The next day David gave his attention to the letters which he found awaiting him. One was from Doctor Hoyle in Canada. He had but just returned from a visit to England, and it was full of news of David's family there.
"Your two cousins and your brother are gone with their regiments to South Africa," he wrote. "They are jubilant to be called to active service, as they ought to be, but your mother is heartbroken over their departure. You stay where you are, my boy. She is glad enough to have you out of England now, and far from the temptation which besets youth in times of war. It has already caused a serious blood-letting for Old England. I have grave doubts about this contention. In these days there ought to be a way of preventing such disaster. Write to your mother and comfort her heart,—she needs it. I was careful not to betray to her what your condition has been, as I discovered you had not done so. Hold fast and fight for health, and be content. Your recuperative power is good."
David was filled with contrition as he opened his mother's letter, which was several weeks old and had come by way of Canada, since she did not know he had gone South. For some time he had sent home only casual notes, partly to save her anxiety, and partly because writing was irksome to him unless he had something particularly pleasant to tell her. His plans and actions had been so much discussed at home and he had been considered so censurably odd—so different from his relatives and friends in his opinions, and so impossible of comprehension