She did not find it so; and as she remained with her boy, Janet’s conversation with her could not be resumed. There was so much chance of infection that she could not see any of the family again. Both the Johns sickened as soon as Armine began to improve, and Miss Ogilvie took the three girls down to Belforest. After the first few days it was rather a pleasant nursing. There was never any real alarm; indeed, Armine was the least ill of the three, and Johnny the most, and each boy was perfectly delighted to have her to attend to him, her nephew almost touchingly grateful. The only other victim was Jock’s most intimate friend, Cecil Evelyn, whose fag Armine was. He became a sharer of her attentions and the amusements she provided. She received letters of grateful thanks from his mother, who was, like herself, a widow, but was prevented from coming to him by close attendance on her mother-in-law, who was in a lingering state of decay when every day might be the last.
The eldest son, Lord Fordham, was so delicate that he was on no account to be exposed to the infection, and the boys were exceedingly anxious that Cecil should join them in the expedition that their mother projected making with them, to air them in Switzerland before returning to the rest of the family. But Mrs. Evelyn (her husband had not lived to come to the title) declined this. Fordham was in the country with his tutor, and she wished Cecil to come and spend his quarantine with her in London before joining him. The boys grumbled very much, but Caroline could hardly wonder when she talked with their tutor.
He, like every one else, liked, and even loved personally that perplexing subject, John Lucas Brownlow, alias Jock. The boy was too generous, honourable, truthful, and kindly to be exposed to the stigma of removal; but he was the perplexity of everybody. He could not be convinced of any necessity for application, and considered a flogging as a slight risk quite worth encountering for the sake of diversion. He would execute the most audacious pranks, and if he was caught, would take it as a trial of skill between the masters and himself, and accept punishment as amends, with the most good humoured grace in the world. Fun seemed to be his only moving spring, and he led everybody along with him, so as to be a much more mischievous person than many a worse lad.
The only exceptions in the house to his influence seemed to be his brother and cousin. Both were far above the average boy. Armine, for talent, John Friar Brownlow at once for industry and steadiness. They had stood out resolutely against more than one of his pranks, and had been the only boys in the house not present on the occasion of his last freak-a champagne supper, when parodies had been sung, caricaturing all the authorities; and when the company had become uproarious enough to rouse the whole family, the boys were discovered in the midst of the most audacious but droll mimicry of the masters.