Sir John touched Ethel’s cheek lightly with his lips and motioned his visitors to be seated.
“Now is not that a pretty speech from a professional man! Ah, you lovers, you are all alike, and when you are married—Ah! then you are all the same.”
“What an accusation! I hope Ethel does not credit it, or I shall never be permitted an opportunity of refuting such a calumny.”
“I know too well how highly Mamma thinks of you, John,” said Ethel, prettily.
“Well, I admit it—I do admire you immensely—I admire your power, your position, your ability to make an income—a large income, sitting comfortably in an arm chair. And then there is such solidity in a doctor’s profession—people are always ill.”
“Mamma is ill herself,” broke in Lady Ethel, “and that is why we have intruded to-day.”
“I hope it is nothing serious, my dear Duchess.”
“How sweet of you! Ah, I am a martyr! I have hay fever to such a distressing extent that I am positively ashamed to go into society.”
Her daughter laughed.
“We were at the Opera last night, and Mamma’s sneezes were most mal-a-propos. It was very embarrassing.”
“Yes, I am convinced that Romeo glowered at me, and at church on Sunday it was such a charming sermon, so encouraging and tactful, I sneezed violently in the man’s best moments. At my age I cannot consent to become a public infliction, yet I feel I am a nuisance.”
“Mamma said, as soon as we got home—’I shall go and consult Sir John,’” cooed Ethel.
“And now you can cure me?” The Duchess looked anxiously into the grave face opposite.
“I have not the slightest doubt you will be entirely recovered in a few days at most,” said Sir John reassuringly; “you have caught a severe cold.”
“Nothing of the sort, I assure you. I have had colds before, and I know better.”
“What, better than your doctor?” The stern face relaxed, and Sir John laughed.
“Well, better than my future son-in-law. Now I beg you not to be obstinate. Give me something potent—one of those drugs that work such instantaneous wonders.”
“I fear they are not in the Pharmacopoeia.”
“I don’t think it is kind of you to discourage me.”
“But if I make you well in a week, will not that satisfy your Grace?”
“I shall be radiant.”
“I will write you a prescription.”
“Thanks! What an invaluable husband you will make with all that knowledge at your finger ends! I need have no misgivings as to Ethel’s health, and she has always been so subject to chills. The risk of entrusting one’s daughter to an unobservant man is shocking, but to a physician! To have for one’s daily companion a great and renowned doctor, what an advantage—what a security!”
“Really, mamma, to hear you talk one would suppose that I was an invalid, and I never remember to have suffered from anything worse than the measles.”