When the Consul entered her room, his wife was sitting on the sofa, engaged in conversation with her brother-in-law.
“How are you? how are you, Christian Frederick?” said Richard, gaily. “Here I am again!”
“You are welcome, Richard. I am charmed to see you,” answered the Consul, keeping his hands behind his back.
Richard seemed quite confused, as he generally was when he met his brother, who sometimes could be as gay and cheerful as when they were boys, and at others would put on his business manner, and be cold, repellant, and so abominably precise.
“Is any one coming to dinner to-day, Caroline?” asked Consul Garman.
“Pastor Martens has announced his kind intention of introducing the new school inspector to us,” answered the lady.
“Yes, I dare say, another of your parson friends,” said the Consul, drily; “then, I’ll just send the coachman with the carriage for Morten and Fanny, and ask them to bring some young people with them: they might find Jacob Worse, perhaps.”
“What for?” answered the lady, in a tone which showed an inclination to dispute the proposition.
“Because neither Richard nor I care to have our dinner with nothing but a lot of parsons,” answered the Consul, in a tone which brought his wife to her senses. “And will you be so kind as to arrange with Miss Cordsen about the dinner?”
“Oh! the dinner, the dinner!” sighed Mrs. Garman, as she left the room. “I cannot understand how people can think so much about such trifles.”
Uncle Richard followed his sister-in-law to the door, and when he turned round after making his most polite bow, he saw his brother standing in the middle of the room, with his legs far apart, and one hand behind his back. With the other he held up the monster key like an eyeglass before his eye, and through it he regarded his brother with a knowing look.
“Do you know that?” asked the Consul.
“Mais oui!” answered Richard, in a tone which showed his delight at finding his brother in a mood which betokened a visit to the wine-cellar.
The two old gentlemen went off arm-in-arm, until they reached the top of the kitchen stairs. At the kitchen door they stopped, and the Consul called for the lights. A commotion was heard inside, and in a few seconds Miss Cordsen appeared with two ancient candlesticks.
Each took his own light—they never made any mistake as to which was which—and descended the stairs which led to the dark cellar. They first arrived at a large outer cellar, where it was comparatively light, in which were stored the wines which were in ordinary use, such as St. Julien, Rhine wine, Graves, and brandy. This was all under the charge of Miss Cordsen, who, in accordance with the regime which had come down from the old Consul’s time, produced the different wines according to the number and importance of the guests. In the darkest corner of the cellar there was an old keyhole, only known to the Consul, but he could find it in the dark. All the same, both of them held out their lights to look for it, and the young Consul never omitted to remark upon the clever way in which his father had concealed the secret door.