In Honour’s Cause is a Webnovel produced by George Manville Fenn.
This lightnovel is currently completed.
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“You would never be so foolish and insulting,” said Frank warmly. “He would be angry.”
“No, I suppose I must not,” said Andrew gloomily. “He would say it was the impertinence of a boy.”
They had to separate directly after, and a few minutes later Frank saw his father crossing the room toward the door. Frank was nearest, and by a quick movement reached it first, and stepped outside so as to get a word or two from him as he came out. But Sir Robert was stopped on his way, and some minutes elapsed before Frank saw the manly, upright figure emerge from the gaily dressed crowd which filled the anteroom, and stride toward him, but evidently without noticing his presence.
“Father,” he whispered.
Sir Robert turned upon him a fierce, angry face, his eyes flashing, and lips moving as if he were talking to himself. But the stern looks softened to a smile as he recognised his son, and he spoke hurriedly:
“Don’t stop me, my boy; I’m not fit to talk to you now. Oh, absurd!”
“Is anything the matter, father?” said Frank anxiously, as he laid his hand on his father’s arm.
“Matter? Oh, nothing, boy. Just a trifle put out. The rooms are very hot. There, I must go. Don’t forget to-night, you and young Forbes.”
He nodded and strode on, leaving his son wondering; for he had never seen such a look before upon his father’s face.
He thought no more of it then, for his attention was taken up by the coming of the Princess with her ladies, the reception being at an end; while soon after Andrew Forbes joined him, and began questioning him again about Lady Gowan, and what she had said about his dead mother, ending by turning Frank’s attention from the emotion he could hardly hide by saying banteringly:
“You’ll have to be very strict with me, Frank, or you’ll have a great deal of trouble to make me a good boy.”
“I shall manage it,” said Frank, with a laugh; and not very long after they were on their way to the Guards’ messroom, both trying to appear cool and unconcerned, but each feeling nervous at the idea of dining with the officers.
Sir Robert was there, looking rather flushed and excited, as he stood talking to a brother-officer in the large room set apart for the Guards; but his face lit up with a pleasant smile as the boys entered, and he greeted them warmly, and introduced them to the officer with him.
“Makes one feel old, Murray,” he said, “to have a couple of great fellows like these for sons.”
“Sons? I thought that–” began the officer.
“Oh, about this fellow,” said Sir Robert merrily. “Oh yes, he’s Forbes’s boy; but Lady Gowan and I seem to have adopted him like. Sort of step-parents to him–eh, Andrew?”
“I wish I could quite feel that, Sir Robert,” said Andrew warmly.
“Well, quite feel it then, my lad,” said Sir Robert, clapping him on the shoulder. “It rests with you.–Think Frank here will ever be man enough for a soldier, Murray?”
“Man enough? Of course,” said the officer addressed. “We must get them both commissions as soon as they’re old enough. Forbes might begin now.”
“H’m! Ha!” said Sir Robert, giving the lad a dry look. “Andrew Forbes will have to wait a bit.”
Then, seeing the blood come into the lad’s face at the remark which meant so much:
“He’s going to wait for Frank here.–Well, isn’t it nearly dinner-time?–Hungry, boys?”
“Er–no, sir,” said Andrew.
“Frank is,” said Sir Robert, smiling at his son.
“Can’t help it, father,” said the boy frankly. “I always am.”
“And a capital sign too, my lad,” said the officer addressed as Murray.
“There’s nothing like a fine healthy appet.i.te in a boy. It means making bone and muscle, and growing. Oh yes, he’ll be as big as you are, Gowan. Make a finer man, I’ll be bound.”
“Don’t look like it,” said Sir Robert merrily; “why, the boy’s blushing like a great girl.”
The conversation was ended by the entrance of several other officers, who all welcomed the two lads warmly, and seemed pleased to do all they could to set at their ease the son and _protege_ of the most popular officer in the regiment.
Captain Murray, his father’s friend, was chatting with Frank, when he suddenly said:
“Here are the rest of the guests.”
Six German officers entered the room, and Frank started and turned to glance at his father, and then at Andrew, whom he found looking in his direction; but Sir Robert had advanced with the elderly colonel of the regiment, and Captain Murray rose as well.
“I shall have to play interpreter,” he said, smiling. “Come along, and the colonel will introduce you two, or I will. They don’t speak any English; and if you two do not, your father and I are the only men present who know German.”
The introductions followed, and feeling very uncomfortable all the while, Frank and his companion were in due course made known to Baron Steinberg, Count Von Baumhof, and to the four other guests, whose names he did not catch; and then, by the help of Captain Murray and Sir Robert, a difficult conversation was carried on, the German officers a.s.suming a haughty, condescending manner towards the Guardsmen, who were most warm in their welcome.
At the end of a few minutes Captain Murray returned to where the two lads were standing, leaving Sir Robert trying his best to comprehend the visitors, and translating their words to the colonel and his brother-officers.
“Rather an unthankful task,” said the captain, smiling. “These Germans treat us as if they had conquered the country, and we were their servants. Never mind; I suppose it is their nature to.”
“Yes,” said Andrew warmly; “they make my blood boil. I know I am only a boy; but that was no reason why they should insult Frank Gowan here and me with their sneering, contemptuous looks.”
“Never mind, my lad. I noticed it. Show them, both of you, that you are English gentlemen, and know how to treat strangers and guests.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” said Frank hastily.
“They will be more civil after dinner. Ah, and there it is.”
For the door was thrown open, one of the servants announced the dinner, and the colonel led off with Baron Steinberg, after saying a few words to Sir Robert, who came directly to his brother-officer.
“The colonel wishes the places to be changed, Murray,” he said, “so that you and I can be closer to the head of the table on either side, to do the talking with the visitors. I wish you would take my boy here on your left. Forbes, my lad, you come and sit with me.”
Andrew had begun to look a little glum at being set on one side on account of the German officers; but at Sir Robert’s last words he brightened up a little, and they followed into the messroom, which was decorated with the regimental colours; the hall looked gay with its fine display of plate, gla.s.s, flowers, and fruit, and the band was playing in a room just beyond.
The scene drove away all the little unpleasantry, and the dinner proceeded, with the colonel and his officers doing their best to entertain their guests, but only seeming to succeed with the two pages of honour, to whom everything was, in its novelty, thoroughly delightful. The German officers, though n.o.blemen and gentlemen, gave their hosts a very poor example of good breeding, being all through exceedingly haughty and overbearing, and treating the attempts of Sir Robert and Captain Murray to act as their interpreters to the colonel and the other officers with a contempt that was most galling; and more than once Frank saw his father, who was opposite, bite his lip and look across at Captain Murray, who, after one of these glances, whispered to Frank:
“Your dad’s getting nettled, my lad, and I find it very consoling.”
“Why?” said Frank, who felt annoyed with himself for enjoying the evening so much.
“Why? Because I was fancying that I must have a very hasty temper for minding what has been taking place. Do you know any German at all?”
“Very little,” said Frank quickly.
“What a pity! You could have said something to this stolid gentleman on my right. He seems to think I am a waiter.”
“I thought he was very rude several times.”
“Well, yes, I suppose we must call it rude. The poor old colonel yonder is in misery; he does hardly anything but wipe his forehead. Does not young Forbes speak German?”
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