peaceful and interesting holiday. Connie studied the Ordnance map, Miss Carmody revived her recollections of Winchester Cathedral, the Domus hotel, and the walks which could be taken from the city, and Crete arranged a personal orgy of embroidery, for it was her practice, it seemed, to remain within doors in a climate she neither liked nor trusted, and she therefore would need something to do.

The few days soon passed. On the Saturday morning preceding the Monday on which the party were to motor down to Winchester, Mr Tidson put into his notebook a passage which pleased him mightily. It was, he explained, an extract from a diary of the time of the Civil War, and, read in the evening by his wife and by Miss Carmody, ran thus:

‘He wase by perswation of my ffather-in-lawe then putt to schoole at Winchestor and stayed 6 yeres and wase beten for the trwe reason that he tawlked lewdely and with littell discretion of a nakid mayd wett in the feldes where shee doe lye abedd, and hee not aschamed even att such tinder edge to saye itt.’

‘You see?’ said Mr Tidson triumphantly. ‘Even in the seventeenth century she was known. What do you say now to my naiad?’

‘Amazing,’ said Miss Carmody. ‘May I have another look at that?’ She took the notebook from Crete’s hands and perused the passage again. ‘The spelling puts me in mind of something, although I can’t remember quite what.’

‘I think you should share your knowledge,’ said Mr Tidson. ‘Think, my dear Prissie, think! We must learn to control our verbal memories.’

Connie leaned over and took the book from her aunt. She flicked over the pages contemptuously. Mr Tidson looked at Miss Carmody and smiled.

‘Women have very inaccurate notions of history, I believe,’ he remarked with conversational inoffensiveness. ‘Except you, of course, my dear Prissie.’

‘I don’t know about inaccurate,’ said Connie, tossing the book at him so that a sharp edge hit him on his little round paunch, ‘but I do know that there’s a book of seventeenth-century memoirs in auntie’s bureau bookcase in which you could find all these words.’

‘Is there indeed?’ said Mr Tidson. ‘And is it your custom to peer into your aunt’s bureau bookcase?’

‘Really, Edris!’ remonstrated Crete. ‘You must not speak to Connie like that. It is not kind. Perhaps she does not know that she should not peer. What is it – peering? It is an offensive word, I think. Snoop, do you say?’

Connie crimsoned and got up. She looked so threatening that Mr Tidson actually drew his knees up a little as though to protect his stomach from further assault. Miss Carmody seemed to suffer fears on his behalf, too, for she held on to Connie’s arm, said that she detested the word ‘snooping,’ and added with unwonted sharpness that Connie had had the run of her bureau bookcase for years, ever since she had been old enough to be trusted with her aunt’s favourite volumes, and that no question of prying, peering or snooping entered into the matter.

Mr Tidson smiled sweetly, and observed that Connie ought not to be touchy, and that she knew as well as he did that he had been joking. He also upheld Miss Carmody’s pronouncement that snooping was a vulgar synonym.

‘I don’t like his ways,’ said Connie, when he and Crete had gone. ‘Half the time he says nasty, spiteful things, and the other half he’s trying to paw me about. I think him a disgusting old man.’

‘Not so very old,’ said Miss Carmody.

‘He’s old enough to know better than to go chasing nymphs in rivers,’ said Connie stoutly, ‘although, of course, it’s only on a par with his other activities, I suppose.’

Miss Carmody, in the day or two that followed, confessed herself worried by Mr Tidson’s enthusiasm for the naiad. He was alternately in high spirits at the thought (or so he said) of adding to his repertory of folk-lore, or cast down because the naiad might have left Hampshire before he had an opportunity to see her. The possibility that the letter to the paper might be either a practical joke or the gibberings of a maniac he appeared to disregard.

‘I can’t make him out,’ said Connie. ‘His business life, I expect, was a mixture of cadging, sharp practice and double-dealing, and I should think he was a menace to his employees and unpopular with the other banana growers.’

