A month or two ago I received an unlooked-for message, which I reproduce here:
12 November 1928 Dear Sir or Mme., We write to inform you of the death or disappearance of Mme. Melody O’Shea of New York City, New York, aged 39. Since Mme. O'Shea departed without an heir and is survived by only remote relatives (yourselves included), anyone with a verifiable familial relationship to Mme. O'Shea may make a claim to her estate. A familial relationship between you and the late Mme. O'Shea has been established. If you wish to make a claim to her estate, please respond by post forthwith, and assemble with the other claimants no later than 26 December 1928 at her latest residence, the Desmarais estate in Yvelines, Louisiana. Your servants, The firm of Neuse, If D’Isigny, and Cassel
A reasonable recipient might be skeptical of this news, but I, having scant prospects and little attachment to tomorrow, responded by post and arranged to visit Yvelines in December.
A most improbable adventure followed…
- First impressions
- Diary excerpts
- Finding William
- William’s favorites
- The telegraph
- Four boxes
- Diary excerpts 2
- The pouch
- The clock
- Danu’s lock
A character of sharp dress but vague aspect waited to meet myself and nine others at the train station. Apparently, we were as many as responded to the solicitors’ summons to make claims against the Desmarais estate. I expected rather a competitive attitude from the others, but it seemed we were each out of his element and more content to be guided by our host than disposed to look after our potential gains.
I wish I could say more on our host, but my recollection of him is cloudy, and he was not with us long at all. He conducted us by coach to the great house of Desmarais, saw us all settled comfortably in the drawing room, and slipped from notice, leaving us abandoned at the very time that we awaited an explanation from him. “Wispy” is all the description I can recall of him.
Fearing to overstep our bounds, our party of ten remained waiting in uncomfortable impatience for an hour or more before investigating our surroundings with earnest.
To begin, we made brief and awkward acquaintance, each with all. We agreed that there was nobody’s privacy at risk in opening cabinets and reading effects, for the former proprietor of the house was supposed to be no more, and the new owner was all or any of us ourselves. We found the following immediately available to our investigation:
- A collection of diary excerpts probably belonging to the late Melody O’Shea
- A single diary excerpt probably belonging to the householder who pre-dated Mme. O’Shea
- An old telegraph machine which lacked telegraph wires
- A folder of music labelled “William’s Favorites”
- An old pianoforte