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The Hound of the Austinvilles

Guest Miranda

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Story Title: The Hound of the Austinvilles

Type of story: Long fic

Main Characters: Whole Cast

BTTB rating: G

Genre: Comedy/ parody

Does story include spoilers: No, I wouldn't have thought so!

Any warnings: None. Maybe death of popular characters in dramatic ways, I don't know yet.

Summary: A comedy/parody fiction based on the 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and revolving around the characters of Summer Bay.


T’was a dark and stormy night and the wind howled around the ancient mansion of the Austinvilles.

Old Sir Alfred Stewart-Austinville cowered in his study, which was situated in the West Tower. The candle fluttered in the breeze and Sir Alfred wrote faster, his fountain pen scratching urgently at the paper.

Suddenly there was another howl- not the wind this time- more like an animal. Sir Alfred leapt up, locking and bolting the study door.

‘Oh why has this terrible curse struck our family?’ he muttered to himself as he returned to his desk. ‘How I hope my old friend can solve the mystery.’

A few days later, in a pleasant and tranquil study in the city, the scene was in complete contrast. A learned looking gentleman sat at his writing desk, studying a sheet of paper.

‘Watson Buckton?’ he called. ‘Would you be so kind as to give me your opinion on this?’

A slight man in a baggy suit with a false looking moustache shuffled over.

‘Old boy!’ Sherlock Rosetta slapped Watson Buckton on the shoulder, nearly knocking his colleague over.

‘What is it?’ asked the fellow, in a gruff voice.

‘A letter. From my old professor, Stewart-Austinville. Most curious. What do you think old chap?’

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Well, Miranda's given me permission to write the next chapter of this so I hope you enjoy it.

‘“I trust, my dear Sherlock, that you recall the legend surrounding our family,”’ Watson Buckton began.

‘I’m surprised Sir Alfred places such credence in the legend,’ Rosetta replied with a shake of his head. ‘It scarcely takes a great detective to realise how absurd the tale is.’

‘But what is this legend?’ Watson Buckton asked.

‘Well, read the letter, man, it’s all there.’

Watson Buckton found the place. ‘“It relates to a distant ancestor of mine, Sir Sebastian Austinville, who, finding himself on hard times, made a deal with the very devil to restore our family’s fortune. Although we prospered, Sir Sebastian was found dead within a month, his companions swearing they had seen him torn asunder by a hellhound, a flaming mongrel. And legend has it that our family is cursed, that we enjoy our wealth only at the threat of meeting his fate at the claws of the hound.” But what has this to do with us, Sherlock?’

‘The next bit, the next bit,’ Rosetta extolled excitedly.

‘“This legend was believed to be but a fiction, yet but a week ago, my dearest widowed granddaughter, Mrs. Martha Holden-Austinville…’” Watson Buckton stopped. ‘Holden-Austinville? Not Stewart-Austinville?’

‘The family tree is complex,’ Rosetta admitted, ‘I do not pretend to understand it myself.’

‘“…was scared out of her wits by the appearance of a fiendish hound on the moors. Worse, her father-in-law, Sir Tony Holden-Austinville, was savaged by a beast whilst out riding and lies in his room, his wounds severe. My only comfort is that my granddaughter’s two cousins are safe in the city.’”

‘That would be Mr. Hugo and Mr. Xavier Austin-Austinville,’ Rosetta realised.

‘Austin-Austinville?’ Watson Buckton repeated.

‘The family tree is complex,’ Rosetta stated again. ‘Well, it is my belief not the work of a devil hound but of some fiendish mastermind. We must unmask this villain and expose his vile machinations for the trickery they are.’

‘Yes, of course, Rosetta,’ Watson Buckton agreed. ‘How do you intend to proceed?’

‘I intend to meet with Mr. Hugo and Mr. Xavier Austin-Austinville and warn them that their lives may be in danger and see if they know of any fiend who may wish this noble family harm. Meanwhile, I suggest you travel to Austinville Mansion to see what is about. You will be my eyes and ears there, my dear Charlie. Ever watchful.’

A nervous look crossed Watson Buckton’s face. ‘But is that not where the hound is, Rosetta? Beast or ghost I do not care to tangle with it.’

Rosetta clapped his hands on his companion’s shoulders. ‘Be bold, Doctor. What are you, a woman?’

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Rosetta smiled a congenial greeting as he met up with Mr. Hugo and Mr. Xavier Austin-Austinville in the lobby of the Excelsior Hotel in Park Lane.

“Come now tell me what this business is all about?” Mr Hugo Austin- Austinville exclaimed as they indulged in afternoon tea.

The tea was served in china teacups on a silver tray by the roaring fire despite the fact that it was late August the weather had become unexpectedly cold in climate. A sleepy fog was settling upon old London Town.

Rosetta smiled slowly and ignored the frank way Mr Xavier was flirting with the parlour maid, who had introduced herself as Miss Ruby as she delivered their Tea tray and offered them crumpet.

“I understand that you are acquainted with the incident that has befallen your relatives?” He began and blinked when he saw Mr Xavier appearing to wink at him.

“Yes I received a letter with the details in. I was planning to pay them a visit.” Mr Hugo murmured. “As soon as I concluded my business on the wharf here in the city.”

Rosetta nodded.

“I pray you head my warning and proceed no further until such time as I have had the chance to investigate more of this matter.” He said squaring his shoulders and sinking back in the chair. He caught Mr Xavier again winking and this time licking his lips in a disturbing manor.

“Alas, I thank you for your concern, my good man.” Mr Hugo murmured in a slightly patronising tone. “But I insist that you allow me to be a judge of whether this matter is dangerous. I have travelled extensively in my time and wrestled with all kinds of creatures, including a great white shark! I fear that you can trust I am able to take care of myself.”

Rosetta heard the start of what Mr Hugo was saying but then his attention was grabbed by Mr Xavier making strange hand gestures and not only winking some more but also nodding his head and indicating in the direction of what he deducted was the broom cupboard.

“Er…” he began and found himself lost for words for the first time as Mr Xavier continued with the disturbing hand gestures. “Well.” He resumed his speech in his usual former manor. “If you insist on going then I presume that I cannot desist you in that idea.”

“No, myself and my brother will be attending on my cousins presently.” Mr Hugo insisted.

“What! Wait! no!” Mr Xavier exclaimed with much force.

“You do not wish to go?” Rosetta deduced.

Mr Xavier looked at his brother.

“I thought we had agreed to stay here for some time?” he asked him.

“Don’t you think that the fact our rich widowed cousin needs us some indication of where our loyalty should be my dear brother.” Mr Hugo murmured.

Mr Xavier sighed and looked over at the parlour maid once more.

Rosetta caught the glance and he too sighed. For a shocking moment he wondered if Mr Xavier was… his Victorian brain censored the rest of that thought.

“Very well.” Rosetta murmured at last. “If you travel down there I insist that I accompany yourself. Until then Gentlemen I bid you adeiu.” He added in a crisp manor and stood pulling on his deerstalker and coat.

Walking through the lobby of the hotel he hoped that Watson Buckton had more success travelling down to the wild moors where the Austinville Mansion was.

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As Dr Watson Buckton approached Austinville Hall across the Moor, thoughts of the last conversation with Sherlock Rosetta echoed in her mind.

'Be bold Doctor. What are you, a woman?'

The conversation had been so rousing and worrying at the same time. If only he knew her secret and the reason behind it! How she longed to tell him, how she longed to-

Enough of that! Watson Buckton told herself sharply, and strode even more manfully through the heather towards the Hall. Arriving in daylight had been wiser and safer, allowing the good doctor to survey the area at leisure, with trusty revolver and walking stick-come-sword as defence.

At last the Hall hove into view. Watson-Buckton was announced at the door and Sir Alfred hurried out.

'By Jove! Great Scott! How the devil are you, old boy?'

He shook the doctor's hand enthusiastically.

'Are you quite well sir? Your handshake is quite weak. The Moors' air will pep you up a treat.'

'No, Sir Alfred. I assure you I am quite well,' said Watson Buckton gruffly. 'I trust there have been no fresh attacks?'

Suddenly there was a great hullabuloo from the courtyard, shouting voices arguing, the sounds of a fight.

The doctor looked over.

Two blond young men were sparring but shouting at each other in a distinctly unfriendly manner. One had his shirt off and the other wore a coachman's uniform.

'Gor blimey, luvvaduck, keep yer thievin' 'ands off me bird!' shouted the shirtless chap.

'Go on then, hit me, yer flamin' pansy. You couldn't fight yer way out of a paper bag!' replied the other.

'Jefferies! Campbell! Enough!' A taller blond man stepped between them quarrelling servants and ushered them away by their collars.

'Sorry, Mr 'Arris, sir,' they muttered.

'Scallywags,' tutted Sir Alfred. 'As I was saying Doctor- Doctor? Are you sure you are quite well?'

Watson Buckton jumped, suddenly aware of how she had been gazing admiringly at the muscluar servants.

'Oh! Frightfully sorry, Sir Alfred. It was a long journey from London-'

'Of course, old man. A trip like that's enough to make anyone come over all queer. A tot of brandy will do the trick.'

Sir Alfred ushered the good doctor into his study where they settled comfortably into creaking leather wingback chairs by the roaring fire.

'So Sir Alfred.' Watson Buckton was determined to regain her authority. 'When did the latest attacks by the hound occur?'

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“Well, that question would be better answered by one who witnessed it,” Sir Alfred noted, picking up a small bell from his desk and giving it a decisive ring. Moments later, a demure-looking young girl in a maid’s outfit appeared. “Ah, Annie, ask Mrs. Martha Holden-Austinville to join us in the sitting room, will you?”

The girl gave a small curtsy before hurrying to complete her task. Watson Buckton waited for Sir Alfred to move but he seemed happy to remain where he was. “Should we adjourn, sir?”

Sir Alfred waved a hand dismissively. “Knowing that granddaughter of mine, she’ll take her time. Finish your brandy, sir.”

Watson Buckton took a generous gulp from her glass, resisting the urge to cough as the unfamiliar liquid burnt her throat. “I do not mean to rush you, Sir Alfred, but Rosetta will be expecting results when he contacts me.”

“Oh, fire and brimstone!” Sir Alfred exclaimed. “Very well, Doctor, let us join the members of the fair sex.”

He rose and led Watson Buckton threw into a spacious sitting room. Two young women rose to meet them: a dark-haired beauty and a younger and livelier blonde girl. “My granddaughter, Mrs. Martha Holden-Austinville,” Sir Alfred explained, gesturing to the older woman. “And, er, that’s Nicole.”

Watson Buckton regarded the latter with curiosity. “Another cousin?”

Sir Alfred blanched. “Sadly we cannot claim that good fortune.”

“Nicole is the daughter of Mr. Harris, our chief butler,” Martha explained.

“Father was in the army with Sir Alfred, during the conflict with the Boers,” Nicole added, “He offered him employment here when they were discharged. And I cannot tell you how grateful I am, the servants here are so handsome.”

Watson Buckton was on the verge of agreeing when she caught herself. “I am glad you find the situation agreeable, Miss Harris,” she offered at last.

“If you would excuse us, Nicole, we have important matters to discuss,” Sir Alfred insisted.

Nicole threw a flirtatious smile in Watson Buckton’s direction. “I trust you will excuse me, Doctor. It seems once more I must seek out the company of the charming footman and coachman. Mine is an unfortunate life indeed.”

