Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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divided between them, and given to the two
wives ; and in the time of distress, when far
too proud to accept aid from the father, as well
as rather pleased at mortifying him by disposing
of his family treasures, Alice and Dorothy Alison
had gradually sold them off. And, once in the
hands of local jewellers, it was easy for the belt
to pass into becoming the prize held by the
winner in the Archery Club every year. Lord
Erymanth would go with Eustace the next morn-
ing to identify it ; but what would be the use
of that } Eustace at first fancied he could claim
it, but soon he saw that his proposal was viewed
as so foolish that he devoured it, and talked of
giving an equivalent ; but, as Lord Erymanth
observed, it would be very difficult to arrange
this with an article of family and antiquarian
value, in the hands of an archery club — an
impersonal body.

"The thing would be to win it," said Viola.
" Could not some of us .-* "

" Well done, little Miss Tell," returned Dermot
"Hippo has won that same belt these four years,
to my certain knowledge, except once, when
Laurie Stympson scored two more."

" ril practise every day ; won't you, Lucy }
And then, between us, there will be two chances."

" I am sure I am very much flattered by Miss
Tracy's kindjiess," put in Eustace ; " but is the
match solely between ladies ? "



THE CHAMPION'S BELT. 215



No, for the last two years, after a match
between ladies and between gentlemen, there
had a final one taken place between the two
winners, male and female, in which Hippo had
hitherto always carried off the glory and the
belt. So Eustace intimated his full intention of
trying for himself, endeavouring to be very
polite to Viola and me, but implying that he
thought himself a far surer card, boasting of his
feats as a marksman in the Bush, until Dora
broke in, " Why, Eustace, that was Harry ;
wasn't it, Harry?"

*' Comme a V ordinaire,'' muttered Dermot.
Eustace made a little stammering about the
thing being so near that no one could tell, and
Dora referred again to Harold, who put her
down with a muttered "Never mind" under his
beard.

What was to be done with it if it were won }
" Get a fac-simile made, and an appropriate
inscription," recommended Lord Erymanth. "Pro-
bably they would take that willingly."

" But what would you do with it ? " asked
Harold. "You can't wear it."

" I tell you it is an heirloom," quoth Eustace.
" Have you no feeling for an heirloom } I am
sure it was your mother who sold it away from
me."

The sight of the belt, with Lord Erymanth's
lecture on it, inflamed Eustace's ardour all the
more, and we made extensive purchases of bows
and arrows ; that is to say, Eustace and I did,
for Lady Diana would not permit Viola to join



2i6 MV YOUNG ALCIDES.

in the contest. She did not like the archery set,
disapproved of pubhc matches for young ladies,
and did not choose her daughter to come forward
in the cause. I did not fancy the matches either,
and was certain that my mere home pastime
had no chance with Hippo and Pippa, who had
studied archery scientifically for years, and aimed
at being the best lady shots in England ; but
Eustace would never have forgiven me if I had
not done my best. So we subscribed to the
Archery Club as soon as we went home ; and
Eustace would have had me practise with him
morning, noon, and night, till I rebelled, and
declared that if he knocked me up my prowess
w^ould be in vain, and that I neither could nor
would shoot more than an hour and a half a day.

His ardour, however, soon turned into vitu-
perations of the stupid sport. How could mortal
man endure it } If it had been pistol or rifle-
shooting now, it would have been tolerable, and
he should have been sure to excel ; but a great
long, senseless, useless thing like an arrow was
only fit for women or black fellows ; the string
hurt one's fingers too — always slipping off the
tabs.

" No wonder, as you hold it," said Harold,
who had just turned aside to watch on his way
down to the potteries, and came in time to see
an arrow fly into the bank a yard from the
target. " Don't you see how Lucy takes it .'' "

I had already tried to show him, but he had
pronounced mine to be the ladies^ way, and
preferred to act by the light of nature. Harry



THE CHAMPION'S BELT. 217



looked, asked a question or two, took the bow
in his own hands, and with " This way, Eustace ;
don't you see ? " had an arrow in the outer white.

" Yes," said Eustace, " of course, stupid thing,
anybody can do it without any trouble/^

" It is pretty work,'' said Harry, taking up
the third arrow, and sending it into the inner
white.

