Miss March crossed, stepping a little cautiously, and reached Lawrence just as Uncle Isham, with strong arms and many words of sympathy, had assisted him to his feet. “What has happened to you, Mr Croft?” she exclaimed.
“I was coming to you,” he said; “and in crossing the stream the plank turned under me, and I am afraid I have sprained my ankle. I can’t walk on it.”
“I am very sorry,” she said.
“Because I was coming to you,” he said, grimly, “or because I hurt myself?”
“You ought to be ashamed to speak in that way,” she answered, “but I won’t find fault with you, now that you are in such pain. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, thank you,” said Lawrence. “I will lean on this good man, and I think I can hop to the house.”
“Peggy,” said Miss Roberta, “walk on the other side of the gentleman, and let him lean upon your shoulder. I will go on and have something prepared to put on his ankle.”
With one side supported by the stout Isham, and his other hand resting on the shoulder of the good little Peggy, who bore up as strongly under it as if she had been a big walking-stick, Lawrence slowly made his way to the house. Miss March got there sometime before he did, and was very glad to find that Mrs Keswick had not yet gone out on the walk for which she was prepared. That circumspect old lady had found this and that to occupy her, while she so managed her household matters, that one thing should follow another, to detain her niece. But when she heard what had happened, all other impulses gave way to those which belonged to a head nurse and a mistress of emergencies. She set down her umbrella; shouted an order to Letty to put a kettle of water on the fire; brought from her own room some flannel and two bottles of embrocation; and then stopping a moment to reflect, ordered that the office should be prepared for Mr Croft, for it would be a shame to make a gentleman, with a sprained ankle, clamber up stairs.
The office was a small building in the wide front yard, not very far from the house, and opposite to the arbor, which has been before mentioned. It was one story high, and contained one large and comfortable room. Such buildings are quite common on Virginian farms, and although called offices are seldom used in an official way, being generally appropriated to the bachelors of the family or their gentleman visitors. This one was occupied by Junius Keswick, when he was at home, and a good many of his belongings were now in it; but as it was at present unoccupied, nothing could be more proper than that Mr Croft should have it.