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?”
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.