The Girl In The Snow

This mys­te­ri­ous short story by Val Bon­sall is set in Vic­to­rian times.

The People's Friend Special - - HERITAGE 29 -

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?”

Ade­line smiled.

“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

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