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Modern Rumour

Autumn 1889

Darling Arlene,

Our Charlotte Montgomery has not concerned herself with our societal class for an exceedingly due time. She is, after all, disgraced. I admit, she were a lady of immense prestige in her preceding years, yet no longer does she hold such distinction. Her husband, as you may gander, has kept quite to himself following their children’s death, and though I admit it was tragic, she has naturally followed in his striding shadow. Truly such a poor thing, I do hope she is mourning well enough. It would be quite a shame to still find the two in absolute shambles after all this time.

I, personally, in spite of all these circumstances, am quite pleased they both were absent for when their children’s polio grew worse. Could you imagine if it had spread? This is certainly not the society where we ought to worry of such grave and unrespectable matters. This is precisely why children ought to remain unseen.

I dare say, darling, I was speaking with Mrs. Jarvins a few evenings past, and she told me she heard the oddest rumours concerning Charlotte Montgomery and her little 'family of disease'. She said she had heard a neighbour saw Mr. Montgomery and his wife having dinner with three neighbourhood children, just as though they were their very own. Can you believe such atrocity? For heaven’s sake, who would allow their children to sit with that family after their own came to death by polio. It is outrageous to even consider the audacity Charlotte Montgomery must have to ask anyone such an awful request, let alone the horrid allowance this neighbour indulged. I can assure you, I most certainly would never allow such a scandal to occur in my home or with my children.

No, I fear darling Arlene, the Montgomerys are no longer part of our superior society, and it is quite decent this way. They are tainted with the stain of death and disease, which appropriately infects the lesser societies we mustn’t speak of. I cast them with such a lot into future matters. This infatuation with the macabre will not infest our society here, especially not by her hands, I assure you. Still darling, with this in mind, please do keep these matters between us. I shan’t imagine what Charlotte would portend against me if she ever found out my words concerning her. We would not advise any ill words to be found out in my direction, after all.

Ever so discretely,

Mrs. Irving

Oh by the heavens Janice !

Do you mean to say Charlotte Montgomery has truly been having dinner with the neighbour’s children? What a riveting scandal this is! I had heard such rumours among the other ladies, yet until now I had only dismissed them as measly pillow talk. I wouldn’t be surprised if this finds its way into one of those What-the-Butler-Saw machines (as they now call them). After all, it would be far more riveting than that Gertrude and Colin scandal, which filled those devices in earlier years — and for far too long, in my most humble opinion.

Dear me, Janice, you don’t think, do you? I trust your judgment, being the far superior of mature ladies I know. If this is true, you don’t believe Charlotte Montgomery may be flummut? What I mean, of course, is you don’t believe she may be out to cause any sort of harm on these children? By the heavens Janice, perhaps they have both found an ill mind. I am not so against common trends in the bigger city as you, but could you imagine the alarm these parents would take if they knew where their children were being whisked off to? Nothing good comes of bub and sis in a penny dreadful. What if her mental state infests the children? They might as well be taken up with a slang cove to lodge alongside the Elephant Man itself or even in an asylum of similar ill sorts (Cane Hill, perhaps), which is, most certainly, where Mrs. Montgomery ought to be anyhow.

Dear Janice, what ever are we to make of this horrific scandal?

With shock,

Arlene Mortis 

Dearest Arlene,

I sometimes forget how ever childish you are. Why on earth would you even mention those wretched machines? Nothing but smut for nasty men to look at. I hope I never find you peaking into such a dirty contraption. And, anyhow, I doubt that Mr. Montgomery can even afford to pay a butler, let alone any servents, these days, considering how rarely he is seen out his home. I most confidently admit he does not entertain work to any circumstance. O what an awful tramp Charlotte is married to! He is certainly no Lord Campbell, I tell you that. You very well may be right with him! Mr. Montgomery has most clearly gone ill off his onion. Or, I dare say, perhaps it is Mrs. Montgomery herself who has a hysterical tendency. I would not be any less surprised if Mr. Montgomery is merely indulging her fantasies: bringing children to their home and pretending “for Charlotte’s sake” that they are her own deceased — all while she persists to put on her mourners. I am ineffably alarmed by this whole matter.


