“He’m a-practisin’ his spaches.” “Smoke the cunnin’ old vox out!” “Red pepper’s the proper stuff.” “See men sneeze! We’ve a-screed up the door.”
Then, as a face showed at the lighted window, a burst of harsh laughter broke the hush.
He at the window was seen struggling violently to wrench away a bar. The laughter swelled to hooting. The prisoner forced his way through, dropped to the ground, rose, staggered, and fell.
A voice said sharply:
Out of the sounds of scuffling and scattering came the whisper: “His lordship!” And the shade under the ash-trees became deserted, save by the tall dark figure of a man, and a woman’s white shape.
“Is that you, Mr. Courtier? Are you hurt?”
A chuckle rose from the recumbent figure.
“Only my knee. The beggars! They precious nearly choked me, though.”
Bertie Caradoc, leaving the smoking-room at Monkland Court that same evening,—on his way to bed, went to the Georgian corridor, where his pet barometer was hanging. To look at the glass had become the nightly habit of one who gave all the time he could spare from his profession to hunting in the winter and to racing in the summer.’
The Hon. Hubert Caradoc, an apprentice to the calling of diplomacy, more completely than any living Caradoc embodied the characteristic strength and weaknesses of that family. He was of fair height, and wiry build. His weathered face, under sleek, dark hair, had regular, rather small features, and wore an expression of alert resolution, masked by impassivity. Over his inquiring, hazel-grey eyes the lids were almost religiously kept half drawn. He had been born reticent, and great, indeed, was the emotion under which he suffered when the whole of his eyes were visible. His nose was finely chiselled, and had little flesh. His lips, covered by a small, dark moustache, scarcely opened to emit his speeches, which were uttered in a voice singularly muffled, yet unexpectedly quick. The whole personality was that of a man practical, spirited, guarded, resourceful, with great power of self-control, who looked at life as if she were a horse under him, to whom he must give way just so far as was necessary to keep mastery of her. A man to whom ideas were of no value, except when wedded to immediate action; essentially neat; demanding to be ‘done well,’ but capable of stoicism if necessary; urbane, yet always in readiness to thrust; able only to condone the failings and to compassionate the kinds of distress which his own experience had taught him to understand. Such was Miltoun’s younger brother at the age of twenty-six.
Having noted that the glass was steady, he was about to seek the stairway, when he saw at the farther end of the entrance-hall three figures advancing arm-in-arm. Habitually both curious and wary, he waited till they came within the radius of a lamp; then, seeing them to be those of Miltoun and a footman, supporting between them a lame man, he at once hastened forward.