‘Yes, yes, Ada, I know it does not suit you. Never fear.’
’It is not that, but you are much too useful here to drop everything, especially now every one is away. I would willingly sacrifice myself, but—’
’Yes, I know, Ada dear. Now, good-bye, and take care of yourself, and don’t be nervous. It may mean only that young Japs has twisted his little finger.’
And with a kiss, Miss Mohun ran downstairs as fast and lightly as if her years had been half their amount, and accomplished her orders to Fanny—–otherwise Mrs. Mount—–a Beechcroft native, who, on being left a widow, had returned to her former mistresses, bringing with her a daughter, who had grown up into an efficient housemaid. After a few words with her, Miss Mohun sped on, finding time at the station to purchase a morning paper just come down, and to read among the telegrams—–
’Colombo, Sept. 3rd. ’Lieutenant-General Sir Jasper Merrifield, G.C.B., has been thrown from his horse, and received severe injuries.’
She despatched this paper to her sister by a special messenger, whom she had captured by the way, and was soon after in the train, knitting and pondering.
At Silverton station she saw the pony carriage, and in it her niece Gillian, a girl not quite seventeen, with brown eyes showing traces of tears.
‘Mamma knew you would come,’ she said.
‘You have heard direct, of course.’
’Yes; Claude telegraphed. The horse fell over a precipice. Papa’s leg and three ribs are broken. Not dangerous. That is all it says; and mamma is going out to him directly.’
’I was quite sure she would. Well, Gillian, we must do the best we can. Has she any plans?’
’I think she waited for you to settle them. Hal is come; he wanted to go with her, but she says it will cost too much, and besides, there is his Ordination in Advent.’
‘Has she telegraphed to your uncles?’
’To Beechcroft and to Stokesley; but we don’t quite know where Uncle Reginald is. Perhaps he will see the paper.’
Gillian’s tears were flowing again, and her aunt said—–
’Come, my dear, you must not give way; you must do all you can to make it better for your mother.’
‘I know,’ she answered. ’Indeed, I didn’t cry till I sat waiting, and it all came over me. Poor papa! and what a journey mamma will have, and how dreadful it will be without her! But I know that it is horrid of me, when papa and my sisters must want her so much more.’
’That’s right—–quite right to keep up before her. It does not sound to me so bad, after all; perhaps they will telegraph again to stop her. Did Claude ask her to come out?’
‘Oh no! There were only those few words.’
No more could be learnt till the pony stopped at the door, and Hal ran out to hand out his aunt, and beg her privately to persuade his mother to take him, or, if she would not consent to that, at least to have Macrae, the old soldier-servant, with her—–it was not fit for her to travel alone.