"Much too easy for men," was Eustace's
opinion, and he continued to despise it until,
being capable of perseverance of a certain kind,
and being tutored by Harold, he began to succeed
in occasionally piercing the target, upon which
his mind changed, and he was continually singing
the praises of archery in the tone (whispered
Viola) of the sparrow who killed Cock Robin with
his bow and arrow !

We used to practise for an hour every after-
noon, and the fascination of the sport gained
upon Harold so much that he sent for a bow and
arrows, and shot with us whenever he was not too
busy, as, between the agency and the potteries, he
often was. He did not join the club, nor come
to the weekly meetings at Northchester with
Eustace and me, until, after having seen a little
of the shooting there, I privately hinted to him
that there was not the smallest chance of the
champion belt changing hands unless he took up
the family cause. Whereupon, rather than that
Eustace should be disappointed, he did ask to be
admitted, and came once with us to the meeting,
when, to tell the truth, he did not shoot as well
as usual, for — as afterwards appeared — in riding



2i8 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.



into Northchester he had stopped to help to lift
up a great tree that was insecure on its timber
waggon, and even his hands shook a little from the
exertion. Besides, Eustace had discovered that
Harold's new bow shot better than his, and had
insisted on changing, and Harold had not so
proved the powers of Eustace's as to cure it of
its inferiority.

Eustace really came to shooting so tolerably as
to make him look on the sport with complacency,
and like the people he met there. All this hardly
seems worth telling, but events we little thought
of sprang from those archery practices. For the
present we found them a great means of getting
acquainted with the neighbours. I bowed now to
many more people than ever I had done before, and
we had come into great favour since the Hydriots had
astonished the county by announcing a dividend.
It was only three per cent., but that was an im-
mense advance upon nothing, and the promise of
the future was great; the shares had gone up
nearly to their original value in the most sanguine
days ; and the workmen — between prosperity, good
management, the lecture-room at the " Dragon's
Head," and the work among them done by the
clerical, as well as the secular, Yolland — were,
not models by any means, but far from the dis-
orderly set they had been. They did take some
pride in decent houses and well-dressed children,
and Harold's plans for the improvement of their
condition were accepted as they never would
have been from one whose kindly sympathy and
strength of will did not take them, as it were, cap-



THE CHAMPION'S BELT, 219



tive. "Among those workmen you feel that he
is a born king of men," said Ben Yolland.

And as Bullock had been bailiff as well as
agent, Harry had all the home-farming matters
on his hands, and attended to them hke any
farmer, so that it was no wonder that he gave
little time to the meetings for archery practice*
which involved the five miles expedition, and
even to our own domestic practice, answering care-
lessly, when Eustace scolded him about letting a
chance go by, and his heedlessness of the honour
of the family, " Oh, I take a shot or two every
morning as I go out, to keep my hand in."

" You'll get your arrows spoilt in the dew," said
Eustace.

"They don't go into the dew," said Harold.
And as he was always out with the lark, even
Dora seldom saw this practice ; but there were
always new holes very near the centre of the
target, which Eustace said proved how true was
his own aim.

Harvest came, and in the middle of it the great
archery match of the year, which was held in the
beautiful grounds of Mr. Vernon, the member for
Northchester, a little way from the town.

" I suppose Harry may as well go," said
Eustace ; " but he has not practised at all, so it
will be of little avail. Now if I had not erazed
my hand, I should have scored quite as much as
Miss Horsman last week. It all lies in caring
about it."

And severe was his lecture to Harold against
foolishly walking in and making his hand unsteady.



220 MV YOUNG ALCIDES,

Yet, after all, when the carriage came to the door,
Harold was not to be found, though his bow and
arrows were laid ready with ours to be taken. He
endured no other apparatus. The inside of his
fingers was like leather, and he declared that tabs
and guard only hampered him. Lady Diana had
yielded to her daughter's entreaties, and brought
her to see the contest, though only as a spectator.
As I stood shy and far from sanguine among the
lady archers, I felt out of my natural place, and
glad she was under her mother's wing, she looked
so fair and innocent in her delicate blue and white,
and was free for such sweet ardour in our cause,
all the prettier and more arch because its demon-
strations were kept down with the strong hand
of her mother.

