“Yes, Mrs. Evelyn told me. I am glad he has not lost his athletics in his London life. I always tell his mother that John is the flower of the flock.”
“A dear good brave fellow he is.”
“Yes, you have been the making of him, Caroline. If we don’t say much about it, we are none the less sensible of all you have been to our children. Most generous and disinterested!”
This was a speech to make Caroline tingle all over, and be glad both that she was a little in advance, and at the door of Fordham’s room, where John was not. Indeed, he proved to be lying on his bed, waiting for some one to help him off with his coat, and he was gratified and surprised to the utmost by his father’s visit, for in truth John was the one of all the sons who most loved and honoured his father.
If that evening were a whirl, what was the ensuing day, when all who stood in the position of hosts or their assistants were constantly on the stretch, receiving, entertaining, arranging, presiding over toilettes, getting people into their right places, saving one another trouble. If Mrs. Joseph Brownlow was an invaluable aid to Mrs. Evelyn, Allen was an admirable one to Lord Fordham, for his real talent was for society, and he had shaken himself up enough to exert it. There might have been an element of tuft-hunting in it, but there was no doubt that he was doing a useful part. For Robert was of no use at all, Armine was too much of a mere boy to take the same part, and John was feeling his injury a good deal more, could only manage to do his part as bridegroom’s man, and then had to go away and lie down, while the wedding-breakfast went on. In consequence he was spared the many repetitions of hearing how he had saved Miss Evelyn from a watery grave, and Allen made a much longer speech than he would have done for himself when undertaking, on Rob’s strenuous refusal, to return thanks for the bridesmaids.
That which made this unlike other such banquets, was that no one could help perceiving how much less the bridegroom was the hero of the day to the tenants than was the hectic young man who presided over the feast, and how all the speeches, however they began in honour of Captain Evelyn, always turned into wistful good auguries for the elder brother.
There was no worship of the rising sun there, for when Lord Fordham, in proposing the health of the bride and bridegroom, spoke of them as future possessors, in the tone of a father speaking of his heir apparent, there was a sub-audible “No, no,” and poor Cecil fairly and flagrantly broke down in returning thanks.
Fordham’s own health had been coupled with his mother’s, and committed to a gentleman who knew it was to be treated briefly; but this did not satisfy the farmers, and the chief tenant rose, saying he knew it was out of course to second a toast, but he must take the opportunity on this occasion. And there followed some of that genuine native heartfelt eloquence that goes so deep, as the praise of the young landlord was spoken, the strong attachment to him found expression, and there were most earnest wishes for his long life, and happiness like his brother’s.