An unwonted peace hung over the Villa Elsinore, broken,
however, at frequent intervals, by clamorous lamentations
suggestive of bewildered bereavement. The Momebys had lost
their infant child; hence the peace which its absence
entailed; they were looking for it in wild, undisciplined
fashion, giving tongue the whole time, which accounted for
the outcry which swept through house and garden whenever
they returned to try the home coverts anew. Clovis, who was
temporarily and unwillingly a paying guest at the villa, had
been dozing in a hammock at the far end of the garden when
Mrs. Momeby had broken the news to him.
“We’ve lost Baby,” she screamed.
“Do you mean that it’s dead, or stampeded, or that you
staked it at cards and lost it that way?” asked Clovis
“He was toddling about quite happily on the lawn,” said
Mrs. Momeby tearfully, “and Arnold had just come in, and I
was asking him what sort of sauce he would like with the
“I hope he said hollandaise,” interrupted Clovis, with a
show of quickened interest, “because if there’s anything I
“And all of a sudden I missed Baby,” continued Mrs.
Momeby in a shriller tone. “We’ve hunted high and low, in
house and garden and outside the gates, and he’s nowhere to
“Is he anywhere to be heard?” asked Clovis; “if not, he
must be at least two miles away.”
“But where? And how?” asked the distracted mother.
“Perhaps an eagle or a wild beast has carried him off,”
“There aren’t eagles and wild beasts in Surrey,” said
Mrs. Momeby, but a note of horror had crept into her voice.
“They escape now and then from travelling shows.
Sometimes I think they let them get loose for the sake of
the advertisement. Think what a sensational headline it
would make in the local papers: `Infant son of prominent
Nonconformist devoured by spotted hyaena.’ Your husband
isn’t a prominent Nonconformist, but his mother came of
Wesleyan stock, and you must allow the newspapers some
“But we should have found his remains,” sobbed Mrs.
“If the hyaena was really hungry and not merely toying
with his food there wouldn’t be much in the way of remains.
It would be like the small-boy-and-apple story—there ain’t
going to be no core.”
Mrs. Momeby turned away hastily to seek comfort and
counsel in some other direction. With the selfish
absorption of young motherhood she entirely disregarded
Clovis’s obvious anxiety about the asparagus sauce. Before
she had gone a yard, however, the click of the side gate
caused her to pull up sharp. Miss Gilpet, from the Villa
Peterhof, had come over to hear details of the bereavement.
Clovis was already rather bored with the story, but Mrs.
Momeby was equipped with that merciless faculty which finds
as much joy in the ninetieth time of telling as in the
“Arnold had just come in; he was complaining of
“There are so many things to complain of in this
household that it would never have occurred to me to
complain of rheumatism,” murmured Clovis.
“He was complaining of rheumatism,” continued Mrs.
Momeby, trying to throw a chilling inflection into a voice
that was already doing a good deal of sobbing and talking at
high pressure as well.
She was again interrupted.
“There is no such thing as rheumatism,” said Miss
Gilpet. She said it with the conscious air of defiance that
a waiter adopts in announcing that the cheapest-priced
claret in the wine-list is no more. She did not proceed,
however, to offer the alternative of some more expensive
malady, but denied the existence of them all.
Mrs. Momebys temper began to shine out through her grief.
“I suppose you’ll say next that Baby hasn’t really
“He has disappeared,” conceded Miss Gilpet, “but only
because you haven’t sufficient faith to find him. It’s only
lack of faith on your part that prevents him from being
restored to you safe and well.”
“But if he’s been eaten in the meantime by a hyaena and
partly digested,” said Clovis, who clung affectionately to
his wild beast theory, “surely some ill-effects would be
Miss Gilpet was rather staggered by this complication of
“I feel sure that a hyaena has not eaten him,” she
“The hyaena may be equally certain that it has. You
see, it may have just as much faith as you have, and more
special knowledge as to the present whereabouts of the
Mrs. Momeby was in tears again. “If you have faith,” she
sobbed, struck by a happy inspiration, “won’t you find our
little Erik for us? I am sure you have powers that are
denied to us.”
