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He sat down on the bank for a moment to obtain a better hold of the child. Blood was dripping from one of the little velvet sleeves. Sir Geoffry, carrying him as gently as was possible, made all haste to the house. The window of what had been the garden-parlour stood open, and he took him into it at once. Ah, how they both remembered it. It had been refurnished and embellished now: but the room was the room still. Sir Geoffry had returned home that morning. His wife and Lady Chava.s.se were not expected for a day or two. Scarcely any servants were as yet in the house; but the woman who had been left in charge, Hester Picker, came in with warm water. She curtsied to Miss Layne.
“Dear little fellow!” she exclaimed, her tongue ready as of old. “How did it happen, sir?”
“My horse knocked him down,” replied Sir Geoffry. “Get me some linen, Picker.”
The boy lay on the sofa where he had been put, his hat off, and his pretty light brown hair falling from his face, pale now. Apparently there was no injury except to the arm. Sir Geoffry looked at Mary.
“I am a bit of a surgeon,” he said. “Will you allow me to examine his hurt as a surgeon would? Duffham cannot be here just yet.”
“Oh yes, certainly,” she answered.
“I must cut his velvet sleeve up.”
And she bowed in acquiescence to that.
Hester Picker came in with the linen. Before commencing to cut the sleeve, Sir Geoffry touched the arm here and there, as if testing where the damage might lie. Arthur cried out.
“That hurts you,” said Sir Geoffry.
“Not much,” answered the little fellow, trying to be brave. “Papa’s a soldier, and I want to be a soldier, so I won’t mind a little hurt.”
“Your papa’s a soldier? Ah, yes, I think I remember,” said Sir Geoffry, turning to Mary. “It is the little son of Captain Layne.”
“My papa is Major Layne now,” spoke up Arthur, before she could make any answer. “He and mamma live in India.”
“And so you want to be a soldier, the same as papa?” said Sir Geoffry, testing the basin of water with his finger, which Picker was holding, and which had been brought in very hot.
“Yes, I do. Aunt Mary there says No, and grandmamma says No; but–oh, what’s that?”
He had caught sight of the blood for the first time, and broke off with a shuddering cry. Sir Geoffry was ready now, and had the scissors in his hand. But before using them he spoke to Miss Layne.
“Will you sit here whilst I look at it?” he asked, putting a chair with its face to the open window, and its back to the sofa. And she understood the motive and thanked him: and said she would walk about outside.
By-and-by, when she was tired of waiting, and all seemed very quiet, she looked in. Arthur had fainted. Sir Geoffry was bathing his forehead with eau-de-Cologne; Picker had run for something in a tumbler and wine stood on the table.
“Was it the pain?–did it hurt him very badly?” asked Mary, supposing that the arm had been bathed and perhaps dressed.
“I have not done anything to it; I preferred to leave it for Duffham,”
said Sir Geoffry–and at the same moment she caught sight of the velvet sleeve laid open, and something lying on it that looked like a ma.s.s of linen. Mary turned even whiter than the child.
“Do not be alarmed,” said Sir Geoffry. “Your little nephew is only faint from the loss of blood. Drink this,” he added, bringing her a gla.s.s of wine.
But she would not take it. As Sir Geoffry was putting it on the table, Arthur began to revive. Young children are elastic–ill one minute, well the next; and he began to talk again.
“Aunt Mary, are you there?”
She moved to the sofa, and took his uninjured hand.
“We must not tell grandmamma, Aunt Mary. It would frighten her.”
“Bless his dear little thoughtful heart!” interjected Hester Picker.
“Here comes something.”
The something proved to be a fly, and it brought Mr. Duffham. Before the groom had reached the village, he overtook this said fly and the surgeon in it, who was then returning home from another accident. Turning round at the groom’s news–“Some little child had run against Sir Geoffry’s horse, and was hurt”–he came up to the Grange.
When Mr. Duffham saw that it was _this_ child, he felt curiously taken aback. Up the room and down the room looked he; then at Sir Geoffry, then at Miss Layne, then at Hester Picker, saying nothing. Last of all he walked up to the sofa and gazed at the white face lying there.
“Well,” said he, “and what’s this? And how did it happen?”
“It was the peac.o.c.k,” Arthur answered. “I ran away from Aunt Mary to look at it, and the horse came.”
“The dear innocent!” cried Hester Picker. “No wonder he ran. It’s a love of a peac.o.c.k.”
“Don’t you think it was very naughty, young sir, to run from your aunt?”
returned Mr. Duffham.
“Yes, very; because she had told me not to. Aunt Mary, I’ll never do it again.”
The two gentlemen and Hester Picker remained in the room; Mary again left it. The arm was crushed rather badly; and Mr. Duffham knew it would require care and skill to cure it.
“You must send to Worcester for its best surgeon to help you,” said the baronet, when the dressing was over. “I feel that I am responsible to Major Layne.”
Old Duffham nearly closed his eyelids as he glanced at the speaker. “I don’t think it necessary,” he said; “no surgeon can do more than I can.
However, it may be satisfactory to Major Layne that we should be on the safe side, so I’ll send.”
When the child was ready, Mary got into the fly, which had waited, and Mr. Duffham put him to lie on her lap.
“I hope, Miss Layne, I may be allowed to call to-morrow and see how he gets on,” said Sir Geoffry, at the same time. And she did not feel that it was possible for her to say No. Mr. Duffham mounted beside the driver; to get a sniff, he said, of the evening air.
“How he is changed! He has suffered as I have,” murmured Mary Layne to herself, as her tears fell on Baby Arthur, asleep now. “I am very thankful that he has no suspicion.”
The child had said, “Don’t tell grandmamma;” but to keep it from Mrs.
Layne was simply impossible. With the first stopping of the fly at the door, out came the old lady; she had been marvelling what had become of them, and was wanting her tea. Mr. Duffham took her in again, and said a few words, making light of it, before he lifted out Baby Arthur.
A skilful surgeon was at the house the next day, in conjunction with Mr.
Duffham. The arm and its full use would be saved, he said; its cure effected; but the child and those about him must have patience, for it might be rather a long job. Arthur said he should like to write to his papa in India, and tell him that it was his own fault for running away from Aunt Mary; he could write letters in big text hand. The surgeon smiled, and told him he must wait until he could use both arms again.
The doctors had not left the house many minutes when Sir Geoffry Chava.s.se called, having walked over from the Grange. Miss Layne sent her mother to receive him, and disappeared herself. The old lady, her perceptions a little dulled with time and age, and perhaps also her memory, felt somewhat impressed and flattered at the visit. To her it almost seemed the honour that it used to be: that one painful episode of the past seemed to be as much forgotten at the moment as though it had never had place. She took Sir Geoffry upstairs.
Arthur was lying close to the window, in the strong light of the fine morning. It was the first clear view Sir Geoffry had obtained of him.
The garden-parlour at the Grange faced the east, so that the room on the previous evening, being turned from the setting sun, had been shady at the best, and the sofa was at the far end of it. As Sir Geoffry gazed at the child now, the face struck him as being like somebody’s; he could not tell whose. The dark blue eyes especially, turned up in all their eager brightness to his, seemed quite familiar.
“He says I must not write to papa until I get well,” said Arthur, who had begun to look on Sir Geoffry as an old acquaintance.
“Who does?” asked the baronet.
“The gentleman who came with Mr. Duffham.”
“He means the doctor from Worcester, Sir Geoffry,” put in old Mrs.
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