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THE SNOWMAN – A Ghost Story for Christmas Part 5

Monday December 26th 1814

The morning was crisp and bright, the Squire and the Rector were watching as the tree was removed from the pond. The estate woodsmen had cut the stump clear and now three teams of horses had been chained to the tree and were in the process of dragging it clear of the water. Ice cracked as the horses strained, slowly it began to move.

The gentlemen were distracted as a post chaise stopped on the road behind them. A tall gentleman in a long brown coat stepped out, he walked over to see them.

“Excuse me gentlemen, can you direct me to two ladies of the name of Beddoes.”

Sir Thomas looked the brown man up and down and asked.

“Is this to do with Mr David Beddoes?”

The man looked surprised, “What do you know of Mr Beddoes?”

“Only what I have read in the newspapers, and that he is Miss Beddoes cousin.” He paused, then continued. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Sir Thomas Scott and this is the Reverend Edward Grainger, we are the local magistrates and well acquainted with the Miss Beddoes.”

“Excellent, I am John Shallard, an officer from Bow Street, and I have come to enquire if the Miss Beddoes have any knowledge of their cousin, we believe he came here at the end of November.”

“I believe he did too.” Replied the Rector, “But do not stand out here in the cold, come into the Rectory and we will tell you all we know, then we can visit the Miss Beddoes in their cottage.”

They had just turned away from the pond when there was a shout, they turned to see a man running towards them.

“Rector,” he panted, “in the pond, I fear ‘tis a body.”

“I feared as much,” he replied, then turning to the Runner, “Come with us sir, I am afraid what we find may be of use to you in your enquiries.”

Down by the pond there was a mass of clothing bobbing in the water.

“Go and get the thatch hook from the church, that should reach. I don’t want any of you going in this water.” ordered the Rector. Shortly afterwards two men came running back carrying the long wooden pole with a hook at one end, used for pulling burning thatch from a building. It took three tries before the hook caught on the bundle and it was dragged to shore.

“It’s not one body, it’s two!” shouted one of the men.

The Rector murmured a quiet prayer as Mr Shallard bent and looked at the bodies. They seemed to be wrapped together, he stood up.

“Gentlemen, this is the strangest thing I have ever seen. These bodies are tightly wrapped together, as though one was holding onto the other. However that cannot be as one body has been dead for some time, the other but a little while.”

The Rector and Sir Thomas looked down, at the same time they said, “Michael Scott!”

“Michael Scott,” said the Bow Street Runner, “I know him as Mr Frank Gifford, he had rooms in the same building as Beddoes and Smyth. Do you know who the other man is?”

The face was horribly distorted, both the gentlemen shook their heads, then Dr Gardiner said.

“The buttons on his coat, they are missing.”

“Does that mean something?” Asked the Runner, he eased the coat open and pulled out a watch. Sir Thomas held his hand out, and looked at it closely. He showed it to the Rector, then said.

“This watch bears the monogram of David Beddoes. I suspect the body is his.”

“But why should the body of David Beddoes, who has been dead for at least a month, be grasping the body of Frank Gifford or Michael Scott, who is only recently dead?”

Summer 1815

Sir Thomas and Dr Grainger sat on a bench in his garden, looking across the village green. A flock of geese and three goats grazed peacefully.

“Where has Lady Scott taken my wife?” Asked the Rector , “She seemed so agitated, as though there was no time to lose.”

“She and Charlotte have taken your wife to Stanton House, apparently there is some problem with the colour of the cloth for the curtains in the great parlour. They are meeting the linen draper there.”

“Poor man, I pity him.” Dr Grainger paused, “The house will be ready well before the wedding.”

“I never thought it would be James that wanted to postpone the wedding, though I admire him for it. Wanting to be ordained and the Rector of Stanton before they marry.”

They looked across towards the pond again, it was covered with little white flowers.

“As though it was covered in snow,” said Sir Thomas, he paused, “do you ever wonder what happened that night?”

The Rector was silent for a moment, then he leant forward and spoke quietly, “When the door opened, I was the only one who could see clearly. For a moment I saw Michael Scott, I will never forget the terror in his eyes, then he was pulled backwards, and the door slammed.”

“Pulled, who by?” said his friend quietly.

“All I could see were arms round his body – they seemed to be made of snow.”

It suddenly seemed very cold.



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THE SNOWMAN – A Ghost Story for Christmas Part 3

Saturday December 24th 1814

Sir Thomas was as good as his word and arrived at the Rectory early the next morning. He was shown into the Rector’s study where he found Dr Grainger and his son polishing the church plate.

“So was any of it damaged?”

“The chalice was bent sir, but I have been able to straighten it out enough to use tomorrow, though it will need to be sent to a silversmith. The worse damage was to the flagon, the lid has come off.”

Sir Thomas patted his future son-in-law on the shoulder.

“My great grandmother gave the plate to the church nearly a hundred years ago, and I will happily pay for the repairs, after all the damage was caused in a very good cause.” He patted James again, “in fact the best of causes.” He then sat down in one of the chairs by the fire and turned to the Rector.

“Is there any news of that blaggard Scott?”

“No, Sir Thomas, I had the constable carry out a search in the village but nothing was found, thought in this weather there are several barns and outbuildings it was difficult to get to last night, they will search again today.”

“Well he made no attempt to return to the Manor to fetch his things, and I have got the groundsmen searching the park. Do you think he is still here?”

“He hasn’t left on the turnpike either, neither of the toll keepers saw a single rider yesterday.” He picked up a newspaper, “This was the paper you gave me the other day. There is an item in it which may be significant, a robbery in London, did you notice it?”

“Only vaguely, what is it?”

The Rector put on his glasses and began to read.

‘Mysterious Robbery. A most strange occurrence has been reported at the house of Beddoes and Smyth, East India Merchants, Henrietta Street. Mr John Smyth, junior partner, returned to the house on the 15th inst having been the previous month in Paris, visiting several merchant houses in that city which is now open following the much longed for peace. He was much surprised to find his partner, Mr David Beddoes absent, and his clerk unaware of his current location. According to the clerk Mr Beddoes had left the office at the end of November, intending to visit relations in the country, and had not returned, not having the address of these relations he had been unable to contact him. Mr Smyth now entered their joint office, which was locked and to which he and Mr Beddoes had the only keys. All seemed in order, but on opening the strongbox, banknotes to the value of £110 were found to be missing. Whilst Mr Beddoes could have taken them, Mr Smyth was concerned and, on communicating with his bank, discovered that one of the notes had been cashed in Bristol at the beginning of this month. As the firm has no business in that city, Mr Smyth communicated the facts as he knew them to the Magistrates at Bow Street. A search is now under way for Mr David Beddoes.’

“Beddoes, do you think it is anything to do with our Miss Beddoes?”

“Well they did say their cousin was called David. Why don’t we ask them?”

“Good idea.” Sir Thomas paused and then said, “Where did you say the banknote was passed?” Dr Grainger, picked up the paper, “Bristol”, he said.

“That’s strange.” Replied Sir Thomas, “I am sure I saw something from Bristol in Mr Scott’s bags when he arrived.” He thought for a moment, then said.

“James, will you ride to the Manor and bring back Mr Scott’s bags, whilst your father and I go and see Miss Beddoes and her sister.”

James had just set off, Sir Thomas smiling to see him go.

“I think he will be looking for excuses to ride to the Manor all the time now.”

Dr Grainger bent to pick up the newspaper then said suddenly “DB”

“DB?” said Sir Thomas puzzled.

“Yes the buttons, the buttons that appeared on the snowman, they had a monogram on them. I cleaned one, it’s here somewhere.”

He turned over various papers on his table, eventually pulling out one.

“I cannot see it now, but here is a tracing I did of the button. Look at the pattern doesn’t it look like an interlaced D & B.”

“I see, we had better bring that too, see if the Miss Beddoes can identify it.”

Wrapped up in their coats they walked across the green, they stopped by the snowman.

“Those are the buttons I was talking about.” Dr Grainger pointed, then gasped.

“What is it?” asked Sir Thomas.

“The buttons, there were eight and I removed one. There are eight now, where did the other one come from.”

Sir Thomas bent and looked at the buttons, then he gasped.

“Look at the bottom one, it is clean. It is as though the one you took and cleaned has come back.”

“Magic, just like Miss Fanny said.” The Rector paused, then said, “Good Lord. Michael Scott, I wonder.”

“What is it?”

“Your daughter said she had read the name Michael Scott in a story by Sir Walter Scott, I wonder if your guest had read the same book.”

“You mean it was an alias?”

“Perhaps, but no more now.”

They had arrived at the cottage where the Miss Beddoes lived, they were welcomed effusively and shown into the tiny, warm parlour. They had to wait until the maid had brought tea before they were able to ask them about their cousin. When they read the article they were shocked.

“What can have happened to cousin David? He is always so careful”

“Have you ever met his partner, Mr Smyth?” asked Sir Thomas.

“Yes, David brought him here last summer. They had been going somewhere on business. Mr Smyth is a delightful young man, he is Scotch and he read Marmion so beautifully. He said we should hear it in a Scottish accent as that is how Sir Walter had written it.”

Miss Henrietta handed the Rector a second cup of tea, he looked at the cup and said.

“This is very fine china.”

“Oh yes,” Miss Henrietta replied. “Cousin David gave it to us.”

“He had it specially made. He sent all the way to China.” Added her sister.

“And two years later the set arrived.”

“It has a special mark, made of his initials.”

Both Sir Thomas and the Rector recognised the design, it was the one on the buttons, now decorating the snowman. It was as they walked back across the green that Sir Thomas suddenly said.

“The hat! You said that Mr Scott was very upset about the hat?”

“Yes, he seemed to think that Miss Frances had done something devious.”

“Well do you remember what Miss Beddoes said at the party, when she said she had thought she had seen her cousin with Mr Scott. She said he was wearing an old hat trimmed with white lace.”

He pointed at the snowman’s head, crowned with the old tricorn.

“An old hat trimmed with white lace.” Said the Rector, he turned to look at the pond.

“I think it ought to be dragged when it thaws.” Said Sir Thomas quietly.

“Until then I don’t think we should say anything of our suspicions.”

Sir Thomas nodded.

As they returned to the Rectory, James was at the Manor house. Charlotte met him with a broad smile.

“James, mama has just told me the most amazing thing. It is about Stanton Lacy.”

“Yes my love, will you like living in the Rectory there.”

“I would live anywhere with you, but it is not the Rectory where I think we will be living but at Stanton House.”

“Stanton House?”

“Yes, Stanton House, you see it is mine, all of Stanton Lacy is mine, or will be when we marry.”

James sat down on a hall chair shocked.

“You see it belonged to my grandmother, she left it to me, to come to me, on my marriage.”

James suddenly smiled.

“You realise that our parents have been planning everything, the living for me, the manor for you.”

It was some time before they went to find Lady Scott.

Michael Scott’s bags were already packed, but the sky was getting dark as James prepared to return to his father. Before he did so the head gamekeeper arrived with news that someone had been seen in the far coverts.

“Do you think it is that villain?” Lady Scott asked.

“Well it is certainly not poachers,” he grinned, “The best poachers in the village are helping us search.”

Charlotte suddenly clutched James’s arm.

“Will you be safe getting back to the village, and will father be safe coming back here?”

“Well, he certainly will have a grudge against the young master.” The gamekeeper smiled approvingly at James. “Can I suggest that Bob Smith rides with him when he returns.”

“Bob Smith?” said Charlotte.

“Head groom, also used to be Corporal in the Militia and went ten rounds with Black William.”

“An old soldier and a prizefighter, a perfect companion in the circumstances.” Said Lady Scott.

The sun was getting low in the sky as they rode into the village, all was peaceful, they had seen no sign of Michael Scott. When Sir Thomas and the Rector looked through his belongings there was no further clue, though a bill clearly indicated that he, or someone called Frank Gifford, had been in Bristol in early December.

“I don’t think there is anything more we can do.” Said the Rector, “We will keep a watch out for Michael Scott, and on Monday write to Bow Street.”

Sir Thomas rode home, accompanied by Bob Smith, and the Rectory family settled down for the evening. Later the singers came round, and they stood in the window to listen to them, after they finished ‘God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen’ the Rector sent them round to the kitchen where they were well filled with spiced ale before heading home.

They were still singing the same carol as they left the Rectory, the Rector watched as they walked along the road and around the green, clearly the villagers also feared the snowman. He suddenly realised they were repeating the same verse.

Fear not, then said the Angel,

Let nothing you affright,

This day is born a Saviour,

Of virtue, power, and might,

So frequently to vanquish all

The friends of Satan quite.


At that point the moon came out from behind the cloud, it was nearly full and very bright. The snowman had gone, looking around he saw it, on the far end of the green, standing at the end of the drive that led to the manor. That night he checked the locks on the doors twice.


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THE SNOWMAN – A Ghost Story for Christmas Part 1

Last year I was challenged to write a Regency ghost story, and this is the result. My brother kindly posted it on his blog (I wasn’t blogging then) and has just re-blogged it here. I have decided to publish it here as well, so read on.

The Snowman (Robert Johnson circa 1790)  later engraved by Thomas Bewick


Thursday December 22nd 1814

That morning the Rev Edward Grainger scraped the ice off his study window and looked across his garden towards the village. His garden, in which he spent a great deal of time in more clement weather, dipped down towards the road, on the other side of which was the wide village green, and beyond that the church. This morning however something was different, he looked closer and realised that the tree beside the pond, which had been frozen since late November, had split in two, one half still stood, the other had fallen into the pond and smashed the ice.

Pulling on his coat, he walked down the path and across the green to where several men were standing around the fallen tree.

“Morning Sir.” Caleb Smith, the sexton, touched his hat. “T’would be the cold did it, I suppose.”

“I am sure you are right.” The Rector replied, “The squire told me the other day that several trees in the new plantation had lost branches in the past few weeks.”

“It would be easy enough to get the wood out of the pond, two pair of horses could do it. But what would become of the timber.”

