her head and then looked at the smear of blood on her hand. ‘Oh my head’s bleeding.’
Gordon struggled through from the kitchen holding onto the banisters.
‘Stay there you two; I’ll see if I can get to the door.’
He was leaning into the wind almost bent double against the force of the blast, which carried with it small stinging pieces of gravel from the drive.
‘Mind your eyes.’
Kitty had one arm linked around the newel post and was being pressed back against the stairs. The force of the wind pushing against her chest made it difficult to breathe and she found herself gasping in the dust laden wind.
Gordon had reached the door and was bracing himself against it trying to close it against the force of the wind shrieking into the hall.
Eve was crouched on the floor at his feet trying to protect her face against the small pieces of flying gravel. Kitty could hear her muffled crying.
‘Come on grab it and let’s get it shut,’ he shouted.
Kitty reached across to the door.
‘Alright, one, two, three,’ and with that they both heaved and slammed the door shut. Gordon shot the bolt across.
‘God, I hope this holds.’
The door vibrated under the force of the wind hitting it, a hail of gravel was being driven against the hall window and there was an ominous crack as a large piece smashed into the glass.
‘Let’s get the chest from your study and put it across the door,’ Kitty suggested, she straightened wearily and wiped her face, feeling a slight stickiness on her skin she glanced down at the little smears of blood on her shaking hand. She stared blindly at it for a second before wiping her hand down her leg and turned to Eve who was struggling to stand. She was sobbing and holding her head.
‘Eve, are you okay?’ Kitty knelt over her putting a comforting arm around her shoulders. ‘Get up off the floor, come on,’ and helped Eve to her feet.
Gordon leant back against the door with his eyes closed, gasping for breath.
‘Kitty, let’s get that chest in case the door blows open again.’
She looked up cocking her head to one side and listening.
‘I don’t think we need to, listen!’
The wind had suddenly dropped.
‘It’s stopped! Just like that. Can you believe it,’ Gordon said amazed. He turned to the two women. ‘Are you alright?’
Eve started sobbing and reached for her father.
‘It’s okay, it’s stopped now,’ he reassured her putting an arm around her.
‘My head’s bleeding dad.’
‘I’ll get a towel,’ Kitty headed to the kitchen, pulled a clean hand towel from the laundry basket and hurried back to hall. ‘Here use this.’
She examined the cut on the back of Eve’s head. It was only small but there was large egg shaped swelling under her hair.
‘It’s not too bad, it’s nearly stopped bleeding now,’ she reassured her and pressed the towel to it. ‘Hold this Eve and press it firmly onto the cut.’
Eve took a few shaky steps forward, wiping her eyes with one hand while holding the towel to her head and glanced into the front room.
‘Where’s Emily?’ she suddenly said looking wildly around the empty room.
Kitty froze, realising that she had given no thought to her granddaughter whom they had left alone while they had struggled with the doors.
‘Oh my God.’
Kitty hurried to the door and stared into the room. ‘Gordon she’s not here.’
‘I’ll check upstairs.’
‘You don’t think she went outside?’ said Eve fighting to control the trembling in her voice.
Kitty placed a comforting hand on her arm and squeezed it.
‘She couldn’t have, we would have seen her,’ she said firmly. ‘Now calm down Eve she is in the house somewhere.’
They could hear Gordon upstairs running from room to room, opening and slamming doors.
‘Emily, Emily where are you? His voice sounded increasingly strained with every second that his granddaughter was missing.
‘Eve come and sit down and then I’ll go and help dad look,’ Kitty put an arm around her daughter and led her over to the sofa. ‘Sit down here, we’ll find her don’t worry.’
Nero was stretched out in front of the fire; he raised his head and watched them his tail thumping gently on the rug. Kitty’s next few words became strangled in her throat as she gazed at the dog’s fur; thin red streaks were smeared across his muzzle and down the sides of his face.
‘What is that on the dog?’ her voice trembled as she peered over the edge of the sofa, for one wild second wondering what she might see.
Emily was sitting cross legged, hidden from view at the end of the sofa, the contents of Eve’s handbag scattered around her.
‘Emily! There you are,’ she said with relief. ‘What are you doing with mummy’s lipstick?’
She turned and grinned at her grandmother, her gleeful little face was smeared in bright red lipstick and big globs of it covered her hands and clothes. The last little bit was being used to draw stick figures on the carpet.
Eve leapt up from the sofa where she had collapsed a few seconds earlier, and pushed her mother to one side.
‘Emily, thank goodness I was so worried,’ Eve knelt down next to her and wrapped her arms around her daughter, hugging her tightly.
‘I’ll tell dad that she’s here,’ Kitty said in relief and trotted out into the hall. ‘Gordon’ she called up to him. ’It’s alright; she was in the sitting room behind the sofa.’
‘Oh for the love of God woman,’ he pounded down the stairs. ‘I was worried sick!’
‘We all were Gordon, so calm down.’
He followed her back into the room.
‘Is she alright?’ he moved forward anxiously looking at Emily and Eve sat in front of the fireplace.
‘Emily has found Mummy’s make up so she’s having a great time,’ Kitty smiled slightly and gestured at Emily’s lipstick smeared face.
