“Good heavens! The fellow’s in a fit!” he exclaimed.
The maitre d’hotel and several waiters came hurrying up towards the prostrate figure, by the side of which Major Thomson was already kneeling. The manager, who appeared upon the scene as though by magic, and upon whose face was an expression of horror that his clients should have been so disturbed, quickly gave his orders. The man was picked up and carried away. Major Thomson followed behind. Two or three waiters in a few seconds succeeded in removing the debris of the accident, the orchestra commenced a favourite waltz. The maitre d’hotel apologised to the little groups of people for the commotion—they were perhaps to blame for having employed a young man so delicate—he was scarcely fit for service.
“He seemed to be a foreigner,” Lady Anselman remarked, as the man addressed his explanations to her.
“He was a Belgian, madam. He was seriously wounded at the commencement of the war. We took him direct from the hospital.”
“I hope the poor fellow will soon recover,” Lady Anselman declared. “Please do not think anything more of the affair so far as we are concerned. You must let me know later on how he is.”
The maitre d’hotel retreated with a little bow. Geraldine turned to Captain Granet.
“I think,” she said, “that you must be very kind-hearted, for a soldier.”
He turned and looked at her.
“You must have been so many horrible sights—so many dead people, and yet—”
“Well?” he persisted.
“There was something in your face when the man staggered back, a kind of horror almost. I am sure you felt it quite as much as any of us.”
He was silent for a moment.
“In a battlefield,” he observed slowly, “one naturally becomes a little callous, but here it is different. The fellow did look ghastly ill, didn’t he? I wonder what was really the matter with him.”
“We shall know when Major Thomson returns,” she said.
Granet seemed scarcely to hear her words. A curious fit of abstraction had seized him. His head was turned towards the corridor, he seemed to be waiting.
“Queer sort of stick, Thomson,” he remarked presently. “Is he a great friend of yours, Miss Conyers?”
She hesitated for a moment.
“I have known him for some time.”
Something in her tone seemed to disturb him. He leaned towards her quickly. His face had lost its good-humoured indifference. He was evidently very much in earnest.
“Please don’t think me impertinent,” he begged, “but—is he a very great friend?”
She did not answer. She was looking over his shoulder towards where Major Thomson, who had just returned, was answering a little stream of questions.
“The man is in a shockingly weak state,” he announced. “He is a Belgian, has been wounded and evidently subjected to great privations. His heart is very much weakened. He had a bad fainting fit, but with a long rest he may recover.”