Sir Alfred waited until the three of them were alone before taking a seat next to Martha. “Now then, dear, tell the doctor about what happened.”

Martha took a deep breath. “It was about three weeks ago. I went out for an early morning ride with Mr. Hugo. He has been such a comfort to me since my dear husband passed on.”

“And something unusual transpired?” asked Watson Buckton.

“We were some way from the house when Hugo was thrown from his horse. He wasn’t badly hurt, as it turned out, but he was quite out cold so I fear I panicked. I decided to return to the house for help. And then, as I was riding across the moors, I saw it on a ridge, watching me. A hound from the very depths of hell itself, its eyes wild and staring, its mouth full of fangs and the most dreadful smoke surrounding it. I feared I would swoon, Doctor, but then it just seemed to melt away into the mist.”

“I gather the next person to see it was not so fortunate?”

“Sir Tony, yes,” Sir Alfred confirmed. “Two weeks later. He has not left his bedchamber since.”

“But you would not wish to see him, Doctor,” Martha assured. “He is in a most dreadful state.”

“I am a doctor, madame,” Watson Buckton replied with a confidence she did not truly feel. “I am used to seeing men afflicted with the gravest of wounds. Come, Sir Alfred, let us see what can be learned from this unfortunate fellow.”

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Sir Alfred knocked loudly on Sir Tony's bedchamber door. It opened a little and a brunette lady peered round.

'Really Sir Alfred! Please restrain youself. My husband is gravely ill.'

'Sorry my dear. I bring an important guest. Might I introduce Dr. Watson Buckton, friend of my former student, Sherlock Rosetta?'

'Good day madam,' said the doctor gruffly.

'This is Lady Rachel Holden-Austinville, Sir Tony's wife.'

'Good day doctor.' Lady Rachel smiled frostily.

'May I come in and see the patient?' asked Dr Watson Buckton.

'Come on old girl, let the dog see the rabbit eh?' added Sir Alfred.

'I am really uncomfortable with so many people surrounding my husband at this time, Sir Alfred.' Lady Rachel did not move.

'Balderdash and poppycock, dear lady. Dr. Watson Buckton is an expert. I'm sure Sir Tony will benefit from his experience.'

'Very well.' The lady moved aside reluctantly.

Within the bedchamber, Sir Tony lay on his stomach on his bed, with his face to the side. He looked awfully pale.

'Good day, Sir Tony. May I take your pulse?' The doctor did so and performed some other checks on his horrific injuries.

'I have made him as comfortable as possible,' said Lady Rachel. 'I have a great interest in medicine and would have been delighted to be able to study to be a physician-'

'Do stop prattling, my dear. Doctor, what is you opinion?' interrupted Sir Alfred.

Charlie felt sorry for Lady Rachel and rather cross at Sir Alfred's rudeness.

'He seems very weakened, I am sorry to say. Would you care to tell me what happened, Lady Rachel? I think Sir Tony is too weak.'

'Me? Oh- er- well, Sir Tony was returning from a riding excursion with the Austin-Austinville brothers and the gamekeeper, Copeland. He became separated from the others and his horse cast a shoe. He was just bending to look at the horse's foot, when something attacked him from the rear. Hence his horrific injuries.'

'Yes, terrible,' agreed the Doctor, ignoring Sir Alfred chortling in the background. 'The buttocks are very-'

'Please doctor!' interrupted Lady Rachel. 'You men are always so indelicate.'

'Sorry Madam.'

'Wife,' said Sir Tony faintly.

'Yes my beloved?'

'Tell them about the creature.'

'Oh yes. It was a terrible beast. My poor husband saw it bound off as he fell to the ground clutching his-'

'Quite. What did this beast look like?'

'Glowing, apparently. Like some phantom. Frothing at the mouth, which was full of sharp cat like teeth. A terrible slaveing, growling apparition.'

'Wife,' said Sir Tony faintly. 'Tell them about-' He gasped, shuddered, clutched his behind, then was quiet.

