“O! ARTEMIDORUS, FAREWELL!”
Whether or not Mr. Jellicoe was surprised to see us, it is impossible to say. His countenance (which served the ordinary purposes of a face, inasmuch as it contained the principal organs of special sense, with the inlets to the alimentary and respiratory tracts) was, as an apparatus for the expression of the emotions, a total failure. To a thought-reader it would have been about as helpful as the face carved upon the handle of an umbrella; a comparison suggested, perhaps, by a certain resemblance to such an object. He advanced, holding his open note-book and pencil, and having saluted us with a stiff bow and an old-fashioned flourish of his hat, shook hands rheumatically and waited for us to speak.
“This is an unexpected pleasure, Mr. Jellicoe,” said Miss Bellingham.
“It is very good of you to say so,” he replied.
“And quite a coincidence—that we should all happen to come here on the same day.”
“A coincidence, certainly,” he admitted; “and if we had all happened not to come—which must have occurred frequently—that also would have been a coincidence.”
“I suppose it would,” said she, “but I hope we are not interrupting you.”
“Thank you, no. I had just finished when I had the pleasure of perceiving you.”
“You were making some notes in reference to the case, I imagine,” said I. It was an impertinent question, put with malice aforethought for the mere pleasure of hearing him evade it.
“The case?” he repeated. “You are referring, perhaps, to Stevens versus the Parish Council?”
“I think Doctor Berkeley was referring to the case of my uncle’s will,” Miss Bellingham said quite gravely, though with a suspicious dimpling about the corners of her mouth.
“Indeed,” said Mr. Jellicoe. “There is a case, is there; a suit?”
“I mean the proceedings instituted by Mr. Hurst.”
“Oh, but that was merely an application to the Court, and is, moreover, finished and done with. At least, so I understand. I speak, of course, subject to correction; I am not acting for Mr. Hurst, you will be pleased to remember. As a matter of fact,” he continued, after a brief pause, “I was just refreshing my memory as to the wording of the inscriptions on these stones, especially that of your grandfather, Francis Bellingham. It has occurred to me that if it should appear by the finding of the coroner’s jury that your uncle is deceased, it would be proper and decorous that some memorial should be placed here. But, as the burial-ground is closed, there might be some difficulty about erecting a new monument, whereas there would probably be none in adding an inscription to one already existing. Hence these investigations. For if the inscription on your grandfather’s stone had set forth that ’here rests the body of Francis Bellingham,’ it would have been manifestly improper to add ‘also that of John Bellingham, son of the above.’ Fortunately the inscription was more discreetly drafted, merely recording the fact that this monument is ’sacred to the memory of the said Francis,’ and not committing itself as to the whereabouts of the remains. But perhaps I am interrupting you?”