Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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Author of "The Heir of Redclyffe" &c.

Young Hercules. — From a Gem




• • • •

••• • :•' •

M£MRV . •' HEfidSj



Ideas have a tyrannous power of insisting on
being worked out, even when one fears they
may be leading in a track already worthily pre-

But the Hercules myth did not seem to me
to be like one of the fairy tales that we have seen
so gracefully and quaintly modernised ; and at
the risk of seeming to travestie the Farnese statue
in a shooting-coat and wide-awake, I could not
help going on, as the notion grew deeper and
more engrossing.

For, whether the origin of the myth be, or be
not, founded on solar phenomena, the yearning
Greek mind formed on it an unconscious allegory
of the course of the Victor, of whom the Sun,
rejoicing as a giant to run his course, is another
type, like Samson of old, since the facts of nature
and of history are Divine parables.

And as each one's conquest is, in the track of
his Leader, the only true Conqueror, so Hercules,
in spite of all the grotesque adjuncts that the lower
inventions of the heathen hung round him, is a
far closer likeness of manhood — as, indeed, the pro-
verbial use of some of his tasks testifies — and of
repentant man conquering himself The great crime,



after which his Hfe was a bondage of expiation ;
the choice between Virtue and Vice; the slaii>
passion ; the hundred-headed sin for ever cropping
up again ; the winning of the sacred emblem of
purity ; — then the subduing of greed ; the cleansing
of long-negleted uncleanness ; the silencing of foul
tongues ; the remarkable contest with the creature
which had become a foe, because, after being de-
voted for sacrifice, it was spared ; the obtaining
the girdle of strength ; the recovery of the spoil
from the three-fold enemy ; the gaining of the
fruit of life ; immediately followed by the victory
over the hell-hound of death ; and lastly, the at-
tainment of immortality — all seem no fortuitous
imagination, but one of those when ** thoughts
be)^ond their thoughts to those old bards were

I have not followed all these meanings, for this
is not an allegory, but a mere distant following
rather of the spirit than the letter of the old Greek
tale of the Twelve Tasks. Neither have I adhered
to every incident of Hercules' life; and the most
touching and beautiful of all — the rescue of Alcestis,
would hardly bear to come in merely as an episode,
in this weak and presumptuous endeavour to show
that the half-divine, patient conqueror is not merely
a classic invention, but that he and his labours
belong in some form or other to all times and all


Nov. 8, 1875.




The Arghouse Inheritance i

The Lion of Neme Heath 45

The " Dragon's Head " S2

The Wrath of Diana 99

The Capture in the Snow ,118

Ogden's Buildings ....... 140

The Birds of III Omen 158

Bullock's Chastisement 183




The Champion's Belt ...•••• 203

Dermot's Mare , , 226

The Red Valley Cattle Stealers .... 248

The Golden Fruit 269

The Bloodhound 287

Sunset Gold and Purple 306

The Fatal Token . ... . . • • • 331

Conclusion • • 353





One of the children brought me a photograph
album, long ago finished and closed, and showed
me a faded and blurred figure over which there
had been a little dispute. Was it Hercules with
club and lion-skin, or was it a gentleman I had
known ?

Ah me ! how soon a man's place knoweth him
no more ! What fresh recollections that majestic
form awoke in me — the massive features, with the
steadfast eye, and low, square brow, curled over with
short rings of hair ; the mouth, that, through the
thick, short beard, still invited trust and reliance,
even while there was a look of fire and determina-
tion that inspired dread.

The thing seemed to us hideous and absurd
when it was taken by Miss Horsman. I hated it,


r \' 'j/t'.yO[/JVG ALCIDES.

a'nd'hi'd' it' aivciy'as.a caricature. But now those
pale, vanishing tints bring the very presence
before me ; and before the remembrance can
become equally obscure in my own mind, let me
record for others the years that I spent with my
young Alcides as he now stands before me in

