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The Lady Of The Red Admirals
by [?]

“Uncle Peter,” she explained, “rarely comes down before mid-day; and Uncle Melchior breakfasts in his room. He is busy with the accounts.”

“So early?”

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.

I read–

To the Memory of
A Midshipman of the Royal Navy
Who was born Oct. 21st MDCCCLXVII.
And Drowned
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
in which
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.