“Well, it would be no good for anything other than firewood. The tree belongs to the parish, so I suggest that the wood goes to the alms house.” He smiled at the old sexton. “I am sure that you can find the men to cut the wood, the parish will pay.” Adding, “As it will be cold work, send the men to the Rectory kitchen afterwards, there will be hot ale for all.”

Smiling the sexton began rounding up the men. As the Rector turned back towards his house his two sons, just returned from school and university for the holidays, came running out towards him. They looked at the smashed ice on the pond.

“Sorry lads,” the sexton said, “There is no way you can skate today, t’will be a day or two before the ice is thick enough to skate on again.”

“That’s all right.” said James, the eldest, “We were going to build a snowman anyway.”

An hour later he saw that his sons had organised the rest of the village boys, to build a large snowman beside the path that crossed the green, as the dusk came on it looked very realistic, just like a large man in a greatcoat looking towards the Rectory.

That evening the Rector, accompanied by his wife and elder son, drove across the park to the Manor House. Sir Thomas had sent his carriage to bring the Rectory family, together with the Misses Beddoes, the daughters of the previous Rector, who lived in a cottage beside the church. The Rev. Grainger often joked that their home was more convenient for the church than the Rectory, which always made them giggle.

Lights from the manor house shone across the frozen snow of the park as they approached, the cold was bitter, the hot bricks that they had been given as they began their short journey were now ice cold. Their welcome was warm enough to disperse the cold, Lady Scott loved entertaining and was always looking for a reason to hold a party, and Christmas gave her the perfect excuse for bringing together all the neighbouring families. Most of the people gathered in the great hall they knew, but there was one gentleman there they had never seen before, he was introduced as Michael Scott, a distant cousin of Sir Thomas.

“In fact I know nothing about him,” the baronet said to the Rector later in the evening, “I was introduced to him at my club in London, as a distant relative, and Jane insisted on inviting him down. I thought he might be interested in one of my daughter’s but he makes no efforts there.” He looked across to where James was dancing with Charlotte, the oldest of his three girls. Lady Scott broke in.

“Yes, they make a lovely couple. It would be delightful if they did marry.” “But not for some time, they are much too young.” The Squire replied, but his tone expressed approbation of the idea.

This pleasant conversation was suddenly interrupted by a commotion on the other side of the large room.

“You are mistaken, I doubt you have the wit to recognise your own cat if it stuck its claws into your skinny legs in the dark.”

Mr Scott stormed out of the room, leaving the two misses Beddoes sobbing, Lady Scott and Mrs Grainger ran across to calm them. A few moments later Sir Thomas and the Rector joined the ladies in the small room where they had taken the shocked spinsters, curious to know what had caused the commotion. The women were all sipping tea, and were talking quietly over what had happened.

“It is so strange,” Mrs Grainger began, “It was about nothing. Miss Beddoes mentioned that she thought she had seen Mr Scott in the village before and he got very cross about it.”

“Yes” interrupted Miss Henrietta, the younger of the two sisters. “It was nothing, It was about a month ago, the night was very cold but the moon was bright and I had seen a ring round it.”

“So she called me to the window.” Interrupted Miss Beddoes. “And on the green we saw two men, one looked just like our cousin David, he was wearing that old hat he always did, the one trimmed with white lace.”

“And the other looked like Mr Scott.” Continued her sister, and then they walked into the shadow of the tree by the pond.”

“But it couldn’t have been Mr. Scott. Because Mr Scott said it wasn’t him.”

“And it couldn’t have been David as he would have called to see us, however late it was.” Henrietta finished triumphantly.

Curious, but concerned for his neighbours, the Rector said. “But you are still shocked, I will send for the carriage and we will take you home straight away.”

“Oh No.” said the Miss Beddoes simultaneously, “We don’t want to spoil anything, and the young people are having so much fun.” She looked across to where James and another young man were serving slices of cake to several young ladies, including the squire’s daughters.

The Rectory party were amongst the last to leave. As they were putting on their coats and cloaks, the Rector was reminded of the events of the morning. Charlotte bent towards his son and said softly.

“If I can I will come and see your snowman tomorrow.”

“Well take your sisters and Miss Grey, and wrap up warm, my dear.” said her mother, who had overheard the conversation.

“Take this Reverend.” Said her husband, handing the Rector a newspaper, ‘I have finished with it.” Sir Thomas took the Morning Chronicle whilst the Rector took The Times, the papers were very expensive and were published weekly, so the two gentlemen took one each and exchanged them regularly.

As they walked up the path to their front door the Rector looked back across the village green. On the far side lights showed where the Misses Beddoes were getting out of Sir Thomas’s carriage. He stopped, puzzled until his wife called him inside. He was certain the snowman had been to the left of the path, but it was now clearly on the right.

To be continued

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