of her Uncle Edris and his wife and the consequent disruption of the quiet life which she and her aunt had been leading, and she was becoming accustomed to think of Mr Tidson as an interloper and a nuisance.

‘What is it that bears investigation, though?’ Miss Carmody enquired. She and her ward were seated in the window of her eighteenth-century drawing-room in South-West London. The drawing-room was discreetly, comfortably but not expensively furnished, and formed part of a four-roomed flat which had housed Miss Carmody and her niece admirably, but which provided such close quarters for four people that Connie had been obliged, since the invasion (as she savagely but excusably termed it) to share a bedroom with her aunt, an arrangement which she, naturally, disliked.

Mr Tidson, who was occupying most of the settee, straightened himself and looked with exasperating benevolence upon Connie before replying to Miss Carmody’s question.

‘There is a newspaper report of something singular in the River Itchen,’ he said. ‘It seems, from this report, that a man has alleged that he saw a naiad or water-sprite below one of the bridges not very far from Winchester. Very interesting, if true. I should like to go and look into it.’

He went on to describe some extraordinary experiences of his own in connection with the folk-lore of the Canary Islands, and stated that these had caused him to become a keen student of primitive survivals and manifestations. Connie listened impatiently, and Miss Carmody with a blend of kindly but obvious incredulity mingled with slight disapproval, for some of Mr Tidson’s recollections seemed unsuited to the ears of his niece.

By the time he had concluded his remarks, the fact that he should show excitement at a silly-season report of a water-sprite in a Hampshire chalk stream which ordinarily offered a habitat to nothing more sinister than a pike, more beautiful than the grayling or more intelligent than the brown trout, occasioned the disdainful Connie no surprise; neither was she surprised by Mr Tidson’s experiences. He was, she knew already, rather a salacious little man.

‘Let me see the paragraph,’ said Miss Carmody; for she could scarcely believe that the newspapers, short as they were of newsprint, would devote space to a report upon anything quite so unlikely as the classic visitant. It was true that, the war being over and the Loch Ness monster having made no peace-time reappearance, even that single sheet of newsprint which formed the daily paper had somehow to be filled, but it seemed to her quite ridiculous that space should be devoted to the naiad.

Connie appeared to share her views.

‘You must have misread it,’ she said, ‘or else it’s rot!’

Miss Carmody took the paper which Mr Tidson handed her and read the marked column without comment. She observed, however, that it was not a newspaper report but merely a letter to the editor, and was clearly from the kind of person who claims to have heard the first cuckoo in Spring. Connie remarked upon this. Mr Tidson ignored her. She smiled, then, and asked to see the paper.

‘Crete would accompany me if you did,’ Mr Tidson observed, looking at Miss Carmody expectantly. Miss Carmody, having seen nothing of him for almost thirty-five years, had not found it difficult to revive her previous interest in the earnest and persistent little man, and it was with a certain degree of sympathy that she had begun to realize that time was already hanging on his hands, and that his young wife, Greek by extraction and extremely beautiful, was not proving the ideal companion of his leisure.

‘Very well, Edris,’ she said. ‘There is nothing I need attend to until early September except my Working Men’s Eldest Daughters, and I shall be glad to gather strength for them. Let us go and investigate. It will make as good a summer holiday as any other. Tell me your plans whilst I put these flowers in water, and then you shall teach Elsie how to make a Madras curry in place of the Ceylon one which you did not care for yesterday.’

‘A summer holiday in quest of a naiad?’ said Mr Tidson. ‘Charming, my dear Prissie! Quite delightful! And we shall go to Winchester – when? I mean, how soon? Could you manage Monday? I do not want the scent to grow cold, and, besides, I want to hear the Cathedral choir doing Gray in A. Do you think it is likely that they will?’

‘Monday? Admirable. Toogood is using the last of the petrol to take two of my Mothers to the seaside to- morrow, but by Monday he can get the next allowance,’ responded Miss Carmody, ignoring Gray in A, a key she did not care for very much, preferring Church music in E flat. ‘On Monday, then. Very pleasant.’

‘Good,’ said Mr Tidson. ‘Or, of course, we could go by train this afternoon. What do you think?’