Our family history is a strange one. I, Lucy
Alison, never even saw my twin brothers — nor,
indeed, knew of their existence — during my child-
hood. I had one brother a year younger than
myself, and as long as he lived he was treated as
the eldest son, and neither he nor I ever dreamed
that my father had had a first wife and two sons.
He was a feeble, broken man, who seemed to my
young fancy so old that in after times it was
always a shock to me to read on his tablet,
" Percy Alison, aged fifty-seven ; " and I was
but seven years old when he died under the final
blow of the loss of my little brother Percy from

The dear old place — a house with five gables
on the garden front, black timbered, and with
white plaster between, and oh ! such flowers in the
garden — was left to my mother for her life ; and
she was a great deal younger than my father, so
we went on living there, and it was only when I
was almost a woman that I came to the knowledge
that the property would never be mine, but would
go in the male line to the son of one of my dis-
inherited convict brothers.

The story, as my mother knew it, was this:
Their names were Ambrose and Eustace ; there


was very litt-e interval between their births, and
there had been some confusion between them
during the first few hours of their Hves, so that
the question of seniority was never entirely clear,
though Ambrose was so completely the leader
and master that he was always looked upon as
the elder.

In their early youth they were led away by a
man of Polish extraction, though a British sub-
ject, one Count Prometesky, who had thrown
himself into every revolutionary movement on the
Continent, had fought under Kosciusko in Poland,
joined the Carbonari in Italy, and at last escaped,
with health damaged by a wound, to teach lan-
guages and military drawing in England, and,
unhappily, to spread his principles among his
pupils, during the excitement connected with
the Reform Bill. Under his teaching my poor
brothers became such democrats that they
actually married the two daughters of a man
from Cumberland named Lewthwayte, whom
Lord Erymanth had turned out of one of his
farms for his insolence and radicalism ; and not
long after they were engaged in the agricul-
tural riots, drilling the peasants, making in-
flammatory speeches, and doing all they could
to bring on a revolution. Dreadful harm was
done on the Erymanth estate, and the farm
from which Lewthwayte had been expelled suf-
fered especially, the whole of the ricks and
buildings being burnt down, though the family of
the occupant was saved, partly by Prometesky's


When the troops came, both he and my
brothers were taken with arms in their hands ;
they were tried by the special commission and
sentenced to death. Lewthwayte and his son
were actually hung ; but there was great interest
made for Ambrose and Eustace, and in con-
sideration of their early youth (they were not
twenty-two) their sentence was commuted to trans-
portation for life, and so was Prometesky's, be-
cause he was half a foreigner, and because he
was proved to have saved life.

My father would not see them again, but he
offered their wives a passage out to join them,
and wanted to have had their two babies left
with him, but the two young women refused to
part with them ; and it was after that that he
married again, meaning to cast them off for ever,
though, as long as their time of servitude lasted,
he sent the wives an allowance, and as soon as
his sons could hold property, he gave them a
handsome sum with which to set themselves up
in a large farm in the Bush.

And when little Percy died, he wanted again
to have his eldest grandson sent home to him,
and was very much wounded by the refusal which
came only just before his death. His will had
left the estate to the grandson, as the right heir.
Everyone looked on it as a bad prospect, but no
one thought of the " convict boy " as in the
immediate future, as my mother was still quite a
young woman.

But when I was just three-and-twenty, an
attack of diphtheria broke out ; my mother and


I both caught it ; and, alas ! I alone recovered.
The illness was very long with me, partly from
my desolateness and grief, for, tender as my kind
old servants were, and good as were my friends
and neighbours, they could only make me feel
what they were not.

Our old lawyer, Mr. Prosser, had written to
my nephew, for we knew that both the poor
brothers were dead ; but he assured me that I
might safely stay on at the old place, for it
would be eight months before his letter could be
answered, and the heir could not come for a long

time after.

I was very glad to linger on, for I clung to
the home, and looked at every bush and flower,
blossoming for the last time, almost as if I were
dying, and leaving them to a sort of fiend.
My mother's old friends. Lady Diana Tracy and
Lord Erymanth, her brother, used to bemoan
with me the coming of this lad, born of a plebeian
mother, bred up in a penal colony, and, no doubt,
uneducated except in its coarsest vices. Lord
Erymanth told at endless length all the advice
he had given my father in vain, and bewailed the
sense of justice that had bequeathed the property
to such a male heir as could not fail to be a
scourge to the country. Everyone had some
story" to tell of Ambrose's fiery speeches and
insubordinate actions, viewing Eustace as not so
bad because his mere satellite— and what must
not their sons be t

The only person who had any feeling of pity
or affection for them was old Miss Woolmer.