Mrs. Irving 


You can be such a dizzy age sometimes. Those machines have much more than mere ‘erotic’ pictures for dirty men. Your poor experience at the Crystal Palace oughtn't be your prejudice. I visited Vauxhall Gardens last spring, as you quite know, and I peeked into many that showed everything from gay slapstick to zoology. It was such a splendid time, you simply must go soon.

Now, concerning Charlotte Montgomery, I think it best we alert our suspicions to the incurable Constable Manslow, or perhaps the dear Reverend McPherson. I think he would be most interested to know the alarming state for which the Montgomerys have befallen and, I admit, the opportunity is quite admired by myself — to have moment with that handsome Irish fellow. We, sensibly, both know the constable would be of little use in the matter, after all. Such are certain peelers it seems. I believe the dear reverend would most assuredly be the man to address this matter with.

Yours concerned,

Arlene Mortis 

Dearest Reverend,

Your previous sermon solicited an incurable sentiment in me. I think you might be of truest wit, if I may allow such handsome ideal. I believe I might have even drawn my handkerchief across my cheek once or twice, forgetting where I was respectfully. I blushed most feverishly at this. Forgive me dearest reverend, if you may.

Being the ideal of good charm and virtue, for which you are, I thought it best to bring a certain matter to your sensible attention. My ever, so very kind gentleman, I write to you concerning the suspicion that Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery have fallen into a most ill state. As you are most aware, Mrs. Montgomery has taken her course of time to mourn and Mr. Montgomery has respectfully done the same; however, it is quite past such a period of appropriate mourning, and there appears to stand an even more alarming matter than this absence from our intellectual society. What I mean to say is, it would appear that Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery have taken up to “borrowing” neighbourhood children for the company of their meals. I dare say the thought may be disconcerting, yet the discovery of its truth could pose an even more alarming matter. I fear, you understand dear reverend, that Charlotte may be imaging the children to be her own.

I would never hope to draw off of mere rumour, and hope you do not suspect me of such, so I thought it best to bring this matter into your witful attention. I trust your judgement most assuredly. Now, having addressed this, it would befit me well if you may escort me a further evening, to speak more of your sensible words and what have you, of course.

Yours evermore,

Arlene Mortis 

Miss Mortis,

I am pleased ye appreciate me sermon, yet I am but a mere servant of our Lord. I understand yer good intention, though I hope ye have not found yerself an idler, indulging in the vanities of gossips and busybodies. I solicit yer attention to the aim at which yer passions have driven ye about. It best yen’t abandon yer faith in Crist to over concern yerself with the matters of idle women. If ye wish to discuss yer livelihood in Crist, then yeu may come about me office for the matter. I hope ye haven’t a false leading though.

I will enspect the matter of the Montgomery family. Thankin’ ye for drawing concern into their wellbeing.

With respect,

The Reverend McPherson 

Dear Inspector Adams,

I am writing to inform ye that the bodies of Suzy, Marie, and Benjamin Montgomery have recently gone missing from me cemetery. It would appear someone had dug up theyr corpses, removing from theyr incasing caskets. As ye may find from Constable Manslow, the destination to the corpses’ whereabouts is still unknown, however they do appear to have been removed in an especially gentle and cleanly manner. The constable suspected it the act of a relative, though he were hesitant to worry Mr. or Mrs. Montgomery with the situation, given theyr recent loss.

Furthermore, in this likely matter, I haven’t heard at all from the father, Charles Montgomery, for a good four months now. I amn’t insinuating any foul play, yet I am very concerned, in light of both these disappearances from me grimesyard and his own absence. I have made numerous attempts to contact Mrs. Montgomery and have stopped about theyr home on various hours, yet I somehow seem to miss both on every.

I am most concerned with the couple’s wellbeing, having recently lost all three children to polio. The constable has exhausted his available resources, which I admit are lacking, and so I found it appropriate to bring the matter to yer attention. Please inform me of any services ye may provide into the subject. By the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I pray we may ensure a kindly resolution to the Montgomery family.


