“What’s the point of the treasure if it stays hidden? What good does it do anyone? Dash it, man. I thought a scientific man like yourself would be more helpful than that!”
"Oh, believe me, I'm interested and quite willing to help," says Alexander. "I was merely curious why you seem so pressed for time. Is the brain fever worse than it seems? I'm worried that you may be in such a hurry to find the treasure because you fear it is your last chance."
Forby thumps the table for emphasis, making the tea cups rattle.
Belatedly Harry realises, rather disappointedly, that this talk of treasure is more likely to be a fever dream. What was Dr Campbell thinking dragging them all here he harrumphs to himself. He's been sent on enough of these wild goose chases by rich men who would have been better off engaging an alienist than an inquiry agent. Still sometimes there's a few bob can be made along the way if you know where to look.
“As you can see, I am invalided. So the income the treasure would provide would be invaluable. It is a large emerald, hidden somewhere in or on the grounds of this house.”
He turns towards the fireplace, and indicates a painting hanging above it. At this distance, the companions cannot see the contents closely, but it appears to be a portrait of a man sitting at a desk. He is holding something green in his hand.
“My grandfather, Nicholas Forby. Can you see his hand? It is the stone. It is here, somewhere. I will share with you some of its value if you are able to find it. The clues must be here somewhere, but we have been unable to unravel them.”
Alexander approaches the portrait and takes a closer look. "What can you tell us about your grandfather?" he asks. "Anything we can learn about the man and how he thought may help us deduce where he hid the emerald."
Forby waves his hand.
“His folios are here on the shelves. You might learn something from those.”
Before Alexander can reach the portrait, Meddler adds, “Maybe you can learn something about the ghost, too.”
Gertrude turns and glares at Meddler, while Forby is unable to suppress a shudder. Bates, attending at the back of the room, coughs.
“It’s just a local legend. Supposedly, a green furred man is responsible for the death of Harry’s grandfather."
“Enough John!” snaps Gertrude, her composure breaking. Meddler says no more, looking abashed.
Forby begins to rub his temples.
“I have a headache coming” he complains. “I think I’d like to retire.”
He grabs the walking canes next to his chair as Bates moves to help him up. With Gertrude’s help, they walk Forby to the door.
“Please excuse us everybody” Gertrude says over her shoulder. “John, why don’t you show our guests around.”
They leave the room.
"I ken not," says Alexander. "I dinna believe in ghosts, but there are creatures that exist that are as yet unknown to science. A man with green fur could be one of those - or it could simply be a man wearing a green fur coat." He goes on to the portrait to inspect it closely after the interruption.
“This latest bout was brought about recently, I don’t know why exactly. Bates was with him when he took a turn; he might be able to tell you more.”
As the companions come closer to the painting, they are able to discern further details. Nicholas Forby is sitting at the desk adjacent to the window, seated in the very invalid chair which is now by the door. He is a small, dark, twisted figure, and his eyes seem full of pain. A white, drawn, sharp face is adorned with a small goatee. Before him is an open folio on the desk. The green object in his hand seems to be a stone, and looks the size of a hen’s egg, although Nicholas’ hand covers most of it and it is hard to make out. In the gloom over his left shoulder another face is visible; flat, sullen faithful and pallid. The painting is signed by ‘Christopher Lehmann’.
The portrait has a heavy ornate gilt frame, cast in much the same style as the other molds visible about the house. Its surface is cracked and holds a remarkable patina.
"Aye, my thoughts exactly," says Alexander, his keen eyes picking out all the details. He pays particular attention to the folio so that he can identify it. "The other man in the portrait could be a servant, always standing behind his master should he have need of him."
The painting is not detailed enough to make out anything written in the folio. But our companions’ sharp eyes notice something written in the frame.
“An Iron Dog with eyes of fire shoots sparks in Apollo’s bower”
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