There is such a thing as slack tide in the affairs of men, when a crisis seems as if it would never come, and all things stagnate. The Law Courts had as yet not concerned themselves about the will, vacation time had come and all was at a standstill, nor could any steps be taken for Lucas’s exchange till it was certain into what part of India Sir Philip Cameron was going. In the meantime his regiment had gone into camp, and he could not get away until the middle of September, and then only for a few days. Arriving very late on a Friday night, he saw nobody but his mother over his supper, and thought her looking very tired. When he met her in the morning, there was the same weary, harassed countenance, there were worn marks round the dark wistful eyes, and the hair, whitened at Schwarenbach, did not look as incongruous with the face as hitherto.
No one else except Barbara had come down to prayers, so Jock’s first inquiry was for Armine.
“He is pretty well,” said his mother; “but he is apt to be late. He gets overtired between his beloved parish work and his reading with Bobus.”
“He is lucky to get such a coach,” said Jock. “Bob taught me more mathematics in a week than I had learnt in seven years before.”
“He is terribly accurate,” said Babie.
“Which Armie does not appreciate?” said Jock.
“I’m afraid not,” said his mother. “They do worry each other a good deal, and this Infanta most of all, I’m afraid.”
“O no, mother,” said Babie. “Only it is hard for poor Armie to have two taskmasters.”
“What! the Reverend Petronella continues in the ascendant?”
Bobus here entered, with a face that lightened, as did everyone’s, at sight of Lucas.
“Good morning. Ah! Jock! I didn’t sit up, for I had had a long day out on the moors; we kept the birds nearer home for you. There are plenty, but Grimes says he has heard shots towards River Hollow, and thinks some one must have been trespassing there.”
“Have you heard anything of Elvira? apropos to River Hollow,” said his mother.
“Yes,” said Jock. “One of our fellows has been on a moor not far from where she was astonishing the natives, conjointly with Lady Anne Macnalty. There were bets which of three men she may be engaged to.”
“Pending which,” said his mother, “I suppose poor Allen will continue to hover on the wings of the Petrel?”
“And send home mournful madrigals by the ream,” said Bobus. “Never was petrel so tuneful a bird!”
“For shame, Bobus; I never meant you to see them!”
“’Twas quite involuntary! I have trouble enough with my own pupil’s effusions. I leave him a bit of Latin composition, and what do I find but an endless doggerel ballad on What’s his name?-who hid under his father’s staircase as a beggar, eating the dogs’ meat, while his afflicted family were searching for him in vain;-his favourite example.”