“No, Phil; not in the least. I owe my life to this gentleman, who pulled the horses into the bank before they could reach the bridge.”
Phil wheeled round, his face beaming with gratitude, but when he saw Acton, pale to the lips, the words of thankfulness froze on his lips. For one instant he stared at his old enemy with wonder and amazement, then, with a gesture of utter gratitude, he said—
“Acton, I can never tell you how much I owe you for saving my mother’s life, but will you shake hands?”
Acton looked at Bourne, whose face beamed with admiration and gratitude, and then he put out his hand. In that moment, so honourable to them both, the feud was stamped out for ever. Fresh as he was from as glorious a deed as any Amorian had ever done, he realized that he had been a blackguard towards Bourne the moment Phil begged him to shake hands.
Phil murmured almost inarticulate words of gratitude; but Acton, more than a trifle disturbed at his own thoughts, interrupted hastily—
“Say no more about it, please, Bourne. You’d have done as much for any one.”
“Your hands are bleeding,” said Phil, with immense concern.
“Nothing at all. I think the reins cut them.”
Mrs. Bourne would bind them. “Of course!” said she. “How blind of me not to see that this gentleman is one of your schoolfellows, Phil.”
“Mother,” said Phil, “this is John Acton.”
“I’ve heard Phil talk about your wonderful win at Aldershot. I suppose you’re great friends?”
The “great friends” looked on the ground rather guiltily, but Phil cut in with—
“I say, Acton, you must come and have tea with mother and me in my den. Can you?”
Acton said quietly, “All right, Bourne. Thanks, awfully.” Then he added under his breath to Phil, “If I can come as a friend?”
“On that condition,” said Phil, “I’d like you to come.”
The trio walked back along the road—a happy trio they were, too—and a melancholy procession of injured horses and an angry coachman closed their rear. The tea in Bourne’s room was very successful, and I should fancy that Hinton did more hard thinking and hard staring when he saw Acton amicably seated with his feet under Bourne’s table than he ever did before. The minute he had permission, he flew down the corridor, and exploded bombshell after bombshell among wondering Amorians.
“Acton and Bourne teaing together like two birds on a bough!” he gasped.
“That would be a funny sight,” said Cherry. “Birds don’t take tea.”
“Write an epilogue, Fruity. Teaing together as friendly as Grim and I might.”
“Only that,” said W.E. Grim, with a genial wink, “my opinion is, that Hinton’s been on the drink, and seen double.”
Incredulity and wonder were the dominant notes among Amorians for the next two hours.
Acton and Phil walked to the station with Mrs. Bourne, and when she had gone to town, and the pair were returning schoolwards, Acton said thoughtfully—