She thought of the horror he had been wont to express of the English squirearchy, 'whose arena is the quarter sessions;' and she remembered standing up for them, and declaring there was far more honest, sturdy, chivalrous maintenance of right and freedom in their history than in all his beloved Lombardic republics. And now, what was he but a thorough-going country gentleman, full of plans of usefulness, sparing neither thought, time, nor means; and though some of his views were treated by Lord Martindale as wild and theoretical, yet, at any rate, they proved that he had found living men a more interesting study than the Apollo Belvedere.
Theodora was resolved that Violet should see him, and now that the dinner was eaten and beyond anxiety, went up to disclose his presence, and persuade her to go down to tea and leave her with the patient. She found it was well she had kept her counsel; Violet took it quietly enough; but Arthur chose to concern himself as to what wine had been produced, and would have sent a message to James if his sister had not assured him that it was too late.
He insisted on Violet's going down to the drawing-room, and would not hear of Theodora's remaining with him. The nurse was in the outer room, and Johnnie was made supremely happy by being allowed to sit up an hour longer to be his companion; and thus with Lord Martindale and Theodora making frequent expeditions to visit him, Violet was sufficiently tranquil to remain as long in the drawing-room as was worth the fatigue of the transit.
She could enjoy her talk with the Earl; and, indeed, since Annette's visit, she had heard no tidings so full and satisfactory. He knew the name of every one at Wrangerton; he seemed to have learnt to love Helvellyn; he spoke very highly of Olivia's husband, Mr. Hunt, declaring that he liked nothing better than a visit to his most beautiful place, Lassonthwayte, a farm fit for the poets, and had learnt a great deal from him; and of Mrs. Moss he talked with affectionate gratitude that brought the tears into Violet's eyes, especially when he promised to go and call on her immediately on his return, to tell her how Colonel Martindale was going on, and describe to her her grandchildren. He repeated to Violet how kind her mother had been to his sister, and how beautifully she had nursed him. Lord Martindale began to ask questions, which brought out a narration of his adventures in the coal-pit, given very simply, as if his being there had been a mere chance.
He allowed that he knew it to be dangerous, but added, that it was impossible to get things done by deputy, and that he had no choice but to see about it himself, and he dwelt much on the behaviour of the men.
'Did you give up hope?' asked Lord Martindale.
'For myself I did. The confined air oppressed me so much, even before the sense of hunger came on, that it seemed to take away all power of thought and action.'
'Yet you did think?' said Violet.