Hippolyta and Philippa Horsman were in
tightly-made short-skirted dresses, pork-pie hats,
and strong boots, all black picked out with scarlet,
like Hippo's own complexion. She was tall, with
a good active figure, and handsome, but she had
reached the age when the colouring loses its pure
incarnadine and becomes hard and fixed, and she
had a certain likeness to all those creatures whose
names are compounded of tiger. But she was a
good-natured being, and of late I had begun to
understand better her aspirations towards doing
and becoming something more than the mere do-
mestic furniture kind of young lady.

Her aberrations against good taste and reti-
cence were, I began to understand, misdirected
outbreaks of the desire to be up and doing. Even
now, as we ladies drew for our turn, she was saying,



THE CHAMPION'S BELT. 221

half sadly, " I'm tired of it all. What good comes
of getting this belt over and over again ? If it were
rifle or pistol shooting it might be of use, but one
could hardly organise a regiment of volunteers
with the long bows when the invasion comes off."
Wit about the Amazonian regiment with the
long bow was current all the time we ladies
were shooting, and Eustace was worrying me
to such a degree, that nervousness made me
perform ten degrees worse than usual, but that
mattered little, for Hippolyta, with another of
her ciii bono sighs, carried off the Roman mosaic
that was the ladies' prize, telling Pippa that it
should be hers when the belt was won.
" Don't be too sure."

" Bosh ! There's no one here who can handle
a bow but Charlie Stympson. One Alison is a
spoon, and the other is a giant made to be con-
quered. When he shot before, his arrows went
right over the grounds, and stuck into a jack-
daw's nest on the church tower ! I can't think
why he came."

"To make a feather in your cap."
"What a substantial one!"
There I escaped to a seat by Lady Diana,
where Viola could expend her enthusiasm in
clutches and squeezes of my hand. Eustace
was by this time wrought up to such a state
that he hardly knew what he was doing, and
his first arrow wavered and went feebly aside.
Two or three more shot, and then the tall figure
came to the front ; one moment, and the cry
was "Gold," while Viola's clap of the hands



222 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.



brought on her a frown from her mother, who
thought demonstrativeness improper. She had
to content herself with pinching my fingers every
time one of those shafts went home to the heart
of the target, and Harold stood, only too facile
princeps, while Eustace sauntered up to us with
the old story about the sun or the damp, I forget
which, only it was something that had spoilt
his archery.

Hippolyta was undaunted. The small target
and longer range had thrown out many a com-
petitor before now, and her not very low-pitched
tone was heard observing that no dumb giant
should beat her at her own tools.

Whatever had been her weariness of her
successes before, it was gone now, and she shot
splendidly. Never had such shooting been known
in the annals of the club, and scarcely a word
passed as the two went pacing between the two
little targets, Harold with his calm, easy move-
ment, business-like but without effort, and Hip-
polyta with excitement beginning to tell on her.
Each time she passed us we saw her step more
impetuous, the glow on her cheeks deeper, and
at last that her eyes were full of tears ; and after
that, one arrow went into the outer white, and the
last even into the green ; while Harry's final shot
was into that one great confluent hole that the
centre of the target had become.

" Heard ye the arrow hurtle through the sky ?
Heard ye the dragon monster's deathful cry?"

whispered Viola. "Mamma won't let me cheer,
and I must have it out somehow."



THE CHAMPION'S BELT. 223



And as I sprang up and hurried to Harold,
she came with me, taking care to cast no look
behind, for fear of detaining glances; and she
put out both hands to shake his, as he stood
with the smile lighting up his face as he saw
the pleasure he had given ; though Eustace never
came forward, unable to rejoice where he had
been so palpably and publicly excelled.

Hippolyta behaved well. She came up holdmg
out her hand, and saying, "Well, Mr. Alison, if one
is to fall, it is a pleasure to have so mighty a
victor. But why did you never let me see before
what a Palnatoke (if I must not say Tell) I had

to deal with t "

" I had no time for the practices," said Harold,
puzzled as to who Palnatoke was.

'' Worse and worse ! You don't mean that
you shoot like this without practice.?"

" Lucy taught me a little."

"Well, if heaven-born archers come down on
one, there's nothing for it but submitting. Robin
Hood must prevail," said Hippolyta, as the belt
was handed over to Harold, with a sigh that
made him say in excuse, "I would not have
done it, but that Eustace wanted to have it in
his hands, for family reasons."

