"Then he dismounted, and was coming to me, when his eye fell on El Chico. 'Sergeant,' he said to a non-commissioned officer,' take four men and march that fellow well outside the village, and then stand and watch him; and see that he goes on, and if he doesn't, shoot him.' Then he came over to me. 'It is well that I arrived in time, my lad,' he said in French.' How did you get into this scrape?'
Stephanie showed no shyness, for, stopping on each step, she held out her hands to the kneeling figures, who murmured prayers and blessings. As they kissed them, she said softly to each, "Thank you very much, but I must not talk now. This gentleman is my friend. It is he who saved my life, and nursed me, and carried me. You must all love him for my sake," whereupon, as Julian followed her, he met with a reception similar to that given to their young mistress. He was glad when at last they reached the top of the stairs and Stephanie led the way into her own room, which was a sort of glorified nursery. Here two or three maids were laying a table, and as the door closed behind him they crowded round her and by turns kissed and hugged her. Then an old woman, who had sat apart until the girls had had their turn, came forward. She placed her hands solemnly on the child's head:
This was quite Julian's own opinion. He was very comfortable where he was. He was his own master, and could do as he liked. He was amply supplied with pocket-money by his aunt; he was fond of sailing, fishing, and shooting; and as he was a general favourite among the boatmen and fishermen he was able to indulge in his fondness for the sea to as large an extent as he pleased, though it was but seldom that he had a chance of a day's shooting. Julian had other tastes of a less healthy character; he was fond of billiards and of society, he had a fine voice and a taste for music, and the society he chose was not that most calculated to do him good. He spent less and less of his time at home, and rarely returned of an evening until the other members of the household were in bed. Whatever his aunt thought of the matter she never remonstrated with him, and was always ready to make the excuse to herself, "I can't expect a fine young fellow like that to be tied to an old woman's apron-strings. Young men will be young men, and it is only natural that he should find it dull at home."
"Thank you, Peter. Now, please lift me down. I am quite well. Are papa and mamma well?"
"It is too big," she said a little fretfully.
When Julian arrived at the age of nineteen it was tacitly understood that the idea of his going into the army had been altogether dropped, and that when a commission was asked for, it would be for Frank. Although Julian was still her favourite, Mrs. Troutbeck was more favourably disposed towards Frank than of old. She knew from her friends that he was quite as popular among his schoolmates as his brother had been, although in a different way. He was a hard and steady worker, but he played as hard as he worked, and was a leader in every game. He, however, could say "no" with a decision that was at once recognized as being final, and was never to be persuaded into joining in any forbidden amusement or to take share in any mischievous adventure. When his own work was done he was always willing to give a quarter of an hour to assist any younger lad who found his lessons too hard for him, and though he was the last boy to whom any one would think of applying for a loan of money, he would give to the extent of his power in any case where a subscription was raised for a really meritorious purpose.
It was a horrible thought that suspicion might fall upon him. Those who knew him would be sure that he could have had nothing whatever to do with the murder; still, the more he thought of it the more he felt that suspicions were certain to rise, and that he would find it extremely difficult to explain matters on his return. The memory of his quarrel with the magistrate was fresh in everybody's mind, and even his friends might well consider it singular that his words to Faulkner should so soon have been carried into effect. It is true that Joe Markham would be missing too, and that the man's own acquaintances would have no great difficulty in guessing that he had carried out his threats against Faulkner, but they would certainly not communicate their opinion to the constables, and the latter might not think of the man in connection with the murder, nor notice that he was no longer to be seen about the town.
"It was very imprudent," Mr. Henderson said gravely.