'Oh my darling!' shrieked Lady Rachel.

'Now there there,' said Sir Alfred, patting her shoulder.

Dr. Watson Buckton stepped forward to the patient. 'I'm afraid he's gone, dear lady.'

Lady Rachel burst into tears.

'What was the cause of death, Doctor?' asked Sir Alfred.

'I'll put it down as Posterior Dysfunctionalis.'

'Poor fellow.'

'Sir Alfred.' Dr. Watson Buckton drew him away to the side. 'This means that it is now a murder investigation. I must call for my esteemed colleague, Sherlock Rosetta.'

A thrill shivered through the Doctor at the thought of her beloved.

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‘What the devil are you talking about?’ snapped Hugo to his brother. ‘You can’t just bring a young lady you barely know back to the Hall on a whim? What’s got into you?’

Xavier glared at him defiantly. ‘I have attained the age of majority, I am free to do as I please!’

Sherlock Rosetta looked down at his feet, unwilling to get involved in a family feud. It was not a suitable place for an argument as they were at the coach stop in Park Lane, waiting for their coach to be readied for the journey back to Austinville Hall.

‘Piffle! I won’t hear of it. This little gold digger must be sent away with a flea in her ear!’

‘Too late, brother. Let me introduce my intended wife, Miss Ruby.’ Xavier walked round the corner and produced the parlour maid from the hotel.

Rosetta took a step back, as it seemed Hugo was going to have a fit of apoplexy on the spot.

‘A servant! Xavier, have you lost your mind? What on earth will Sir Alfred say?’

‘He has no choice. I love Ruby and we want to be together!’

Ruby smiled brightly while Hugo became unintelligible with anger.

‘Oh look our coach is ready,’ interrupted Rosetta with relief. The Austinville second coach was not as ornate as the first, which was entirely used by the Stewart branch of the family under the control of the head coachman, Jefferies. This one was superintended by the under coachman, Mr Fernandez, and more of a long distance coach than the other.

‘Allow me Miss Ruby,’ said Rosetta gallantly, handing her into the coach, while the Austinville brothers glared at each other.


The journey started off in frosty silence, each brother looking steadfastly out of the window.

‘So Miss Ruby, do you have family in London who will miss you?’ asked Rosetta politely.

‘Oh no sir, no indeed. I ‘ave been a Horphan since- well, as long as I can remember. I was lucky that I was taken in by my grandmother, Mrs. Polkington. She was a wonderful woman-‘

As the parlour maid prattled on, Xavier gazed besottedly at her, while Hugo glared intermittently at them or at the scenery.

‘Mr Hugo, I suppose that we will find the Hall in turmoil after the death of Sir Tony,’ ventured Rosetta, to avert a confrontation.

‘I do not agree. We Austinvilles are made of stern stuff and will bear up well in such difficult times.’

‘Do you think the attack by the Hound was intentional, as part of the curse of the Austinvilles? Or an unfortunate accident?’

‘I’m afraid to say-‘ Hugo lowered his voice. ‘- it was probably an entirely fictional episode from Sir Tony’s imagination. He enjoyed a more than sufficient share of Mother’s Ruin, if you understand me, Rosetta.’

‘Hugo!’ gasped Xavier. ‘Uncle Tony didn’t drink gin! What are you saying?’

‘I’m saying that it was a well kept secret. As you are now old enough- as you pointed out yourself- you can be told the truth. Sir Tony was too fond of his drink, and had many fictional adventures.’

Three disbelieving faces met Hugo’s gaze. Xavier was certain Uncle Tony had not been the drunkard described by his brother; Rosetta knew that his old teacher Sir Alfred would not make up such a story as the curse of the Hound, and Miss Ruby simply disbelieved anything that Toffs said.

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‘Capital to see you, old chap!’ exclaimed Sir Alfred, clasping Sherlock Rosetta’s hand in both his own. ‘We’ll be alright now. My old friend will solve the mystery.’

