In addition to his affection for him, he had always had an unquestioning confidence in his father. It was his earliest recollection, and he still retained it to almost a childish extent. There had always been plenty. His own allowance, from time to time increased, though never extravagant, had always been ample, and on the one occasion when he had grievously exceeded it the excess had been paid with no more protest than a gentle “I think you ought not to have done this.” The two had lived together when John was at home without ostentation or any appearance of style, but with every essential of luxury. The house and its furnishings were old-fashioned, but everything was of the best, and when three or four of the elder man’s friends would come to dine, as happened occasionally, the contents of the cellar made them look at each other over their glasses. Mr. Lenox was very reticent in all matters relating to himself, and in his talks with his son, which were mostly at the table, rarely spoke of business matters in general, and almost never of his own. He had read well, and was fond of talking of his reading when he felt in the vein of talking, which was not always; but John had invariably found him ready with comment and sympathy upon the topics in which he himself had interest, and there was a strong if undemonstrative affection between the father and son.
It was not strange, perhaps, all things considered, that John had come even to nearly six-and-twenty with no more settled intentions; that his boyhood should have been so long. He was not at all of a reckless disposition, and, notwithstanding the desultory way in which he had spent time, he had strong mental and moral fiber, and was capable of feeling deeply and enduringly. He had been desultory, but never before had he had much reason or warning against it. But now, he reflected, a time had come. Work he must, if only for work’s sake, and work he would; and there was a touch of self-reproach in the thought of his father’s increasing years and of his lonely life. He might have been a help and a companion during those two years of his not very fruitful European sojourn, and he would lose no time in finding out what there was for him to do, and in setting about it.
The day seemed very long. He ate his luncheon, having first paid a visit to Ann, who gave him an effusive welcome. Jeffrey waited, and during the meal they had some further talk, and among other things John said to him, “Does my father dress for dinner nowadays?”
“No, sir,” was the reply, “I don’t know when I’ve seen your father in his evenin’ clothes, sir. Not for a long time, and then maybe two or three times the past year when he was going out to dinner, but not here, sir. Maybe it’ll be different now you’re back again, sir.”
After luncheon John’s luggage arrived, and he superintended the unpacking, but that employment was comparatively brief. The day dragged with him. Truly his home-coming was rather a dreary affair. How different had been yesterday, and the day before, and all those days before when he had so enjoyed the ship life, and most of all the daily hour or more of the companionship which had grown to be of such surpassing interest to him, and now seemed so utterly a thing of the past.