"Then let him look to it ; I mean to get it
again next year. And, I say, Mr. Alison, I have
a right to some compensation. All you archers
are ^coming to lunch at Therford on Thursday,
if the sun shines, to be photographed, you know.
Now you must come to breakfast, and bring your
lion's skin and your bow— to be done alone. It



2 24 MV YOUNG ALCIDES.



is all the consolation I ask. Make him, Lucy.
Bring him."

There was no refusing ; and that was the
way the photograph came to be taken. We
were reminded by a note after we went home,
including in the invitation Eustace, who, after
being a little sulky, had made up his mind that
a long range was easier to shoot at than a short
one, and so that he should have won the prize
if he had had the chance ; and the notion of
being photographed was, of course, delightful to
him.

" In what character shall you take me } " he
asked of Miss Horsman, when we were going out
on the lawn, and it dawned on him that Harry
was to be a Hercules.

" Oh ! as Adonis, of course," said Hippo.

" Or Eurystheus," whispered her sister.

Eustace did not understand, and looked pleased,
saying something about a truly classical get up ;
but Harold muttered to me, "Aren't they making
game of him V

" They will take care not to vex him," I said.

But Harold could not overlook it, and took a
dislike to the Horsmans on the spot, which all
Hippolyta's genuine admiration of him could not
overcome. She knew what the work of his eighteen
months in England had been, and revered him
with such enthusiasm for what she called his mag-
nificent manhood and beneficence, as was ready
on the least encouragement to have become some-
thing a good deal warmer ; but whatever she did
served to make her distasteful to him. First, she



THE CHAMPION'S BELT, 225



hastily shuffled over Eustace's portrait, because,
as she allowed us to hear, '* he would give her no
peace till he was disposed of." And then she not
only tormented her passive victim a good deal in
trying to arrange him as Hercules, but she forgot
the woman in the artist, and tried to make him
bare his neck and shoulder in a way that made
him blush while he uttered his emphatic "No, no !"
and Baby Jack supported him by telling her she
"would only make a prize-fighter of him." More-
over, he would have stood more at ease if the
whole of Therford had not been overrun with
dogs. He scorned to complain, and I knew him
too well to do so for him ; but it was a strain
on his self-command to have them all smelling
about his legs, and wanting to mumble the lion
skin, especially Hippo's great bloodhound, Kirby,
as big as a calf, who did once make him start by
thrusting his long cold nose into his hand. Hippo
lauehed, but Harold could do nothing but force
out a smile.

And I always saw the disgusted and bored
expression most prominently in her performance,
which at the best could never have given the
grandeur of the pose she made him take, with
the lion skin over his shoulder, and the arrows and
bow in his hand. He muttered that a rifle would
be more rational, and that he could hold it better,
but withdrew the protest when he found that
Hippo was ready to implore him to teach her to
shoot with pistol, rifle— anything.

" Your brother can show you. You've only to
fire at a mark," was all that could be got out of him.



226 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.



Nor would he be entrapped into a beneficent
talk. His great talent for silence served him well,
and though I told him afterwards that he had not
done Hippo justice— for she honestly wanted an
opening for being useful — he was not mollified.
" I don't like tongue," was all he further said of

her.

But whatever Hippo was, or whatever she did,
I shall always be grateful to her for that photo-
graph.



CHAPTER X.

dermot's mare.



All this time Dermot Tracy had been from home.
He had not come back after the season, but had
been staying with friends and going to various
races, in which, as usual, he had heavy stakes. He
persuaded my two nephews to meet him at Don-
caster, where he ran one of the horses bred on his
Irish estate, and afterwards to go and make him a
visit at Killy Marey, County Kildare, where he
used to stay about once a year, shooting or hunt-
ing, as the season might be, and always looking
after his horses and entertaining all the squires
and squireens of the neighbourhood, and many
of the officers from the Curragh. The benefit of
those visits was very doubtful both as to morals
and purses, and Lord Erymanth pointedly said
he was sorry when he heard that Harold and
Eustace were of the party.



