“Have you put your knee out, sir? Hold on a minute! Get a chair, Charles.”
Seating the stranger in this chair, Bertie rolled up the trouser, and passed his fingers round the knee. There was a sort, of loving-kindness in that movement, as of a hand which had in its time felt the joints and sinews of innumerable horses.
“H’m!” he said; “can you stand a bit of a jerk? Catch hold of him behind, Eustace. Sit down on the floor, Charles, and hold the legs of the chair. Now then!” And taking up the foot, he pulled. There was a click, a little noise of teeth ground together; and Bertie said: “Good man—shan’t have to have the vet. to you, this time.”
Having conducted their lame guest to a room in the Georgian corridor hastily converted to a bedroom, the two brothers presently left him to the attentions of the footman.
“Well, old man,” said Bertie, as they sought their rooms; “that’s put paid to his name—won’t do you any more harm this journey. Good plucked one, though!”
The report that Courtier was harboured beneath their roof went the round of the family before breakfast, through the agency of one whose practice it was to know all things, and to see that others partook of that knowledge, Little Ann, paying her customary morning visit to her mother’s room, took her stand with face turned up and hands clasping her belt, and began at once.
“Uncle Eustace brought a man last night with a wounded leg, and Uncle Bertie pulled it out straight. William says that Charles says he only made a noise like this”—there was a faint sound of small chumping teeth: “And he’s the man that’s staying at the Inn, and the stairs were too narrow to carry him up, William says; and if his knee was put out he won’t be able to walk without a stick for a long time. Can I go to Father?”
Agatha, who was having her hair brushed, thought:
“I’m not sure whether belts so low as that are wholesome,” murmured:
“Wait a minute!”
But little Ann was gone; and her voice could be heard in the dressing-room climbing up towards Sir William, who from the sound of his replies, was manifestly shaving. When Agatha, who never could resist a legitimate opportunity of approaching her husband, looked in, he was alone, and rather thoughtful—a tall man with a solid, steady face and cautious eyes, not in truth remarkable except to his own wife.
“That fellow Courtier’s caught by the leg,” he said. “Don’t know what your Mother will say to an enemy in the camp.”
“Isn’t he a freethinker, and rather——”
Sir William, following his own thoughts, interrupted:
“Just as well, of course, so far as Miltoun’s concerned, to have got him here.”
Agatha sighed: “Well, I suppose we shall have to be nice to him. I’ll tell Mother.”
Sir William smiled.
“Ann will see to that,” he said.
Ann was seeing to that.