“We have enough,” Vera said.
“Let me finish this area, then we can return to Meriweather Hall.” He pushed the shovel to break the ground and heard a clunk. “What...?”
“What is it?”
“Just a moment.” Leaning down, he shoved the dirt aside. Something twinkled in the sunlight. He picked up a flask. “It is silver.” He turned it over. “The only marks are the silversmith’s ones.” He tipped it to allow her to see the tiny indentations on the top. “The JB over the WW is for James Barber and William Whitwell, who work in York, as you can tell from the cross mark next to the lion mark. The tiny Y after it means it was made in the early part of this decade.”
“You can tell all that from those tiny marks?”
“My business was importing exotic woods, but occasionally a client asked for fine metals or art. I had to educate myself so that neither I nor my client was cheated.” He looked from it to her. “I assume it does not belong to you or the vicar.”
“No. We never had anything of such fine quality.”
“Yes, its qualityship is undeniable.”
She gasped and pressed her hand over her mouth at the word his cousin had first heard one of the smugglers use to mean his leader.
“I need to examine this more closely,” he said. “It may have something about it that will pinpoint the identity of the man giving the smugglers their orders. If he were here and ordered the fire set in the church, he may not have noticed that he dropped his flask.”
“Or someone else could have dropped it.”
“That is also a possibility.” He put the flask under his coat before calling the man to come and get his shovel; then, taking the two boxes of bulbs, he led her back to the carriage.
As soon as they reached Meriweather Hall, Edmund went into the room near the chapel. Vera had paused only long enough to give the boxes of flowers to one of the footmen and then followed him.
“Close the door,” he ordered over his shoulder as he strode past the table where her sketches for the church were spread out across the top.
From a shelf near the window, he picked up a tortoiseshell case. He opened it and drew out an oval silver-edged magnifying glass. Setting the flask on the table, he aimed the glass at it.
“What do you see?” Vera asked as she leaned on her hands on the other side of the table.
“Actually it is what I don’t see that is curious.” He ran his finger over the plain area within engraved scrolling. “Usually there are initials within the scroll.”
“But there are none here.”
“Not any longer.” He watched color wash from her face as he said, “They have been sanded away. It could have been by use, going in and out of a pocket, but I doubt that. The rest of the flask doesn’t show the same amount of wear. Someone removed the initials to hide who owns it.”
“Can you get any other information from it?”
“I am going to try.” He stared down at the silver flask. “Trust me, Vera, I am going to try.”
“I do trust you.”
His head jerked up at her soft words, but she was already leaving the room. Because she had said too much or because he had?
The maid knocked as Vera was about to get ready for bed. It had been a busy day with making preparations for her brother’s first service in Meriweather Hall’s chapel. She had struggled to write his sermon, unsure which lesson to include. He had been busy tending to parishioners in the village and had asked her to take over the task which she knew he despised.
She had considered verses from the twelfth chapter of Luke: “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” But she guessed some people in the congregation would believe her brother spoke of the smugglers invading their village rather than of their Savior entering into their hearts.
She had prayed about using a passage from First Corinthians, third chapter: “For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
That seemed to be a lesson that would not infuriate the smugglers who sat with them like lions among the lambs. Usually, once she decided on the lesson, she could write the sermon easily. Not today.