Reverend McPherson 

Constable Manslow,

It has come to my attention that a grave robbing has occurred in you’s jurisdiction, yet you have failed to resolve the case. As is my duty to the court, I am undertaking full account over this matter and so request any findings you may have in possession. I would expect full cooperation to be made of you.

Inspector Adams

Insp. Adams,

You must be mistaken. There was a suspicious removing of the Montgomery children, yet I made inquiry and made strait the purpose of it. You see insp., the Mont. had appropriately hired a fotografer to come about and take a few postmorteem portraits. Yet, being the busy season and all, I suppose he made delay. So, to your correction, they brang the bodies back up when he could make age and take care of the matter. Art is so fickle it seems; I don’t care any beans for it. Now, I haven’t seen the photos personally — little too macabre for my tastes — but I am quite assured there’s not much more to it than all that. You may contact J. F. Groutom, the fotografer, if it pleases you, but I can assure the case is quite closed and such.


Constable Manslow

Mister Groutom,

Following my investigation into the removing of the Montgomery children from their gravesites, I have come to understanding you as the postmortem photographer. To better understand what precisely has come to pass with the Montgomery family, I would hope to record you’s dealing of interactions with the family and their deceased children. Please return to me a full account of you’s role in the matter.

Inspector Adams

Dear me Janice,

I must be more balmy in the crumpet than my mother were. I could have sworn on my walk to pay visit with the Montgomery family that I saw little Marie waving out a coach window to me. Unless, o I faint at the thought, it couldn’t have been a neighbour’s child?  — o posh, of course not — utter rumour, I say. I simply must have caught a little ill in nearness to the family. Be weary of them, Janice; there is no knowing of what absolute horrors they might infest. Forgive my absence from this weekend’s tea, I think it best I remain indoor a few.

Ever cautious,

Eleanor Jarvins 

Dear Inspector Adams,

The account I now send you is by my own hand’s witness. Whether you believe it or not is to your own discretion, yet I can assure you I am not a fantastical man and would have little reason to fictionalise such an occurrence.

On the eve of the 27th in October — about 8 its morning, the hour being the scheduled photoshoot — I arrived to the Montgomery residence. Charlotte Montgomery welcomed me within and directed me to their parlour, where lay her deceased daughter, Marie, on a chaise sofa, beside a vase of dried peonies. This was customarily usual, as most families prefer to sit their relatives up on this sort of furniture, the curve providing a visual life companion with the body. The dead flowers being in contrary: I should have taken their omen, I suppose. What was unusual, very unusual in my memory now, is, not only were the child quite undecayed after so much passing time, when Charles Montgomery brought the girl’s body about, he further commented that, “The other two are pleasantly retired to their beds. I am certain they would love to join little Marie, but they were ever so weary.” I suspected this was mere hopeful speech on the father’s part and that I simply knew little of decomposition; however, I fear this was far less simple than any of that. I very much fear. You understand inspector, after the couple had set Marie on the lounge, and I was settled in my place and about to shoot, Charlotte interjected with an odd bowler cap for Marie to be topped with; “Forgive my intrusion, mister Groutom, you will understand quite presently,” she defended to me. I, as anyone might, found it peculiar in the moment, yet I never suspected what it would result in. Never in my maddest dreams. And now, even still, my dreams are haunt by its memory.

I repeat myself, inspector, I am of quite sound mind. When Charlotte placed the cap on the child’s cold and lifeless head — o inspector, my hands are sweating even now at the memory of it — the dead thing’s eyes burst open and out its mouth shouted, “Morning mummy!” as though its candle was well burning as usual. I hardly sleep anymore, inspector. My dear sleep! And then it turned to me and said, “Do I look pleasant, mister photo man?” Do I look pleasant!? PLEASANT?!! Man alive! (most truly) I’ve still a cocked hat in the whole matter. Charlotte simply looked up after that, must have shouted to me a tenfold before I came out from shock, and said, “Now isn’t that better, mister Groutom!” The bloody child was as fidgety as any other!

