I thought this very kind of his lordship, especially as it enabled me to see my darling Lorna, not indeed as often as I wished, but at any rate very frequently, and as many times as modesty (ever my leading principle) would in common conscience approve of. And I made up my mind that if ever I could help Earl Brandir, it would be—as we say, when with brandy and water—the ‘proudest moment of my life,’ when I could fulfil the pledge.

And I soon was able to help Lord Brandir, as I think, in two different ways; first of all as regarded his mind, and then as concerned his body: and the latter perhaps was the greatest service, at his time of life. But not to be too nice about that; let me tell how these things were.

Lorna said to me one day, being in a state of excitement—whereto she was over prone, when reft of my slowness to steady her,—

‘I will tell him, John; I must tell him, John. It is mean of me to conceal it.’

I thought that she meant all about our love, which we had endeavoured thrice to drill into his fine old ears; but could not make him comprehend, without risk of bringing the house down: and so I said, ‘By all means; darling; have another try at it.’

Lorna, however, looked at me—for her eyes told more than tongue—as much as to say, ‘Well, you are a stupid. We agreed to let that subject rest.’ And then she saw that I was vexed at my own want of quickness; and so she spoke very kindly,—

‘I meant about his poor son, dearest; the son of his old age almost; whose loss threw him into that dreadful cold—for he went, without hat, to look for him—which ended in his losing the use of his dear old ears. I believe if we could only get him to Plover’s Barrows for a month, he would be able to hear again. And look at his age! he is not much over seventy, John, you know; and I hope that you will be able to hear me, long after you are seventy, John.’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘God settles that. Or at any rate, He leaves us time to think about those questions, when we are over fifty. Now let me know what you want, Lorna. The idea of my being seventy! But you would still be beautiful.’

‘To the one who loves me,’ she answered, trying to make wrinkles in her pure bright forehead: ‘but if you will have common sense, as you always will, John, whether I wish it or otherwise—I want to know whether I am bound, in honour, and in conscience, to tell my dear and good old uncle what I know about his son?’

‘First let me understand quite clearly,’ said I, never being in a hurry, except when passion moves me, ‘what his lordship thinks at present; and how far his mind is urged with sorrow and anxiety.’ This was not the first time we had spoken of the matter.

‘Why, you know, John, well enough,’ she answered, wondering at my coolness, ‘that my poor uncle stlll believes that his one beloved son will come to light and live again. He has made all arrangements accordingly: all his property is settled on that supposition. He knows that young Alan always was what he calls a “feckless ne’er-do-weel;” but he loves him all the more for that. He cannot believe that he will die, without his son coming back to him; and he always has a bedroom ready, and a bottle of Alan’s favourite wine cool from out the cellar; he has made me work him a pair of slippers from the size of a mouldy boot; and if he hears of a new tobacco—much as he hates the smell of it—he will go to the other end of London to get some for Alan. Now you know how deaf he is; but if any one say, “Alan,” even in the place outside the door, he will make his courteous bow to the very highest visitor, and be out there in a moment, and search the entire passage, and yet let no one know it.’

‘It is a piteous thing,’ I said; for Lorna’s eyes were full of tears.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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