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The Spreading Walnut Tree
by [?]

“This is it,” she said.

She stood at the entrance to a long drive. A few chimneys could be seen in the distance. On either side of the gates was a high wall.

“I don’t see the walnut tree,” I said.

“Of course not, because you can’t see the front of the house. But I feel certain that this is the place.”

“We want more proof than that,” said Peter. “We must go in and find the walnut tree.”

“We can’t all wander into another man’s grounds looking for walnut trees,” I said, “with no better excuse than that Celia’s great-grandmother was once asked down here for the week-end and stayed for a fortnight. We—-“

“My grandfather,” said Celia coldly, “lived here.”

“Well, whatever it was,” I said, “we must invent a proper reason. Peter, you might pretend you’ve come to inspect the gas-meter or the milk or something. Or perhaps Celia had better disguise herself as a Suffragette and say that she’s come to borrow a box of matches. Anyhow, one of us must get to the front of the house to search for this walnut tree.”

“It–it seems rather cheek,” said Celia doubtfully.

“We’ll toss up who goes.”

We tossed, and of course I lost. I went up the drive nervously. At the first turn I decided to be an insurance inspector, at the next a scout-master, but, as I approached the front door, I thought of a very simple excuse. I rang the bell under the eyes of several people at lunch and looked about eagerly for the walnut tree.

There was none.

“Does Mr.–er–Erasmus–er–Percival live here?” I asked the footman.

“No, sir,” he said–luckily.

“Ah! Was there ever a walnut–I mean was there ever a Mr. Percival who lived here? Ah! Thank you,” and I sped down the drive again.

“Well?” said Celia eagerly.

“Mr. Percival doesn’t live there.”

“Whoever’s Mr. Percival?”

“Oh, I forgot; you don’t know him. Friends,” I added solemnly, “I regret to tell you there is no walnut tree.”

“I am not surprised,” said Peter.

The walk home was a silent one. For the rest of the day Celia was thoughtful. But at the end of dinner she brightened up a little and joined in the conversation.

“At Hilderton Hall,” she said suddenly, “we always—-“

“H’r’m,” I said, clearing my throat loudly. “Peter, pass Celia the walnuts.”

. . . . .

I have had great fun in London this week with the walnut joke, though Celia says she is getting tired of it. But I had a letter from Peter to-day which ended like this:–

“By the way, I was an ass last week. I took you to Banfield in mistake for Hilderton. I went to Hilderton yesterday and found Hilderton Hall–a large place with a walnut tree. It’s a little way out of the village, and is marked big on the next section of the map to the one we were looking at. You might tell Celia.”

True, I might….

Perhaps in a week or two I shall.