However, matters turned out contrary to all expectation. Mrs. Lucas was in the drawing-room, talking to the Colonel’s wife, and Janet up stairs helping her mother to dress, when there was a sound of feet on the stairs, the door hastily opened for a moment, and two rough-headed, dusty little figures were seen for one moment, startling Mrs. Brownlow with the notion of little beggars; but they vanished in a moment, and were heard chattering up stairs with calls of “Mother! Mother Carey!” And looking out, they beheld at the top of the stairs the two little fellows hanging one on each side of Carey, who was just outside her door, with her hair down, in her white dressing gown, kneeling between them, all the three almost devouring one another.
“Jockie! Armie! my dears! How did you come? Where are the rest?”
“Still at Kyve,” said Jock. “Mother we have done such a thing-we came to tell you of it.”
“We’ve lost the man’s boat,” added Armine, “and we must give him the money for another.”
“What is it? What is it, Caroline?” began her sister-in-law; but Mrs. Lucas touched her arm, and as a mother herself, she saw that mother and sons had best be left to one another, and let them retreat into the bedroom, Carey eagerly scanning her two little boys, who had a battered, worn, unwashed look that puzzled her as much as their sudden appearance, which indeed chimed in with the strange dreamy state in which she had lived ever since that telegram. But their voices did more to restore her to ordinary life than anything else could have done; and their hearts were so full of their own adventure, that they poured it out before remarking anything,-
“How did you come, my dear boys?”
“We walked, after the omnibus set us down at Charing Cross, because we hadn’t any more money,” said Armine. “I’m so tired.” And he nestled into her lap, seeming to quell the beating of her aching heart by his pressure.
“This is it, mother,” said Jock, pulling her other arm round him. “We two went down to the beach yesterday, and we saw a little boat- Peter Lary’s pretty little boat, you know, that is so light-and we got in to rock in her, and then I thought I would pull about in her a little.”
“Oh! Jock, Jock, how could you?”
“I’d often done it with Allen and Young Pete,” said Jock, defensively.
“But by yourselves!” she said in horror.
“Nobody told us not,” said Jock rather defiantly; and Armine, who, with his little sister Barbara, always seemed to live where dreamland and reality bordered on each other, looked up in her face and innocently said-
“Mrs. Acton read us about the Rocky Island, and she said father and granny had brought their boats to the beautiful country, and that we ought to go after them, and there was the bright path along the sea, and I thought we would go too, and that it would be nicer if Jock went with me.”