Summoning a servant, I dispatched the bottle – well-wrapped in leather and shut within a tin for safety – and a note off to town. Regrettably, the local chemist refused to accept the task I set for him. His response, conveyed within the hour along with my own, returning, package, indicated that this work lay outside of his area of expertise but that he could recommend me to a colleague of such-and-such a name in London. This introduced significant delay into resolution of the matter, if not as much as it might had I been limited to the connections of the folk of Wrydding. While the village might have just the one chemist, there was another individual, if of somewhat questionable repute of residing at greater remove, quite knowledgeable in these arts, to whom I gave my custom when occasion demanded.
A new missive penned and the bottle in question sent off once more, I returned to the matter of examining the box and its contents. Using the pincers, I withdrew the keys and cylinder and set them aside, then lifted aside the blank sheet of tissue paper beneath them, revealing a post card beneath a bit of wool wadding. The un-obscured portion of the photographic image on the front depicted a large stone edifice in a style reminiscent of the early Renaissance, if my schooling had not entirely escaped me; most likely an abbey, if the visible fragment could be counted upon to provide any indication of the unseen remainder. The text identifying the location had been largely blacked out, excepting the initial letter, a capital ‘B.’
Reversing the card, both so as to not expose myself to any potentially poisonous residue and so as to avoid
tearing the aged paper, I made out that it came from Frith’s series and carried a postmark date of 13 September, 1925, dispatched from the nearby village of Wrydding and arriving in Belgium by way of London. Addressed to Lord Andrew Redmayne, to be found in care of the Anglo-Belge Masonic Lodge No. 17 in Antwerp, the message read;
I’ve a simply marvelous idea-let’s have a Coelcerth party! I’m sure you’ll be back in time + we’ll have such fun-a bonfire, apple bobs + panto – how about that Italian thing Charles keeps going on about? We’ll invite the whole village! Be a pet-say yes-I must have some fun before your wedding!
It seemed likely this missive came from one Sarah Morgan, a young woman of questionable morals and highly effective methods who had inveigled her way into the Redmayne family affairs first with Sir Anthony Rossiter and subsequently (one hopes!) with Lord Andrew. Quite the social climber, and a ‘theatrical’ type, if records of the time were at all reliable. But what was this party to which she referred? And why was Lord Andrew with the Masons in Belgium? It seemed the more facts the box revealed the more questions I was to have. And still yet nothing hinted at the purpose of this bundle nor why it had been sent to me, and with such particular and inexplicable instructions!
My mind awhirl, I determined to set aside examination of the next layer of objects and set off for the village, intending to dig up anything that could be known about social events taking place at Grisleigh End in the Autumn of 1925, particularly any bonfire gatherings. Not that the Redmaynes would invite the commoners of the region, but those of the so-called journalist profession have forever found fascination with the doings of their betters. Doubtless some mention was made whenever the motor-cars made their way out to the old estate.
(To be continued)