Then Mr. Cradock went out of hearing, but he waited for the boy outside, and asked if he could do anything for him.
“No.” Trevor shook his head, thanked him, and grew reserved.
Alured’s thirteenth birthday was on the 10th of January, and he had extracted a promise from Fulk, to take him duck-shooting to the mouth of our little river.
Nothing can be prettier than our tide river by day, with the retreating banks overhung with trees, the long-legged herons standing in the firs, looking like toys in a German box; while the breadth of blue water reflects the trees that bend down to it.
But, on a winter’s night, to creep in perfect silence and lie still under an overhanging bank, not daring to make a sound, till you could get a shot at the ducks disporting themselves in the moonlight, on the frozen mud on the banks! Such an occupation could only be endurable under the name of sport.
However, Fulk and Bertram had had their time, and now Alured was having the infection in his turn; but Trevor was driven over to spend the day, much mortified that he had a bad broken chilblain, which made his boots unwearable, and it was the more disappointing, that it was a very hard frost, and there was a report that some wild swans had been seen on the river.
But in the course of the day Jaquetta routed out a pair of India rubber boots which, with worsted stockings beneath, did not press the chilblains at all, and after having spent all the day in snow-balling and building forts, Trevor declared himself far from lame, and resolved not to lose the fun. He had not come equipped, so Alured put him into an old grey coat and cap of his own, and merrily they started in the frosty moonlight, with dashes of snow lying under the hedges, and everything intensely light. Fulk grumbling in fun at being dragged away from his warm fire, and pretending to be grown old, the boys shouting to one another full of glee, all the dogs in the yard clamouring because only the wise old retriever, Captain, was allowed to be of the party; Arthur Cradock making ridiculous mistakes on purpose between the uncle and nephew, Trevorsham and Sham Trevor, as he called them.
Alas! Nay, shall I say alas, or only be thankful?
They had been gone some time when we heard a rapid tread coming towards the porch. Something in the very sound thrilled Jaquetta and me at once with dismay. We darted out, and saw Brand, the head gamekeeper in the park.
“Never fear, my lady; thank God,” he said, “my lord is quite safe. It is poor Master Lea who is hurt; and Mr. Torwood sent me up for some brandy, and a mattress, and a lantern, and some cloths.”
That assured us that he was alive, and we ran to fulfil the request in the utmost haste, without asking further questions, and sending off Sisson to ride for the poor mother, and to go on to Shinglebay for the doctor, though, to our comfort, we knew that Arthur had almost finished his surgical education, and was sure to know what was to be done.