When we got home, breakfast for us minor fry was waiting in our mess-room and the family honored us by coming in to eat it with us. The nice old treasurer, and in fact all three were flatteringly eager to hear about our adventures. Nobody asked the Paladin to begin, but he did begin, because now that his specially ordained and peculiar military rank set him above everybody on the personal staff but old D'Aulon, who didn't eat with us, he didn't care a farthing for the knights' nobility no mine, but took precedence in the talk whenever it suited him, which was all the time, because he was born that way. He said:
"God be thanked, we found the army in admirable condition I think I have never seen a finer body of animals."
"Animals!" said Miss Catherine.
"I will explain to you what he means," said Noël. "He—"
"I will trouble you not to trouble yourself to explain anything for me," said the Paladin, loftily. "I have reason to think—"
"That is his way," said Noël; "always when he thinks he has reason to think, he thinks he does think, but this is an error. He didn't see the army. I noticed him, and he didn't see it. He was troubled by his old complaint."
"What s his old complaint?" Catherine asked.
"Prudence," I said, seeing my chance to help.
But it was not a fortunate remark, for the Paladin said:
"It probably isn't your turn to criticize people's prudence—you who fall out of the saddle when a donkey brays."
They all laughed, and I was ashamed of myself for my hasty smartness. I said: