“Do you think he suspects that these remains may be those of your uncle?”
“I think so, though he has said nothing to that effect, and, of course, I have not made any such suggestion to him. We always preserve the fiction between ourselves of believing that Uncle John is still alive.”
“But you don’t think he is, do you?”
“No, I am afraid I don’t; and I feel pretty sure that my father doesn’t think so either, but he doesn’t like to admit it to me.”
“Do you happen to remember what bones have been found?”
“No, I don’t. I know that an arm was found in the Cuckoo Pits, and I think a thigh-bone was dredged up out of a pond near St. Mary Cray. But Miss Oman will be able to tell you all about it, if you are interested. She will be delighted to meet a kindred spirit,” Miss Bellingham added, with a smile.
“I don’t know that I want to claim spiritual kinship with a ghoul,” said I; “especially such a very sharp-tempered ghoul.”
“Oh, don’t disparage her, Doctor Berkeley!” Miss Bellingham pleaded. “She isn’t really bad-tempered; only a little prickly on the surface. I oughtn’t to have called her a ghoul; she is just the sweetest, most affectionate, most unselfish little angelic human hedgehog that you could find if you travelled the wide world through. Do you know that she has been working her fingers to the bone making an old dress of mine presentable because she is so anxious that I shall look nice at your little supper-party.”
“You are sure to do that, in any case,” I said; “but I withdraw my remark as to her temper unreservedly. And I really didn’t mean it, you know; I have always liked the little lady.”
“That’s right; and now won’t you come in and have a few minutes’ chat with my father? We are quite early, in spite of the short cuts.”
I assented readily, and the more so inasmuch as I wanted a few words with Miss Oman on the subject of catering and did not want to discuss it before my friends. Accordingly I went in and gossiped with Mr. Bellingham, chiefly about the work that we had done at the Museum, until it was time for me to return to the surgery.
Having taken my leave, I walked down the stairs with reflective slowness and as much creaking of my boots as I could manage; with the result, hopefully anticipated, that as I approached the door of Miss Oman’s room it opened and the lady’s head protruded.
“I’d change my cobbler if I were you,” she said.
I thought of the “angelic human hedgehog,” and nearly sniggered in her face.
“I am sure you would, Miss Oman, instantly; though, mind you, the poor fellow can’t help his looks.”
“You are a very flippant young man,” she said severely. Whereat I grinned, and she regarded me silently with a baleful glare. Suddenly I remembered my mission and became serious and sober.
“Miss Oman,” I said, “I very much want to take your advice on a matter of some importance—to me, at least.” (That ought to fetch her, I thought.) The “advice fly”—strangely neglected by Izaak Walton—is guaranteed to kill in any weather. And it did fetch her. She rose in a flash and gorged it, cock’s feathers, worsted body and all.