The parents insisted all the children be photographed in this manner — as soon as they had “kipped”. I dare say, I preferred them dead meat. The moment the cap was removed, the child would fall back to its limp “sleepy” state and Charlotte would tear a little, saying, “The children are ever so tired as of recent. I hope they haven’t a puny feelin’.”

If I may, inspector, I felt faintly sorry for the woman. Undoubtedly, the whole matter gave me a puny feelin’ myself. I am done with children, inspector, living or dead. Please do not refer me to any of your married friends. I'm retiring to Stratford where the only corpses are bad actors. And I hope you do not require my further visiting to the family for this. I sincerely hope you do not.

As sanely as I may,

J.F. Groutom 

Dear Ms. Montgomery,

I would hope to inform you of the unkindly

rumours spreading about your neighbourhood in regards to your welfare. I was especially disjointed by the news of your children’s passing, and I am ever concerned with hearing of your husband’s poor condition. I do hope he has improved. I can assure you most are well unaware to his state, regardless; only I, being the knowing fox I am, made my own knowledge of his illness.

Attached you will find a preceding of exchanges between your neighbours and what-have-you’s (as well as new peonies). I snatched them off their letter desks while they were away (the letters, not the peonies) — I suppose you could call me a foxy snakesman! Any-who, I would rather such slanders not be spoken among silly humans. I have been around long enough to know what social violence you vertical folk endure and commence.

On a further matter, I am well acquainted with this stupendous hat you have come into possession with. I must, by my own accord, send cautions about its use. It can be an awfully alluring ornament of fixing. Best you leave it behind in further comings.

Finally, I have received notice that a James Moody inquires to purchase your homestead, if you so happen to find it necessary a sell in the near future.

I do hope you are well.



Forgive my retard in returning with you. My family had taken a few days holiday as I had been feeling out of sorts of recent. We, as one may be joyful of, are fetching exceedingly well in our return. Thank you ever so much for your concern. I am, unfortunately, well unaware to this grave robbing you investigate. Pardon my limited use in the matter. I have, after all, been especially kept up and well away from most circumstances.


Charles Montgomery 


Enclosed you’s ‘ill find my report on the “Montgomery account” (as I’m calling it). In short, I inquired on the Montgomery residence and found its place empty. I inquired on the parish church and found its gravesites in usual condition. If there’s be any more to this account, I’s think it best be the concern of others elsewhere. I am saying the flint is fixed for now.


Mister Detective Adams,

Are you here about the Montgomery circumstance? I am set for a healthy distance from the family; best no others contract their illness, after all. I do hope none of the neighbours came to find any harm in it. I find my heart faint to even ponder on the thought, though I suspect you would ensure otherwise. I would also suspect you could find the terrible Jack, given the opportunity. You seem as quick as a steel trap, mister detective. Anyhow, I saw you leaving the reverend’s office on our past day, I think our eyes may have even found each other in passing. I hope you haven’t an intention on leaving anytime too soon. You may, mister detective, see me home if it pleases you and may even pass me a sweet card if you so happen to have one being neglected. My fan is sitting near my heart, detective.


Miss Arlene Mortis 


Admirable work in Smitham, your report arrived yesternight — but by the horn spoons, the town is plum crazy! It is clear to me, whether the Montgomery account was a matter of importance or not, that every citisen who has come on contact with that matter is a critter of loon and I shan’t think the rest its township any saner. However, I do believe the new location is suiting to you. I trust your health will not follow to its other citisens, and so by, I have seen to your promoting rank of chief in its county. I am sertain your new authority will polish out any defect and bring order to its rambunctiouns. We will sort the papers when you arrive back in station.


Chief Hershly


Dear Rev. McPherson,

Charles, the children, and myself are quite thankful for your concern. We are doing rather well, however. Splendidly, in fact. I apologise we have not been in attendance the previous few months. We are, if you may believe this, going to be moving our diggings soon. We have recently received a very handsome offer on our entire homestead and believe it would be best. Benjamin is somewhat hesitant about this, yet, Marie, being ever so joyful and lively, is quite ecstatic.

Love from the Montgomerys,


Was it darling ?Only dreadful.Respectfully, no.Dear me !Most lovely.By the heavens !Was it darling ?
150 Peepers ravish it