She was the daughter of a former clergyman of
Mycening, the little town which is almost at our
park-gates. She was always confined to the
house by rheumatic-gout. She had grown up
with my brothers. I sometimes wondered if she
had not had a little tenderness for one of them,
but I believe it was almost elder-sisterly. She
told me much in their excuse. My father had
never been the fond, indulgent father to them that
I remembered him, but a strict, stern authority
when he was at home, and when he was absent
leavinj them far too much to their own devices ;
while Prometesky was a very attractive person,
brilliant, accomplished, full of fire and of faith
in his theories of universal benevolence and

She thought, if the times had not been such as
to bring them into action, Ambrose would have
outgrown and modified all that was dangerous in
his theories, and that they would have remained
mere talk, the ebullition of his form of knight-
errantry ; for it was generous indignation and
ardour that chiefly led him astray, and Eustace
was always his double : but there were some inci-
dents at the time which roused him to fury.
Lewthwayte was a Cumberland man, who had
inherited the stock and the last years of a lease
of a farm on Lord Erymanth's property ; he had
done a good deal for it, and expended money on
the understanding that he should have the lease
renewed, but he was a man of bold, independent
northern tongue, and gave great offence to his
lordship, who was used to be listened to with a


sort of feudal deference. He was of the fierce
old Norse blood, and his daughters were tall, fair,
magnificent young women, not at all uneducated
nor vulgar, and it was the finding that my brothers
were becoming intimate at his farm that made
Lord Erymanth refuse to renew the lease and turn
the family out so harshly, and with as little notice
as possible.

The cruelty, as they thought it, was. Miss
Woolmer said, most ill-judged, and precipitated
the very thing that was dreaded. The youths
rushed into the marriage with the daughters, and
cast in their lot with all that could overturn the
existing order of things, but Miss Woolmer did
not believe they had had anything to do with the
rick-burning or machine-breaking. All that was
taken out of their hands by more brutal, ignorant
demagogues. They were mere visionaries and
enthusiasts according to her, and she said the two
wives were very noble-looking, high-spirited young
women. She had gone to see them several
times when their husbands were in prison, and
had been much struck with Alice, Ambrose's wife,
who held up most bravely; though Dorothy, poor
thing, was prostrated, and indeed her child was
born in the height of the distress, when his father
had just been tried for his life, and sentenced to

It was their birth and education that caused
them to be treated so severely ; besides, there was
no doubt of their having harangued the people,
and stirred them up, and they were seen, as well
as Prometesky, at the fire at what had been


Lewthwayte's farm ; at least, so it was declared
by men who turned King's evidence, and the proof
to the contrary broke down, because it depended
on the wives, whose evidence was not admissible ;
indeed that — as the law then stood — was not the
question. Those who had raised the storm wert
responsible for all that was done in it, and it was
very barely that their lives were spared.

That was the comfort Miss Woolmer gave.
No one else could see any at all, except a few
old women in the parish, who spoke tenderly of
poor Mr. Ambrose and Mr. Eustace ; but then
they had sons or brothers who had been out with
the rioters, and after these twenty-six years no
one remembered the outrages and terrors of the
time with anything but horror ; and the coming
of the wild lad from the Bush was looked on
as the end of all comfort.

I meant, as soon as I heard he was on the
way, to leave Arghouse, make visits among
friends, and decide on my future home, for, alas !
there was no one who wanted me. I was quite
alone in the world ; my mother's cousins were
not near, and I hardly knew them ; and my only
relations were the bushrangers, as Lady Diana
Tracy called them.

She was sister to Lord Erymanth, and widow
to an Irish gentleman, and had settled in the
next parish to us, with her children, on the
death of her husband.

Her little daughter, Viola, had been spending
the day with me, and it was a lovely spring
evening, when we sat on the lawn, wondering


whether I should ever care for anything so much
as for those long shadows from the fir woods
upon the sloping field, with the long grass rip-
pling in the wind, and the border of primroses
round the edge of the wood.

We heard wheels and thought it was the car-
riaee come for Viola, much too soon, when out
ran one of the maids, crying, " Oh ! Aliss Alison,
he is come. There's ever so many of them ! "

I believe we caught hold of one another in
our fright, and were almost surprised when, out-
stripping lame old Richardson, as he announced
" Mr. Alison ! " there came only three persons.
They were the two tallest men I had ever seen,
and a little girl of eight years old. I found my
hand in a very large one, and with the words
" Are you my aunt Lucy t " I was, as it were,
gathered up and kissed. The voice, somehow,
carried a comfortable feeling in the kindness of
its power and depth; and though it was a mouth
bristly with yellow bristles, such as had never
touched me before, the honest friendly eyes gave
me an indescribable feeling of belonging to some-
body, and of having ceased to be alone in the

" Here is Eustace," he said, " and little Dora,"
putting the child forward as she backed against
him, most unwiUing to let me kiss her. "And,
I did not know I had another aunt."

" No," I said, starting between, for what would
Lady Diana's feelings have been if Viola had
carried home an Australian kiss? "This is Miss



Viola's carriage was now actually coming, and
as I went into the house with her, she held me,
whispering to me to come home at once with her,
but I told her I could not leave them in that way,
and they were really my nephews.

"You are not afraid ?" she said.

" What do you think he could do to me ? " 1
asked, laughing.

" He is so big," said Viola. " I never saw any
one so big, but I think he is like Coeur de Lion.
Ah ! " We both shrieked, for a most uncanny
monster was rearing up in front of us, hopping
about the hall, as far as was allowed by the chain
that fastened it to the leg of a table.

" Mr. Alison brought it, ma'am," said Richard-
son, in a tone of disgust and horror. "Will you
have the carriage out, Miss Alison, and go down
to the Wyvern 1 Shuh ! you brute ! He shan't
hurt you, my dear ladies. I'll stand between."

We had recovered our senses, however, enough
to see that it was only a harmless kangaroo ;
and Dora came running out, followed by Harold,
caressing the beast, calling it poor Nanny, and
asking where he should shut it up for the


I suggested an outhouse, and we conducted
the creature thither in procession, hearing by
the way that the kangaroo's mother had been
shot, and that the animal itself, then very young,
and no bigger than a cat, had taken Harold's
open shirt front for her pouch and leaped into his
bosom, and that it had been brought up to its
present stature tame at Boola Boola. Viola went


with us, fed the kangaroo, and was so much in-
terested and de ighted, that she could hardly go
away, Eust?xe making her a most elaborate and
rather absurd bow, being evidently much im-
pressed by the carriage and liveried servants
who were waiting for her.

" Like the Governor's lady ! " he said. " And
I know, for I've been to a ball at Government

He plainly cared much more for appearances
than did Harold. He was not so tall, much
slighter, with darker hair, rather too shiny, and
a neatly turned up moustache, a gorgeous tie
and watch chain, a brilliant breast pin, a more
brilliant ring, and a general air that made me
conclude that he regarded himself as a Sydney
beau. But Harold, in his loose, rough grey suit,
was very different. His height was extraordinary,
his breadth of chest and shoulder equally gigantic,
though well proportioned, and with a look of
easy strength, and, as Viola had said, his head
was very much what one knows as the Lion
Heart's, not Marochetti's trim carpet knight,
but Vertue's rugged portrait from the monument
at Fontevrand. There was the same massive
breadth of feature, large yet not heavy, being
relieved by the exceeding keenness and quick-
ness of the light but very blue e}'es, which
seemed to see ever\^where round in a moment,
as men do in wild countries. The short thick
yellow curly beard and moustache \-eiled the lower
part of the face ; but the general expression, when
still, was decidedly a sad one, though a word


or a trick of Dora's would call up a smile all
over the browned cheeks and bright eyes. His
form and colouring must have come from the
Cumberland statesman, but people said his voice
and expression had much of his father in them ;
and no one could think him ungentlemanly,
though he was not like any English gentleman.
He wore no gaieties like Eustace, the hand-
kerchief loosely knotted round his neck sailor
fashion was plain black, and he had a gold
ring on his little finger.

