“P.S.—Will you tell Gladys that my three puppies, which she says are growing nicely, are not, on any account, to be given away; and will you say that Swan is not to drown them, or do anything with them, till I’ve chosen one, and then he may sell the others. And I hope my nails and screws and my tools have not been meddled with. The children are not to take my things. It often makes me miserable to think that they get my nails and my paddle when I’m gone.”
John Mortimer smiled, and felt rather inclined to let the boy come home, when, looking up, he observed that his father was dozing over the newspaper, and that he shivered.
Master Augustus John did not get an answer so soon as he had hoped for it, and when it came it was dated from a little, quiet place at the seaside, and let him know that his grandfather was very poorly, very much out of sorts, and that his father had felt uneasy about him. Johnny was informed that he must try to be happy, spending the Easter holidays at his tutor’s. His grandfather sent him a very handsome “tip,” and a letter written in such a shaky hand, that the boy was a good deal impressed, and locked it up in his desk, lest he should never have another.
THE AMERICAN GUEST.
“Shall we rouse the
night-owl with a catch that will draw three
souls out of one weaver?”
In less than a week from the receipt of his son’s letter, John Mortimer wrote again, and gave the boy leave to come home, but on no account to bring young Crayshaw with him, if a journey was likely to do him harm.
Johnny accordingly set off instantly (the holidays having just begun), and, travelling all night, reached the paternal homestead by eight o’clock in the morning.
His father was away, but he was received with rapture by his brothers and sisters. His little brothers admired him with the humble reverence of small boys for big ones, and the girls delighted in his school-boy slang, and thought themselves honoured by his companionship.
Crayshaw was an American by birth, but his elder brother (under whose guardianship he was) had left him in England as his best chance of living to manhood, for he had very bad health, and the climate of his native place did not suit him.
Young Gifford Crayshaw had a general invitation to spend the holidays at Brandon’s house, for his brother and Brandon were intimate friends; but boys being dull alone, Johnny Mortimer and he contrived at these times to meet rather often, sometimes to play, sometimes to fight—even the latter is far better than being without companionship, more natural, and on the whole more cheerful.
“And I’m sure,” said Aunt Christie, when she heard he was coming, “I should never care about the mischief he leads the little ones into when he’s well, if he could breathe like other people when he’s ill; you may hear him half over the house when he has his asthma.”