‘Shh Grandfather! We don’t want to frighten the guests,’ whispered Martha Holden-Austinville.

‘Guests?’ asked Rosetta. ‘Are you holding a party?’

As Sir Alfred explained the arrangements for the Austinville’s Autumn Ball, Dr. Watson Buckton admired Rosetta. He was wearing a smart, well cut grey suit and a white shirt with a wing collar. As he took off his jacket, she saw he also wore a flattering waistcoat beneath, which showed off his well formed and attractive shoulders and arms. For how long had she admired him? She supposed it had started when they met at Oxford five years ago, she studying medicine and he psychology. Unable to reveal her secret identity, her love for him had remained unspoken and unrequited.

‘I’m afraid every habitable room in the Hall is occupied,’ concluded Sir Alfred. ‘I trust it would not be inconvenient for you to share Dr. Watson Buckton’s room for the duration of the entertainment?’

‘Of course Sir Alfred. No trouble at all,’ smiled Rosetta.

The doctor, however, was busy altering her expression from shock to manly acceptance. She didn’t realise that someone else was observing her closely.

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Sherlock Rosetta decided it was high time he did some Serious Investigating. He set off directly after meeting Sir Alfred, and took the path the unfortunate Sir Tony had last traversed.

He could see the signs of a scuffle by the riverbank and stopped to examine the scene.

He gradually became aware of a distant sound of shouting and leapt to his feet. Following the sound, he came to a thickly overgrown coppice. There was definitely a fight occurring behind the trees. He scrambled into them toward the noise. Before he could get close enough to see what was happening, a hand grabbed his arm.

‘Keep out of what’s not your business, professor!’

It was Jefferies, the head coachman, scowling threateningly.

Rosetta shook his hand off.

‘How dare you sir?’

‘At the hall, you toffs are in charge. Down ‘ere, it's our territory!’

He pushed Rosetta, but the detective was not going to stand for that, and squared up to him.

Before they came to blows however, a shirtless Campbell and Miss Nicole appeared from the undergrowth.

‘You show him Jefferies,’ jeered Campbell. ‘Airy fairy toffee nosed-‘

‘For goodness sake, stow it!’ interrupted Nicole. ‘I’m very sorry Mr Rosetta sir. These silly boys were just having fisticuffs and it got out of hand.’


‘Yes. They just cannot stop fighting over me.’ She fluttered her eyelashes at Rosetta.

‘You won’t mind if I investigate then.’ He stepped towards the trees.

Jefferies pushed rudely in front of him and there was a chorus of ‘sh, sh’. Rosetta broke through the undergrowth to the clearing, and it was deserted, although obviously the scene of a recent scuffle.

‘Nothing to see here, so keep your nose out,’ snarled the coachman, twirling his moustache.

Rosetta was not convinced and surveyed the area. Several bushes were rustling suspiciously.

‘So you can be on your way sir?’ Nicole was at his side, smiling up at him. She took his arm and propelled him back to the path. He realised it would be better to beat a hasty retreat and went along with her wishes.

Now, where else to look for clues? A small cottage on the horizon was in view of the path where Sir Tony had come to grief. Surely the occupants must have seen something on that fateful night.

Rosetta set off purposefully towards it, sword/walking stick in hand.


When he reached the cottage, his senses were immediately assailed by an overwhelming smell. It was familiar but he could not place it.

He stealthily crept round the building like a cat, but all the windows were heavily curtained. As he reached the front door, it suddenly opened and Mr Hugo Austin- Austinville slipped out.

‘Good day Mr Rosetta. Can I assist you at all?’

At the opening of the door, the strong odour became unbearable, and Rosetta was forced to cover his nose with his handkerchief. Although Mr Hugo seemed to be unaffected.

‘Clement weather for the time of year.’ Hugo seemed rather flushed and bright eyed.

‘Yes, very pleasant,’ coughed Rosetta.

‘All ready for the Autumn Ball?’

‘Yes, looking forward to it greatly.’

That smell was becoming familiar. Was it-

‘Do you live here instead of at the Hall?’

‘It’s my private bolt hole, a little place to escape the others when the atmosphere becomes too intense.’

The front door opened again, and Martha Holden-Austinville emerged. She went to Hugo and put her arm round his waist.

‘Ah,’ said Rosetta, understanding at last.

‘I trust you will keep our secret?’ Hugo looked at the detective curiously but with a hint of threat.

‘Of course. I would never compromise a lady’s reputation.’ Rosetta tipped his hat to Martha and retreated for the second time that day.

He was not entirely convinced of their story however. He realised now that the strong smell was concentrated alcohol.

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Somewhat later that day, Dr Watson Buckton decided that the correct course of action should be to interview Copeland, the gamekeeper who had been out with the Austinvilles and the unfortunate Sir Tony on that fateful day. She headed for the kitchen, as that was where she imagined the servants would congregate.

‘Hello?’ she peered cautiously round the door.

‘Come in,’ said a male voice, so she stepped in.

She was confronted with Harris, the tall muscular butler she had admired a few days previously when breaking up the fight between the coachman and the footman.

‘Doctor. What an unexpected pleasure,’ he said smoothly. ‘What can I do for you?’

She explained the reason for her visit.

‘What excellent timing. Copeland is due for his supper in approximately fifteen minutes. Do take a seat.’

The doctor sat down graciously. What on earth would be an appropriate topic of conversation with a butler?

‘Have you been to the Moors before, doctor?’ he began, saving her the trouble.

‘Oh no, I have always lived in the capital. It is an exotic adventure for me to travel as far as Yorkshire.’

‘I would hardly call Yorkshire exotic,’ he laughed. ‘I prefer a hot climate with a sandy beach myself.’

Charlie laughed, glad that he was making their conversation so pleasant.

‘So tell me doctor. Do you enjoy dressing as a man?’

She gasped at his forthrightness.

‘Oh- yes- I have always been a man, so of course- I have always enjoyed-‘

Harris placed his hand next to hers on the table. It was far larger than hers and made it look like a child’s.

‘If that’s not proof you’re a woman, I don’t know what is.’

Charlie was too shocked to reply. Luckily there was a sudden noise from the pantry.

‘What on earth-‘ Harris leapt up to investigate. ‘Good God!’

‘What is it?’ Charlie couldn’t resist following him.

‘A rat! Look!’

An enormous creature scurried along the shelf by her head and she managed not to shriek but overbalanced towards Harris.

‘Aha!’ he said, and put his arms round her, pressing her to his manly chest. He kissed her firmly and her heart pounded with long suppressed passion.

‘Father? Father?’ called a voice, and Harris set Charlie firmly away from him.

‘Yes my dear?’ he stepped out of the pantry.

‘Can you mend my necklace? The one you had sent from the Orient? The clasp has broken-‘ It was of course Miss Nicole.

‘Be aware my dear, walls have ears.’ The butler interrupted his daughter rather abruptly.

‘Sorry Father. Er- whatever were you doing in the pantry?’

‘Mrs Roberts said she saw a rat in there, so I was dealing with it.’

‘A rat? I hope you didn’t kill it.’ Miss Nicole peered into the pantry and jumped when she saw the doctor.

‘What are you doing in there? With my father?’ she asked suspiciously.

‘Oh, er I was helping him to get rid of the rat.’ Charlie hoped her hair and clothing were not too dishevelled.

‘Hm,’ said Nicole suspiciously. ‘Father, I must ask you-‘ she dragged him off out of the room, and he gave Charlie a backward glance over his shoulder.

‘Please feel welcome to wait for Copeland there,’ he called.

Now to face the gamekeeper, she said to herself, and sat down again, feeling as if she had been caught in a whirlwind.

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