Dora had the same yellow curly hair, in tight,
frizzly rings all over her head, like a boy's, a light
complexion, and blue eyes, in a round, pug-nosed
face ; and she hung so entirely on Harold that I
never doubted that she was his sister till, as we
were sitting down to eat, I said, " Can't you come
a little way from your brother.?"

Eustace gave his odd little giggle, and said,
" There, Dora ! ''

" I'm. not his sister — Vm his wife ! "

" There ! '' and Eustace giggled again and
ordered her away ; but I saw Harold^s brow knit
with pain, and as she began to reiterate her asser-
tion and resist Eustace, he gently sat her dov/n
on the chair near at hand, and silently made her
understand that she was to stay there ; but Eustace
rather teasingly said :

" Aunt Lucy will teach you manners, Dora.
She is my sister, and we have brought her home
to send her to school."*^

" I won't go to school/' said Dora ; " Harold
would not/'


" You won't get away like him/' returned
Eustace, in the same tone.

. " Yes, I shall. Til lick all the girls,'' she re-
turned, clenching a pair of red mottled fists that
looked very capable.

" For shame, Dora ! " said the low voice.

" Harold did," said she, looking up at me
triumphantly ; " he beat all the boys, and had to
come back again to Boola Boola."

I longed to understand more, but I was
ashamed to betray my ignorance of my near re-
lations, for I did not even know whether their
mothers were alive ; but I saw that if I only
listened, Eustace would soon tell everything. He
had a runaway chin, and his mouth had a look at
times that made me doubt whether there were not
some slight want in his intellect, or at least weak-
ness of character. However, I was relieved from
the fear of the vice with which the neighbourhood
had threatened us, for neither of them would touch
wine or beer, but begged for tea, and drank oceans
of it.

We had not long finished, when Richardson
brought me a note from Lady Diana Tracy, say-
ing she had sent the carriage for me that I might
at once take refuge from this unforeseen invasion.

I felt it out of all possibility that I should
thus run away, and yet I knew I owed an apo-
logy for Harold's finding me and the old servants
in possession, so I began to say that my old friend
had sent the carriage for me. — I had been taken
by surprise, their journey (one of the first across
the Isthmus) had been so much quicker than I


had expected, or I should have left the house free
for them.

"Why?'' asked Harold. And when I an-
swered that the place was his and I had no
business there, he did not seem to see it. "It
is your home/' he said ; " you have always
lived here.''

I began explaining that this was no reason
at all ; but he would not hear of my going away,
and declared that it was I who belonged to
the place, so that I confessed that I should be
very thankful to stay a little while.

" Not only a little while," he said ; " it is
your home as much as ever, and the best thing
in the world for us.''

" Yes, yes," responded Eustace ; " we kept
on wondering what Aunt Lucy would be like,
and never thought she could be such a nice
yoiuig lady."

" Not realising that your aunt is younger
than yourselves," I said.

"No," said Eustace, "the old folk never
would talk of home — my father did not like it,
you see — and Aunt Alice had moved off to New
Zealand, so that we could not go and talk about
it to her. Mr. Smith has got a school in Auck-
land, you know."

I did not know, but I found that a year or
two after the death of my brother Ambrose, his
widow had become the second wife of the master
of a boarding-school at Sydney, and that it was
there that Harold, at ten years old, had fought all
the boys, including the step-children, and had


been so audacious and uncontrollable, that she
had been forced to return him to his uncle and
aunt in the " Bush." Eustace had been with the
Smiths at Sydney until her move to Auckland,
he had even been presented, and had been to a
ball at Government House, and thus was viewed
as the polished member of the family, though, if
he had come as master, I should never have been
drawn, as I was by Harold's free, kindly sim-
plicity, into writing my thanks to Lady Diana,
and saying that I could not leave my nephews

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 1 of 24)