‘It’s a joke,’ said my father. ‘I will have nothing to do with it.’
‘We should call the police,’ I said.
‘And be laughed at? No, I will do nothing,’ my father said.
‘I did not argue with him because he was a very stubborn man at times. But I went about with a very heavy heart after that.’ John Openshaw stopped talking and warmed his hands at the fire. Then he continued.
‘On the third day after the letter arrived, my father went to visit an old friend of his. A man called Major Freebody. I was glad that he went. To me, he seemed further from danger when he wasn’t at home. But I was wrong. On the second day that he was away, I got a telegram from the major. It told me to come at once. My father had fallen into a chalk pit. There are lots of them in that area. He was lying unconscious with a fractured skull. I hurried to him, but I was too late. My father died without ever regaining consciousness. I was told that he was coming home from Fareham just after dark. Because he didn’t know the countryside, he fell into the pit. There was no fence to stop him or warn him. It looked like an accident, and I could find nothing to suggest murder: no signs of violence, no robbery, no footmarks, and no stranger in the area. But I was not happy. I was sure something bad had happened to him. But I could not prove it.’
‘So this is how I came to inherit the estate. Why did I not give it away? Because I believed that it was bad and I would pass this bad thing on to another person. So I kept it. ‘
‘My dad died in January 1885. That was two years and eight months ago. I have lived happily at Horsham since then. I thought that this curse had ended. And then yesterday morning this came…’
John Openshaw stopped talking and took out a letter from his pocket. From the letter he shook out five little orange pips.