The Girl In The Snow
This mysterious short story by Val Bonsall is set in Victorian times.
THE card depicted a girl, arms filled with winter greenery, trudging through the snow. Adeline thought she looked weary and briefly wondered whether that had been the artist’s intention. But mostly her thoughts were on whether to send it to Charles Maine.
True, the sending of Christmas greetings had become ever more popular. These days they weren’t just for your close friends – which, she reminded herself, the man in question most certainly was not.
A psychical investigator, he called himself. Everyone else called him a ghosthunter. But in this era of science and reason – for surely that was how Victoria’s reign would be remembered – what place was there for his superstitious nonsense?
She frowned. She hadn’t heard from him for a while.
During the investigations on which she’d accompanied him, she had always succeeded in providing sensible, rational explanations for the so-called paranormal phenomena.
Maybe, at last, Adeline had convinced him. He was an educated and very presentable-looking man. Maybe he’d given up his ludicrous profession and moved to something more orthodox.
The arrival of a note halted her musings. Seeing it was from him, she smiled as she read it.
I have been invited, Miss Lee, to investigate what sounds to be an interesting case. As always, I would welcome your observations.
With the festive season approaching, I shall understand if you are too busy. I have listed the details below.
I have advised the family who requested my assistance that I may be accompanied and I enclose a letter from the lady of the house.
The “details” comprised the name of the family, their grand-sounding address and his own travel arrangements.
The enclosed letter, she was amused to note, referred to her as his “associate”, and made the point the family would be in residence for the entirety of their stay.
Could she be a ghost? It was up to Adeline and Charles to get to the bottom of the mystery . . .
“You will be relieved to note, Mr Maine,” Adeline said as, later that week, she took the seat opposite him on the train, “that we have plenty of fellow passengers today.”
He gave her a questioning look.
“The way you felt the need to have a letter written to reassure me that I would not be alone with you,” she explained. “Are we not now in the late nineteenth century, and am I not –”
“A modern and independent woman?” he finished for her. “Yes, you have mentioned it. So are you saying, Miss Lee, that you would come investigating somewhere alone with me?”
“I will remind you, Mr Maine, that I took it upon myself, on one occasion, to travel unescorted in the carriage of a locomotive, just like this one, all the way to the town of Baddersley.
“But had you not, upon my arrival, arranged to have waiting for the last leg of my journey a means of conveyance on which we would be accompanied, I would have made my displeasure clear.”
“But Miss Lee,” Maine replied with what she perceived as an alarmingly mischievous twinkle in his eye, “that was but a single occasion. The circumstances surrounding each investigation differ.”
“Let me, then, put it this way, Mr Maine,” Adeline continued, her eyes narrowing just a fraction.
“Were you, for whatever reasons of your own, to ask me to accompany you unescorted upon one of