Ghosts of Mayfield Court

Free Ghosts of Mayfield Court by Norman Russell

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Authors: Norman Russell
from gas mantles along the walls and from the powerful limelights fixed on to the front of the circle. At any moment they could be plunged into darkness. Outside, the brilliant August sun would still be shining, and there would be a breeze, perhaps. Here, while the performers threw all their energies into the two-act farce, the air reeked of tobacco smoke and stale gas. It was stifling…. Oh, Uncle Max, came my inward cry, what did you mean when you said those words:
Goodbye, my dear
?
    When the performance ended, we emerged, blinking, into the bright sunlight of the Strand. The wide thoroughfare was, as always, thick with horse-traffic, characterized by the drumming beat of iron tyres on the setts, the ‘clip clop’ of countless horses, the cracking of whips and the curses of cabbies in a hurry.
    It was a relief to turn into Bedford Street, and seek out a secluded corner in Palfrey’s Café, where Michael ordered tea and toasted muffins. The little shop smelt of freshly baked bread, and coffee, served from steaming silver urns standing on the marble counter.
    â€˜Well, did you or didn’t you?’ Michael’s voice held a tone of slightly resentful amusement. Bother! He’d asked me something, and I had been miles away. I was usually all ears when he had something to say to me.
    â€˜Did I what?’
    â€˜Enjoy the show. What’s the matter with you today, Cath?’
    Tea and muffins arrived, and I gave all my attention to pouring out.
    â€˜Michael,’ I said, ‘I’m worried about Uncle Max. I’ve a premonition that something awful is going to happen to him— No, it’s nothing to do with Marguerite and séances. He spoke to me today as though he was bidding me farewell.’
    Michael stirred his tea thoughtfully. Even in my agitation of mind I could not resist admiring him. How handsome he was! His fair hair curled at the nape of his neck, and when he half-closed his eyes in thought, his long lashes swept his cheeks as though he was still a little boy. Yes, Uncle, I thought, I may have blushed when you spoke of marriage, but if he were to ask me now, I would accept him like a shot….
    â€˜It’s that business of the old house in Warwickshire,’ said Michael at length. ‘What was it called? Mayfield Court. Perhaps he knows something about that skeleton – something that he dare not tell you. He’s always been a hoarder of secrets.’
    â€˜Well,’ I said, rather lamely, ‘I shall be relieved when the secret of Mayfield is finally revealed to the light. Maybe then the ghost will be able to find rest.’
    Michael finished his tea, and began to make inroads into his muffin.
    â€˜Lay the ghost? Well, that rustic policeman did that for you, didn’t he? Helen, the little lost waif.’
    â€˜It was that “rustic policeman”, as you call him, who urged me to tell you all about the secrets of Mayfield Court. Detective Sergeant Bottomley, his name is.’
    â€˜And how did he know about me?’
    â€˜He – he played a trick on me, a trick which made me tell him all about you – well, not all, but enough! That’s when he advised me to confide in you.’
    â€˜Hmm…. Not so rustic after all, then. But I say, Cath, what’s all this about? I don’t like secrets. Finish your tea, and we’ll walk down to Trafalgar Square. We can catch an omnibus there to the corner of Upper Berkeley Street, and cut through into Saxony Square.’

    As we came into Saxony Square we saw a crowd of loiterers gathered on the pavement in front of our house. They were, I knew, a pointer to the nameless dread that had hovered in the back of my mind since early that morning. The tall, elegant eighteenth-century houses, with their wrought-iron balconies, basked quietly in the afternoon sun, but the crowd, and the fact that the front door of the house stood wide open, showed that my premonition of evil had

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