Colonel Greene was delighted. The wills of Heinrich and Ilsa Eichmann had been found and read in Carlisle in England. Herr Schneider had been exaggerating when he had said that the wills were to be found 'soon'. He was an excessively busy man, regardless of trying to be helpful to poor Colonel Greene. The new owner of the lost house was a huge surprise to everyone, and it came about that a lot of proving was to be done. It had taken four months to find the wills since the Colonel had come to Northern England. It had taken a full eight years in total. Now it was mid-September and about time that the wills were found.
Most of the proving was done and now it was time to tell the new owner of the missing house what good fortune he or she had come into.
The Colonel knocked at the door of a house in Allendale Town. He recognised the garden gnome near the step, seeming to guard the house. But he was smiling today. His blessings were on the party of lawyers at the doorstep.
The same woman answered: the shortish woman with dark hair flicking out at the ends and well-like blue eyes.
She ushered Colonel Greene and the lawyers in with a smile. Mrs Levander knew.
A tall fair man with wide-set eyes in a pleasant face greeted them too. Mr Levander knew.
Colonel Greene and the lawyers were allowed into the sitting room where they sat down.
"It's mostly proved. If you can answer one or two questions then that will be it," said one lawyer.
The business-like conversation continued.
"We would like to ask your daughter a few questions too," a lawyer said.
"Of course," Mrs Levander said as she got up.
"Vienna!" she called. "Come and help Daddy and me out."
The girl entered the sitting room a minute later and answered a few questions about herself with a confused air.
"Now," said the lawyer gently, to Vienna herself, "before you were born in Sweden your mother had a friend. This friend left for England a few weeks before you were born and she and her husband boguht a house. They stayed away from the locals and collected their post from the post office by hand to avoid being seen and recognised. For the friend's husband was very famous and hated people always tagging about him. About a week before you were born, the friend received a letter from another of your mother's friends in Sweden. Unfortunately this friend was a very gossipy person and led the friend in England to believe that your mother had died in childbirth, through silly false rumours she repeated. Of course, your mother's friend here was very worried for having deserted your mother at the worst moment, so she and her husband wrote a new will. In this will they declared that one fifth of their money, their house and all of their belongings go to your mother's child, feeling that the least they could do would be to leave your mother's child their things. They had intended to leave it all to your mother but the friend was under the impression that she had died. The rest of the money is left to other people, but the house and everything in it belongs to you, Vienna, when you are of age."
He paused and Vienna's face was one of intense inexplicable expression.
"Why didn't they leave it all for Daddy? And how do you know the friends are dead?" Vienna asked when this had sunk in.
"Before you were born your father had to go away a lot with his business and the friends didn't know him well. They felt sorry for you, for you had supposedly lost your mother. You didn't," the lawyer added quickly, "but they thought you had at the time, and never heard the truth."
Viena waited for this too to sink into her brain, which was truly working overtime. "Then where is this house?"
"Most unluckily the house caught fire just a month after the couple came to live in it. As far as we know, everything perished, but because they never went anywhere and the house was not insured, we have no idea where it could be, though it is in this part of the country. The land is yours, however, and anything left," another lawyer joined in apologetically.
Vienna heard this with a strange expression on her face. She recalled a blackened wall, a singed letter and a charred flute that now lay wrapped in a blanket in her clothes closet.
"Is it around here?" she asked in a strangled voice.
"We have plans of the house itself," a lawyer was saying, "just not where it is. Excuse me? Around here? Of course it is; the nearest post office is Sinderhope post office. Each of their letters was addressed to there. Right, Mrs Levander?"
"That's right," Mrs Levander confirmed.
One more question was in order.
And then Vienna's jaw dropped.