“Yes, it was real providential.”
“Suppose we go down.”
“All right. Say, you mind you don’t say a word about this to your mother or Charlotte.”
“Yes, I promise.”
“Your mother is an awful nice lady,” said Eddy, in a whisper, descending the stairs behind Anderson, “but I don’t want her fussing over me as if I was a girl, ’cause I ain’t.”
When the two entered the sitting-room, Charlotte started and looked at her brother.
“Eddy Carroll, what is the matter?” she cried.
“Nothing,” declared the little boy, stoutly, but he manifestly tottered.
“Why, the dear child is ill!” cried Mrs. Anderson. “Randolph, what has happened?”
“Nothing!” cried Eddy, holding on to his consciousness like a hero. “Nothing; and I ain’t a dear child.”
“It is nothing, mother,” said Anderson, quickly coming to his rescue.
Charlotte was eying wisely the knee of Eddy’s knickerbockers. “Eddy Carroll,” said she, with tender severity, “your knee must be paining you terribly.”
Eddy quickly grasped at the lesser evil. “It ain’t worth talking about,” he responded, stoutly.
“I can see blood on your knee, dear. It must be bad to make you turn so pale as that.”
With a soft swoop like a mother hen, Mrs. Anderson descended upon the boy, who did not dare resist that gentle authority. She tenderly rolled up the leg of the little knickerbockers and examined the bruised, childish knee. Then she got some witch-hazel and bound it up. While she was doing so, Eddy gazed over her head at Anderson with the knowing and confidential twinkle which one man gives another when tolerant of womanly delusion. He even indulged in an apparently insane chuckle when Mrs. Anderson finished, and smoothed his little, dark head, and told him that now she was sure it would feel better.
“Eddy,” cried Charlotte, “what are you doing so for?”
“Nothing,” replied Eddy. “I was thinking how funny I looked when I tumbled down.” But he rolled his eyes, comically around at Anderson. His arm was paining him frightfully, and it struck him as the most altogether exquisite joke that Mrs. Anderson should be treating his knee, which did not pain him at all, so sympathetically.
During the progress of the tea at the Andersons’ Eddy kept furtively glancing at his sister with an expression which signified congratulation.
“Ain’t you glad you stayed?” the expression said, quite plainly.
“Did you ever have such nice things to eat? And only think what a snippy meal we should have had at home!”