The little girl twisted round to look at him and grinned. ‘Look gramps I’m drawing.’
He sat down on the end of the sofa and reached over to ruffle her hair.
‘Well at least she’s okay.’
‘She’s here,’ Kitty said suddenly.
‘Hannah, I can smell lavender.’
Eve sniffed. ‘So can I.’
Emily smiled and pointed to the stick drawings on the floor. ‘Look, it’s the lady.’
‘What lady, sweetie?’
‘She’s been talking to me, she likes flowers.’
Emily opened one of her sticky little hands. ‘Look’ and although crushed and bent and covered with lipstick Gordon could still make out the remains of a few sprigs of lavender. He paused for a few minutes, unable to believe his eyes. He drew a deep rasping breath and stood up quickly.
‘That’s it, we’re going. We’ll spend the night at Eve’s.’
He picked up Emily and held her firmly to his chest, gesturing for Eve to get to her feet.
‘Grab your things Eve, we’ll use your car.’
Gordon ushered them out into the hall, casting one worried look back into the room.
‘Kitty! Where are you going?’
‘I was just going to get a few things.’
He pulled her off the bottom stair. ‘No! We’re leaving now,’ his usually calm voice sounded strained and his hand grasping Kitty’s arm was trembling slightly.
‘Come on mum I want to go,’ Eve tugged at her arm. ‘Let’s just get out of here.’
‘Okay, okay, but the dog has to come.’
‘Just stop talking and get in the damn car.’
Gordon slammed the front door behind them.
‘Oh, what about the lights?’ Kitty looked at her husband enquiringly. ‘Gordon?’
Nobody answered, Eve jumped into the back seat with Emily held tightly on her lap and then pulled Nero onto the seat next to her.
Gordon squeezed behind the steering wheel, fiddling with the seat to get more leg room.
‘Are we all in? Right lock the doors and let’s get the hell out of here.’ He started the car and crunched the gear stick into first. ‘Sorry Eve I’m used to an automatic,’ Gordon joked trying to sound normal. ‘Okay we’re off.’
Gordon drove slowly down the drive avoiding the overturned bin.
‘Thank goodness it was collected today otherwise the rubbish would be everywhere.’
‘Sorry, I wasn’t thinking what I was saying.’
Gordon flicked the headlights onto full beam and drove through the gateway, just for an instant the lights picked out a figure stood to one side.
‘Gordon, it’s Mr Beamish, don’t you think we should tell him why we’re going?’
He slowed the car almost to a halt and glanced in the rear view mirror. Without a word he put his foot on the accelerator and sped along the road, past the farm and down into the village.
‘Slow down,’ Kitty was clinging to the door. ‘Mr Beamish will think we’ve gone mad.’
‘That wasn’t William,’ he ground out.
‘Of course it was, I saw him,’ Kitty turned and stared at him. ‘Calm down Gordon, do you want me to drive?’ She looked over at him in concern, his hands were shaking on the wheel and his face was twisted in a strange expression.
‘It wasn’t William.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes! Hey look at this!’ he slowed down as they drove through the middle of the village.
‘Look at what?’
‘The road, its bone dry, they haven’t had any rain here at all.’
Kitty stared out of the window and then peered through the windscreen up at the night sky.
‘It’s a clear night, no rain clouds at all.’
Eve stirred restlessly on the back seat and sat forward to nudge her father’s arm.
‘Dad, can we go now? I want to go home.’
‘Okay Eve don’t worry, we’re just going.’
He drove slowly past the parked cars in the street and sped forward as soon as they had cleared the last few houses in the village and on up the hill to the road leading towards Axminster.
They pulled into the drive of Eve’s small semi and Gordon switched off the engine. The hall light clicked on flooding the driveway with light and Rob opened the front door.
‘There you are,’ he sounded annoyed. ‘I was getting worried,’ his voice changed when he saw them all in the car. ‘What’s wrong?’
Eve scrambled out of the back holding the sleeping Emily tightly.
‘ What’s that on Emily?’ he said leaping down the front door step towards his wife
‘It’s alright, it’s just lipstick,’ Kitty quickly reassured him.
Rob looked from his mother- in- law to his wife.
‘Are you alright?’ he asked Eve looking in concern at her pale face and the smear of blood on her face.
‘No!’ she wailed. ‘It was awful. I hurt my head and I thought I had lost Emily,’ the rest of her explanation was lost in sobs. Rob put his arms around her and his daughter and led her to the door.
‘Come on inside,’ he glanced across at his in laws. ‘Thanks for bringing them home.’
‘I’m afraid we’re going to be staying the night Rob,’ said Kitty.
‘What ? Well of course,’ Rob looked at her surprised but went on ‘Come on in then, I don’t know where you’re going to sleep though.’
‘A chair by the fire will do fine so don’t worry.’
She turned to Gordon who was leaning against the side of the car. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Hmm, yeah I’m fine,’ He pushed himself upright. ‘Let’s get in, I need a drink,’ he put an arm around her shoulder and gave her a hug. ‘Sorry I didn’t believe you Kitty.’
‘That’s okay,’ she rested her head on his shoulder for a minute before taking his arm and pulling him towards the house. ‘Come on let’s go and see if Rob has any whiskey, I think we could all do with one.’