“Well, you’ve done something to-day.”
“That-oh, that was nothing. I shouldn’t have made such a fool of myself if I hadn’t been seedy before. I hear the pony,” he added. “Excuse me.” And, with a murmured grace, he rose. Then, recollecting himself, “No end of thanks. I don’t know how to thank you enough.”
“Don’t; I’ve done nothing,” said Lord Fordham, wringing his hand. “I only hope-”
The words stuck in his throat, and with a sigh he watched the lad ride off.
CHAPTER XXI. AN ACT OF INDEPENDENCE.
Soldier now and servant true;
Earth behind and heaven in view.
Marmaduke Alwyn Evelyn, Viscount Fordham, was the fourth bearer of that title within ten years. His father had not lived to wear it, and his two elder brothers had both died in early youth. His precarious existence seemed to be only held on a tenure of constant precaution, and if his mother ventured to hope that it might be otherwise with the two youngest of the family, it was because they were of a shorter, sturdier, more compact form and less transparent complexion than their elders, and altogether seemed of a different constitution.
More delicate from the first than the two brothers who had gone before him, Lord Fordham had never been at school, had studied irregularly, and had never been from under his mother’s wing till this summer, when she was detained by the slow decay of his grandmother. Languor and listlessness had beset the youth, and he had been ordered mountain air, and thus it was that Mrs. Evelyn had despatched both her sons to Switzerland, under the attendance of a highly recommended physician, a young man bright and attractive, who had over-worked himself at an hospital, and needed thorough relaxation. Rightly considering Lucas Brownlow as the cause of most of Cecil’s Eton follies, she had given her eldest son a private hint to elude joining forces with the family, and he was the most docile and obedient of sons. Yet was it the perversity of human nature that made him infinitely more animated and interested in John Brownlow’s race and the distressed travellers on the Schwarenbach than he had been since-no one could tell when?
Perhaps it was the novelty of being left alone and comparatively unwatched. Certain it was that he ate enough to rejoice the heart of his devoted and tyrannical attendant Reeves; and that he walked about in much anxiety all the afternoon, continually using his telescope to look up the mountain wherever a bit of the track was visible through the pine woods.
In due time Cecil rode back the pony which John had taken up. The alacrity with which the long lank bending figure stepped to meet him was something unwonted, but the boy himself was downcast and depressed.
“I’m afraid you’ve nothing good to tell.”
Cecil shook his head, and after some more seconds broke out-