Rose-Marie Gilpet was thoroughly sincere in her adherence
to Christian Science principles; whether she understood or
correctly expounded them the learned in such manners may
best decide. In the present case she was undoubtedly
confronted with a great opportunity, and as she started
forth on her vague search she strenuously summoned to her
aid every scrap of faith that she possessed. She passed out
into the bare and open high road, followed by Mrs. Momeby’s
warning, “It’s no use going there, we’ve searched there a
dozen times.” But Rose-Marie’s ears were already deaf to
all things save self-congratulation; for sitting in the
middle of the highway, playing contentedly with the dust and
some faded buttercups, was a white-pinafored baby with a mop
of tow-coloured hair tied over one temple with a pale-blue
ribbon. Taking first the usual feminine precaution of
looking to see that no motor-car was on the distant horizon,
Rose-Marie dashed at the child and bore it, despite its
vigorous opposition, in through the portals of Elsinore.
The child’s furious screams had already announced the fact
of its discovery, and the almost hysterical parents raced
down the lawn to meet their restored offspring. The
aesthetic value of the scene was marred in some degree by
Rose-Marie’s difficulty in holding the struggling infant,
which was borne wrong-end foremost towards the agitated
bosom of its family. “Our own little Erik come back to
us,” cried the Momebys in unison; as the child had rammed
its fists tightly into its eye-sockets and nothing could be
seen of its face but a widely gaping mouth, the recognition
was in itself almost an act of faith.
“Is he glad to get back to Daddy and Mummy again?”
crooned Mrs. Momeby; the preference which the child was
showing for, its dust and buttercup distractions was so
marked that the question struck Clovis as being
“Give him a ride on the roly-poly,” suggested the father
brilliantly, as the howls continued with no sign of early
abatement. In a moment the child had been placed astride
the big garden roller and a preliminary tug was given to set
it in motion. From the hollow depths of the cylinder came
an earsplitting roar, drowning even the vocal efforts of the
squalling baby, and immediately afterwards there crept forth
a white-pinafored infant with a mop of tow-coloured hair
tied over one temple with a pale blue ribbon. There was no
mistaking either the features or the lung-power of the new
“Our own little Erik,” screamed Mrs. Momeby, pouncing on
him and nearly smothering him with kisses; “did he hide in
the roly-poly to give us all a big fright?”
This was the obvious explanation of the child’s sudden
disappearance and equally abrupt discovery. There remained,
however, the problem of the interloping baby, which now sat
whimpering on the lawn in a disfavour as chilling as its
previous popularity had been unwelcome. The Momebys glared
at it as though it had wormed its way into their short-lived
affections by heartless and unworthy pretences. Miss
Gilpet’s face took on an ashen tinge as she stared
helplessly at the bunched-up figure that had been such a
gladsome sight to her eyes a few moments ago.
“When love is over, how little of love even the lover
understands,” quoted Clovis to himself.
Rose-Marie was the first to break the silence.
“If that is Erik you have in your arms, who is—that?”
“That, I think, is for you to explain,” said Mrs. Momeby
“Obviously,” said Clovis, “it’s a duplicate Erik that
your powers of faith called into being. The question is:
What are you going to do with him?”
The ashen pallor deepened in Rose-Marie’s cheeks. Mrs.
Momeby clutched the genuine Erik closer to her side, as
though she feared that her uncanny neighbour might out of
sheer pique turn him into a bowl of gold-fish.
“I found him sitting in the middle of the road,” said
“You can’t take him back and leave him there,” said
Clovis; “the highway is meant for traffic, not to be used
as a lumber-room for disused miracles.”
Rose-Marie wept. The proverb “Weep and you weep alone,”
broke down as badly on application as most of its kind.
Both babies were wailing lugubriously, and the parent
Momebys had scarcely recovered from their earlier lachrymose
condition. Clovis alone maintained an unruffled
“Must I keep him always?” asked Rose-Marie dolefully.
“Not always,” said Clovis consolingly; “he can go into
the Navy when he’s thirteen.” Rose-Marie wept afresh.
“Of course,” added Clovis, “there may be no end of a
bother about his birth certificate. You’ll have to explain
matters to the Admiralty, and they’re dreadfully
It was rather a relief when a breathless nursemaid from
the Villa Charlottenburg over the way came running across
the lawn to claim little Percy, who had slipped out of the
front gate and disappeared like a twinkling from the high
And even then Clovis found it necessary to go in person to
the kitchen to make sure about the asparagus sauce.