To the Memory of
FRITZ OPDAM DE KEYSER VAN DER KNOOPE
A Midshipman of the Royal Navy
Who was born Oct. 21st MDCCCLXVII.
By the Capsizing of H.M.S. Viper
off the North Coast of Ireland
On the 17th of January MDCCCLXXXV.
A youth of peculiar promise who lacked
but the greater indulgence of
an all-wise Providence
to earn the distinction of his forefathers
(of whom he was the last male representative)
in his Country’s service
he laid down his young life
---------- Heu miserande puer! Si qua fata aspera rumpas Tu Marcellus eris.
“Uncle Melchior had it set up. I wonder what Fritz was really like.”
“And your Uncle Peter still believes—?”
“Oh yes. I am to marry Fritz in time. That is where you must help us. It would kill Uncle Peter if he knew. But Uncle Melchior gets puzzled whenever it comes to writing; and I am afraid of making mistakes. We’ve put him down in the South Pacific station at present—that will last for two years more. But we have to invent the gossip, you know. And I thought that you—who wrote stories—”
“My dear young lady,” I said, “let me be Fritz, and you shall have a letter duly once a month.”
And my promise was kept—until, two years ago, she wrote that there was no further need for letters, for Uncle Peter was dead. For aught I know, by this time Uncle Melchior may be dead also. But regularly, as the monthly date comes round, I am Fritz Opdam de Keyser van der Knoope, a young midshipman of Her Majesty’s Navy; and wonder what my affianced bride is doing; and see her on the terrace steps with those butterflies floating about her. In my part of the world it is believed that the souls of the departed pass into these winged creatures. So might the souls of those many pictured Admirals: but some day, before long, I hope to cross Skirrid again and see.
I have thought fit in this story to alter all the names involved and disguise the actual scene of it: and have done this so carefully that, although the story has a key, the reader who should search for it would not only waste his time but miss even the poor satisfaction of having guessed an idle riddle. He whom I call Parson West is now dead. He was an entirely conscientious man; which means that he would rather do wrong himself than persuade or advise another man—above all, a young man—to do it. I am sure therefore that in burying the body of John Emmet as he did, and enlisting my help, he did what he thought right, though the action was undoubtedly an illegal one. Still, the question is one for casuists; and remembering how modest a value my old friend set on his own wisdom, I dare say that by keeping his real name out of the narrative I am obeying what would have been his wish. His small breach of the law he was (I know) prepared to answer for cheerfully, should the facts come to light. He has now gone where their discovery affects him not at all.