CHAPTER XXIV. THE ANGEL MOUNTAIN.
To your eager prayer, the Voice
Makes awful answer, “Come to Me.”
Once for all now seal your choice
With Christ to tread the boisterous sea.
The Leukerbad section of the party had only three days’ start of the others, for Jock was not released till after a whole month’s course of the baths, and Armine’s state fluctuated so much that the journey would not have been sooner possible.
It had been a trying time. While Dr. Medlicott thought he could not rouse Mrs. Brownlow to the sense of the little fellow’s precarious condition, deadly alarm lay couched in the bottom of her heart, only kept at bay by defiantly cheerful plans and sanguine talk.
Then Jock was depressed, and at his age (and, alas! at many others) being depressed means being cross, and very cross he was to his mother and his friend, and occasionally to his brother, who, in some moods, seemed to him merely a rival invalid and candidate for attention, and whom he now and then threatened with becoming as frightful a muff as Fordham. He missed Johnny, too, and perhaps longed after Eton. He was more savage to Cecil than to any one else, treating his best attentions with growls, railings, and occasionally showers of slippers, books, and cushions, but, strange as it sounds, the friendship only seemed cemented by this treatment, and this devoted slave evidently preferred being abused by Jock to being made much of by any one else.
The regimen was very disagreeable to his English habits, and the tedium of the place was great. His mother thought it quite enough to account for his captiousness, and the doctor said it was recovery, but no one guessed how much was due to the good resolutions he had made on the moraine and ratified with Cecil. To no one else had he spoken, but all the more for his reserve did he feel himself bound by the sense of the shame and dishonour of falling back from vows made in the time of danger. No one else was aware of it, but John Lucas Brownlow was not of a character to treat a promise or a resolution lightly. If he could have got out of his head the continual echo of the two lines about the monastic intentions of a certain personage when sick, he would have been infinitely better tempered.
For to poor Jock steadiness appeared renunciation of all “jest and youthful jollity,” and religion seemed tedious endurance of what might be important, but, like everything important, was to him very wearisome and uninteresting. To him all zest and pleasure in life seemed extinguished, and he would have preferred leaving Eton, where he must change his habits and amaze his associates. Indeed, he was between hoping and fearing that all this would there seem folly. But then he would break his word, the one thing that poor half-heathen Jock truly cared about.