May the 15th, in the year of our Lord 1715
Silas, Jemmy and Harry had been visiting an old acquaintance in the coastal village of Moonfleet in Dorsetshire. After overcoming a band of vicious smugglers they had received a letter from their good friend Captain Nightingale. He had returned from France and would meet them at Greengables (Silas’ residence in Barrowbridge) with Dr Cardrew and had an interesting story to share with them. The three of them after concluding their business in Moonfleet left immediately. After an uneventful journey the weather had slowly deteriorated making travel very slow. They decided to take rooms in an inn overnight and make an early start. The Black Frock was a typical rural tavern in the village of Oath several miles from Barrowbridge. The hostelry was near the river Withy it was pretty rundown and the welcome was not exactly warm. The companions retired for the night but were hardly asleep for more than a couple of hours when they were awoken by furious knocking at the main door downstairs. Investigating the disturbance they discovered that one of the villagers had nearly drown in the river and was brought into the warmth of the inn to recover. Unconscious from his ordeal two of his neighbours had dragged him almost half a mile to the shelter of the alehouse. Silas with his limited knowledge of medicine tried the best he could to make the unlucky villager comfortable. However during his ministrations he discovered bruising around the mans neck that looked like he might have been throttled to within an inch of his life. The innkeeper would stay up with the man overnight and send for the doctor in the morning – the companions returned to their beds.
May the 16th, in the year of our Lord 1715
The innkeeper was still awake when they came down stairs in the morning. The half drowned local had not recovered consciousness during the night but help was on its way as Dr Phipps had been sent for. Silas again looked over the man before he and his companions left for Barrowbridge. He was comfortable but his breathing was laboured it was decided they could do nothing more for him. They insisted they wait until the physician got there before being on their way. Dr Phipps arrived after about an hour and attended the patient but his skills were insufficient and the villager passed away. The companions later discovered his name was John Stockley a local labourer. He would be buried in the churchyard in three days time and Dr Phipps invited Silas, Jemmy and Harry to the funeral as Stockley had no family to mourn him.
The three companions left for Barrowbridge and now the rain had finally stopped and the sun was trying desperately to warm the Spring morning. They made good time and arrived at Greengables to be met by Richard, George and the housekeeper. After explaining the reason for not arriving sooner and the unfortunate death of John Stockley they ate and spent most of the day catching up with what one another had been up too in the last few weeks. Eventually the tales returned to the ‘interesting story’ Nightingale had mentioned in his earlier correspondence.
The conversation continued into the night as Richard recalled an encounter with a French peasant whom alleged he was nearly 200 years old, his name D’Allard and he was manservant to a French marquis. The companions were interrupted by a clatter from outside of the parsonage grabbing candles to light their way they investigated. Richard and Silas searched one side of the house and the others took the opposite side. The captains trained eye was the first to spot a couple of figures running into the darkness. He shouted a warning but it was ignored, he pulled his pistol and carefully shot at the figure on the right. The familar crack of the flintlock and the black smoke that followed it was all that pierced the cool night air.
Renowned for his excellent accuracy the ball struck the prowler square between the shoulders sending him crashing to the earth. His partner unphased continued to run and disappeared into the covert to the east of the parsonage. The five friends finally caught up with each other and went to investigate where the intruder had fallen. To their dismay the injured rogue (or his corpse) was nowhere to be found. Neither was there evidence of him ever having been there in the first place. They retired for the evening vowing to continue the search at daybreak.