“What, in not being a hero? My dear, you are a true hero in the eyes of us old mothers; but I am afraid that is poor comfort. My Jock, does it go so deep as that? Giving up all that for me! O my boy!”
“It is nonsense to talk of giving up,” said Jock, rousing himself to a common-sense view. “What chance had I of her if I had gone to India ten times over?” but the wave of grief broke over him again. “She would have believed in me, and, may be, have waited.”
“She will believe in you again.”
“No, I’m below her.”
“My poor boy, I didn’t know it had come to this. Do you mean that anything had ever passed between you?”
“No, but it was all the same. Even Evelyn implied it, when he said they must give me up, if we took such different lines.”
“Cecil too! Foolish fellow! Jock, don’t care about such absurdity. They are not worth it.”
“They’ve been the best of my life,” said poor Jock, but he stood up, shook himself, and said, “A nice way this of helping you! I didn’t think I was such a fool. But it is over now. I’ll buckle to, and do my best.”
“My brave boy!” and as the thought of the Magnum Bonum darted into her mind, she said, “You may have greater achievements than are marked by Victoria Crosses, and Sydney herself may own it.”
And Jock went to bed, cheered in spite of himself by his mother’s pleasure, and by Mrs. Evelyn’s letter, which she allowed him to take away with him.
Colonel Brownlow was not so much distressed by Lucas’s retirement as had been apprehended. He knew the life of a soldier with small means too well to recommend it. The staff appointment, he said, might mean anything or nothing, and could only last a short time unless Lucas had extraordinary opportunities. It might be as well, he was very like his grandfather, poor John Allen, and might have had his history over again.
The likeness was a new idea to Caroline and a great pleasure to her. Indeed, she seemed to Armine unfeelingly joyous, as she accepted Mr. Ogilvie’s invitation, and hurried her preparations. There was a bare possibility of a return in the spring, which prevented final farewells, and softened partings a little. The person who showed most grief of all was Mrs. Robert Brownlow, who, glad as she must have been to be free of Bobus and able to recall her daughter, wept over her sister-in-law as if she had been going into the workhouse, with tears partly penitent for the involuntary ingratitude with which past kindness had been received. She was, as Babie said, much more sorry for Mother Carey than Mother Carey for herself.
Yet the relief was all the greater that it was plain that Esther was not happy in her banishment; and that General Hood thought her visit had lasted long enough, while the matter was complicated at home by her sister Eleanor’s undisguised sympathy with her cousin Bobus, for whom she would have sent messages if her mother had not, with some difficulty exacted a promise never to allude to him in her letters.