There was something frightening, she went on, in the fact that Mr Tidson should suddenly leap at this ridiculous newspaper communication as an excuse to go to Winchester. Why Winchester, she wanted to know; and held her aunt’s gaze.

Miss Carmody said nothing, but she was sufficiently perturbed, it appeared, to go to the telephone next morning, before her uninvited guests were astir, and call up a psychiatrist, a sound and talented old lady whose name was Bradley. She gave the facts, and added that she thought it would do no harm to obtain an expert opinion upon Mr Tidson’s mental condition before he went down to Winchester in search of his naiad.

‘You understand that I don’t want him to suspect that we think there might be anything odd about him,’ she said anxiously, ‘because, of course, there probably isn’t. His interest may be quite genuine, and probably is. I just thought that, if you could spare the time . . . Well, look here! I mustn’t thwart him. Could you possibly come to Winchester? I – we have met, you know – a mutual friend, Miss Carroll, at Cartaret College—’

‘I quite understand,’ said Mrs Bradley, ‘and I am most intrigued. I shall be in Winchester and at the Domus by Monday lunch-time. Your naiad may be full of possibilities.’

‘Yes, that is what I fear,’ said Miss Carmody. Very much cheered, however, by Mrs Bradley’s comforting promise, she expressed her gratitude and rang off. She then sent Connie to the bank for a Statement, and knit her brows over this when it came. Mr and Mrs Tidson were costing her rather dear. They had already spent six weeks at her house, and the Domus, as she herself had advertised, was not a cheap hotel. However, it was where she had always stayed, particularly during the blitz on London, and she had always said that she could not contemplate staying anywhere else. Connie reminded her of this almost snappishly when she put forward a tentative suggestion that, to save expense, the party might take furnished lodgings for the holiday. Connie disliked furnished lodgings, and said so roundly.

‘And, in the end, what with one thing and another, you won’t be a bit better off,’ she added ill- temperedly.

Miss Carmody sighed; but she reminded herself that Connie had been accustomed to better things than she could offer her, and also that the Domus was indeed a most comfortable and kindly hotel, and not even actually in the city.

Mr Tidson enjoyed his drive to Winchester, and, by the time the car was passing Basingstoke on road A30 to rejoin A33 en route for the string of villages on the somewhat uninteresting journey past Micheldever and Kingsworthy to the lane on the north side of Winchester, where the Domus hotel is to be found, he had remembered and remarked upon a nephew of his who, he believed, went to school in Winchester but would now be on holiday, he supposed.

‘What nephew would that be, Uncle Edris?’ enquired Connie, who had been bidden privately by Miss Carmody to be civil to Mr Tidson, although not to countenance or encourage his oddities.

‘Why, Polly’s girl’s boy,’ replied Mr Tidson unhelpfully. ‘What’s the name, now?’

‘Preece-Harvard,’ said Connie, through her teeth. ‘I ought to know!’

‘Preece-Harvard is the name,’ agreed Miss Carmody, ‘and it is nothing to do with Polly, as you very well know. They live not very far from Winchester. We had better look them up while we are there.’

‘Don’t ask me to go!’ said Connie.

‘I must look up the address,’ said Mr Tidson.

‘You will hardly have time to look the boy up, though,’ observed Crete, not without malice. ‘You will be too busy looking up your nymph.’

Mr Tidson became silent, and looked out of the car window at College Wood, distant half a mile from the road.

‘We should be passing Bradley Farm about now,’ said Connie, who had the map open on her knees. She was seated between her aunt and Crete Tidson on the back seat of the car. Mr Tidson was in front, beside Toogood.

‘Bradley? Ah, that reminds me,’ said Miss Carmody. ‘My friend Mrs Bradley is also proposing to stay at the Domus with us. Miss Carroll took her place at Cartaret College, Connie, you remember, when she relinquished the post of Warden of Athelstan Hall.’

‘Yes, I remember,’ said Connie. ‘That terrifying, black old lady who always wore dreadful colours and did

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