I awoke next morning between sheets of sweet-smelling linen in a carved four-post bed, across the head-board of which ran the motto “STEMMATA QVID FACIVNT” in faded letters of gilt. If the appearance of the room, with its tattered hangings and rickety furniture, had counted for anything, my dreams should certainly have been haunted. But, as a matter of fact, I never slept better. Possibly the lightness of the dinner (cooked by the small handmaid Lobelia) had something to do with it; possibly, too, the infectious somnolence of the two Admirals, who spoke but little during the meal, and nodded, without attempt at dissimulation, over the dessert. At any rate, shortly after nine o’clock—when Miss Wilhelmina brought out a heavy Church Service, and Uncle Melchior read the lesson and collect for the day and a few prayers, including the one “For those at Sea”—I had felt quite ready for bed. And now, thanks to a cold compress, my ankle had mended considerably. I descended to breakfast in very cheerful mind, and found Miss Wilhelmina alone at the table.
“Uncle Peter,” she explained, “rarely comes down before mid-day; and Uncle Melchior breakfasts in his room. He is busy with the accounts.”
She smiled rather sadly. “They take a deal of disentangling.”
She asked how my ankle did. When I told her, and added that I must catch an early train back to Aber, she merely said, “I will walk to the station with you, if I may.”
And so at ten o’clock—after I had bidden farewell to Uncle Melchior, who wore the air of one interrupted in a long sum of compound addition— we set forth. I knew the child had something on her mind, and waited. Once, by a ruinous fountain where a stone Triton blew patiently at a conch-shell plugged with turf, she paused and dug at the mortared joints of the basin with the point of her sunshade; and I thought the confidence was coming. But it was by the tumble-down gate at the end of the chestnut avenue that she turned and faced me.
“I knew you yesterday at once,” she said. “You write novels.”
“I wish,” said I feebly, “the public were as quick at discovering me.”
“Somebody printed an ‘interview’ with you in ’—’s Magazine a month or two ago.”
“There was not the slightest resemblance.”
“Please don’t be silly. There was a photograph.”
“Ah, to be sure.”
“You can help me—help us all—if you will.”
“Is it about Fritz?”
She bent her head and signed to me to open the gate. Across the high-road a stile faced us, and a little church, with an acre framed in elms and set about with trimmed yews. She led the way to the low and whitewashed porch, and pushed open the iron-studded door. As I followed, the name of Van der Knoope repeated itself on many mural tablets. Almost at the end of the south aisle she paused and lifted a finger and pointed.