Perceiving that he was impatient to be upon the scene and obtain first-hand information of the naiad, Miss Carmody agreed to lose no time, but (rather to her relief, for it was inconvenient to arrange to leave home at not more than four hours’ notice, and she knew that Connie, who did the packing, would not like it, and, in any case, disliked Mr Tidson) this decision was overridden, for at that moment Crete came in, and, catching the last remarks of the parties concerned, vetoed the notion that they could go without preparations.

‘We have to arrange at Winchester to stay somewhere,’ Crete pointed out, ‘and I have to get my hair done, and you have to find enough coupons (I suppose from my book) for at least two shirts before you can go anywhere. Do be reasonable, Edris. You are a very foolish old man.’

She turned away from him contemptuously and looked at herself in the glass.

Crete Tidson was twenty years younger than her husband. She was a slender woman with greenish-gold hair, large dark eyes like those shown in early seventeenth-century portraits, the curling mouth and proudly-carried head of her race, and a rounded, wilful chin. She erred on the side of severity towards her husband, but encouraged him in the free expression of his tastes. She had a well-founded although critical respect for his ability to get his own way, and seldom trusted him out of her sight, for Mr Tidson had developed to a marked degree the foible (noted by St Paul in the Athenians) of desiring always some new thing, and in pursuit of these novelties he was inclined to get into mischief.

‘At any rate,’ said Mr Tidson, ‘I can and will send for a local newspaper, which should contain a fuller account than the one I have just shown Connie.’ He beamed amiably upon his niece, who scowled in return. ‘And I will also go to the public library for information about Winchester, the River Itchen, naiads, fishing, and the folk-lore of Hampshire. I do so love anything new, and this will be delightfully new. I could do the preliminary research this afternoon, before we leave London, couldn’t I?’

Glad for him to have something to do which would innocently dispose of his time, his wife and Miss Carmody immediately agreed that he could, although Connie remained aloof, and (considering that he had introduced her to the naiad at her own request) unreasonably scornful.

‘I will wire for the rooms,’ said Miss Carmody. ‘We will stay at the Domus. Connie and I always do. An excellent hotel in every way, although, of course, not cheap.’

‘But what is it really all about?’ asked Crete, who had not been present when Mr Tidson had looked up from the newspaper and announced the great discovery. ‘What could we do in Winchester? It is a mare’s nest, is it not?’

‘It is a naiad in Hampshire, my dear Crete,’ said Mr Tidson.

‘Nonsense, Uncle Edris,’ said Connie, annoyed to think of any more of her aunt’s money being thrown away on the Tidsons. ‘There are no naiads in Hampshire. There never have been, and there never will be. Hampshire was part of Wessex. You know that as well as I do!’

‘King Alfred,’ agreed Miss Carmody, ‘not to speak of his pious father, Aethelwulf, would not have permitted naiads in country already menaced by the Danes.’

‘Red-haired, horrid people,’ said Crete, who had known two modern Danes on Tenerife, and had found that they rivalled her in beauty. ‘I do not like the Danes.’

‘There were Roman settlements in Hampshire, though,’ went on Miss Carmody pacifically. ‘May not the Romans, with their flair for appropriations, have introduced a stolen Greek naiad into the waters of Venta Belgarum?’

‘It is possible,’ Crete admitted, losing interest. ‘In any case, Edris seems determined to take a holiday, and he might as well pursue a naiad as butterflies or tit-mice – or the daughter of Senor Don Alvarez Pedilla y Lampada, as happened last time,’ she added darkly. ‘He has immoral itches.’

‘How soon do we go?’ demanded Connie, who disliked Crete almost as much as she disliked Mr Tidson, and was jealous of her beauty and charm.

‘On Monday, if we can have the rooms. They are likely to be full at this time of year, however,’ said her aunt. ‘I have been before, and I know.’

The fear expressed in the last sentences proved to be unfounded. By the evening, accommodation for the party had been arranged, and Mr Tidson, deep in the chronicles of Winchester College, seemed certain of a fortnight’s pleasurable nymph-hunting (in the classical and not the piscatorial sense) and the rest of the party of a

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