DERMOTS MARE. 227



I do not know whether Lady Diana viewed
them as bad companions for her son, or her son
as a bad companion for them ; but she was very
severe about it, and when I thought of tlie lumt
dinner at Fohng, my heart sank, even while I
was indignant at any notion of distrusting Harold ;
and it did indeed seem to me that he had learnt
where to look for strength and self-command, and
that he had a real hatred and contempt of evil.
Yet I should have been more entirely happy about
him if he had not still held aloof from all those
innermost ordinances, of which he somehow did
not feel the need, or understand the full drift. Nor
would he bow himself to give to any man the
confidence or the influence over him he had given
to an incapable girl like me. And if I should
have feared for the best brought up, most reli-
gious of young men, in such scenes as I was told
were apt to take place at Killy Marey, how could
I not be anxious for my nephews t But nothing
ever turns out as one expects.

I was at Arked one day, and Lady Diana was
telling me of the great rambling house at Killy
Marey, and how, w4ien she arrived as a bride, none
of the doors would shut except two that would
not open, behind one of wdiich lived the family
ghost; how the paper hung in festoons on the walls,
and the chairs were of the loveliest primrose-
coloured brocade; and how the green of the
meadows was so wonderful, that she was always
remembering it was the Emerald Isle; but how
hopeless and impossible it was to get anything
properly done, and how no good could be done



228 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.

where the Romish priests had interfered. All the
old story of course. In the midst, a telegraph
paper was brought to her ; she turned deadly white,
and bade me open it, for she could not I knew
she thought her son had met his father's fate, and
expected to astonish her with the tidings that he
was coming home by the next steamer, or that he
had sent some game, or the like. Alas ! no ; the
mother's foreboding had been too near the truth.
The telegram was from Eustace : " Tracy has had
a bad horse accident. The doctor wishes for you."

There was nothing for it but to speed the
mother and daughter on their hurried start to
catch the Holyhead packet and cross that night.
I went home to await in terror and trembling the
despatch I might receive, and to be enlivened by
Mrs. Sam Alison's cheering accounts of all the
accidents she could recollect. " Horses are dan-
gerous creatures to meddle with, and your poor
papa never would let me take the reins when we
kept a gig — which was when he was living, you
know, my dear. * You never can trust their heels,'
he used to say ; and it was only last week little
Cocker was kicked off, but that was a donkey,
and they were using him shamefully," &c. &c. &c.
I felt as if a swarm of bees were humming in my
ears, and walked about to make the suspense more
tolerable, but I absolutely had no news at all till
Viola's letter came. It was a long one, for she
could be of no service as yet, and to write letters
was at once her use and her solace.

Among the horses which Dermot's Irish agent
had been buying for training purpo.'jes was a mare,



DERMOrS MARE, 229



own sister to Harold's hunter— a splendid creature
of three years old, of wonderful beauty, power, and
speed, but with the like indomitable temper. She
would suffer no living thing to approach her but
one little stable-boy, and her own peculiar cat,
which slept on her back, and took all sorts of
liberties with her. Her value would be great if
she could be trained, but the training was the
problem. Harold, who, partly from early fami-
Harity, partly from the gentleness of fearless
strength, had a matchless power over horses, had
made acquaintance with her one evening, had
been suffered in her box, had fed her, caressed
her cat, and led her round the stable-yard as a
first stage in the conquest of horse by man.

In the early morning, Dermot, quite as fearless,
and unwilling that anyone should do or dare more
than himself, had gone alone to make the same
attempt, but no sooner did the mare find him
beside her, than she seized him by the shoulder
with her teeth, threw him down, and kicked and
trampled on him. None of the grooms could
succeed in rescuing him, and it was only when
Eustace's cry had summoned Harold, that, grasp-
ing the mare's halter and forcing her back with
his arm of iron, he made it possible for Eustace
and a groom to drag out poor Dermot's senseless
form, in a state that at first appeared to be death
itself. For several days his condition was so ex-
tremely precarious, that Harold never once left
him till his mother arrived, and even after that
was his most efi"ective nurse. He sent me a
message, in Viola's letter, that he had not had a



230 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.

moment to write, and hoped I had not been too
anxious.

After this, Viola wrote every day, and told of
gradual improvement in her brother, and at last
how he had been lifted to the sofa, and mamma
hoped in a fortnight or three weeks he might
be able to be taken home. By the next post
came a note from Harold, saying he could be
spared, and was coming home, and that very
evening he walked into the house, and was wel-
comed by Dora with shrieks of ecstatic joy.

He said Dermot was better, but he looked


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 14 of 24)