“Ah! I thought so,” said his mother; “they didn’t know how to feed you. It was an unfortunate business altogether.”
“How did you leave those poor boys, Johnny?” asked his father.
“Better,” said Johnny. “Jock is nearly well,-will be quite so after the baths; and Armine is getting better. He sat up for an hour the day before I came away.”
“And your aunt?” said his father.
“Wonderful,” said John, with a quiver of feeling on his face. “You never saw anything like her. She keeps up, but she looks awfully thin and worn. I couldn’t have left her, if Dr. Medlicott and Lord Fordham and his man had not all been bent on saving her whatever they could.”
Her Serene Highness virtuously forbore a sigh. She never could believe those chains with which Caroline bound all men to her service to be either unconscious or strictly proper. However, she only said-
“It was high time that you came away; you were quite knocked up with being left a week alone with Lucas in that horrid place. I can’t think how your aunt came to think of it.”
“She didn’t think,” said John, bluntly. “It was only a week, and it couldn’t be helped. Besides it was rather jolly.”
“But it knocked you up.”
“Oh! that was only a notion of the doctor and my aunt. They said I was done up first because I caught cold, and I was glad to wait a day or two longer at Leukerbad, in hopes Allen and Bobus would have come out before I went.”
“They come out! Not they!” said the Colonel. “’Tis not the way of young men nowadays to give up anything for their fathers and mothers. No, no, Bobus can’t spare a week from his reading-party, but must leave his mother to a set of chance acquaintance, and Allen-whom poor Caroline always thinks the affectionate one, if he is nothing else-can’t give up going to gape at the sun at midnight, and Rob was wanting to make one of their freight of fools, but I told him it was quite enough to have one son wandering abroad at other people’s expense, when it couldn’t be helped; and that I wouldn’t have another unless he was prepared to lay down his share in the yacht, out of his pay and allowance. I’m glad you are come home, Johnny; it was quite right to come as soon as your aunt could spare you, poor thing! She writes warmly about you; I am glad you were able to be of use to her, but you ought not to waste any more time.”
“No. I wrote to my tutor that I would be at Eton to-morrow night, in time to begin the week’s work.”
“Papa!” cried out Mrs. Brownlow, “you will never let him start so soon? He is so pulled down, I must have him at home to get him right again; and there are all his clothes to look over!”
Colonel Brownlow gave the odd little chuckling noise that meant to all the family that he did not see the force of mamma’s objections, and John asseverated that he was perfectly well, and that his Eton garments were all at Hyde Corner, where he should take them up. Meantime, he thought he ought to walk to Belforest to report to his cousins, and carry a key which his aunt had sent by him to Janet.