Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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worn, and had the indefinable expression of pain
which made me sure that something had gone
wrong, and presently I found out that the bite
in the shoulder was a very bad business, still
causing much suffering, but that the most serious
matter was, that a kick in the side had renewed
the damage left by the old Alma bullet, and
that great care would be needed all the winter.
But Harold seemed more reluctant to open his
mouth than ever, and only, by most diligent
pumping, did Mrs. Alison get out of him what
doctors they had called in, and whether they had
used all the recipes for wounds and bruises that
she had entrusted to me to be sent, and which
had for the most part remained in my blotting-

The next morning, to my grief and distress,
he did not come to my room, but I found he
had been up and out long before it was light,
and he made his appearance at eleven o'clock,
saying he had promised to go and give Lord


Erymanth an account of his nephew, and wanted
me to come with him "to do the talking, or he
should never stand it." If I did not object to
the dog-cart and Daniel O'Rourke immediately,
we should be there by luncheon time. I objected
to nothing that Harry drove, but all the way to
Erymanth not ten words passed, and those were
matters of necessity. I had come to the per-
ception that when he did not want to speak it
was better to let him take his own time.

Lord Erymanth was anxious, not only about
Dermot's health, and his sister's strength and spirits,
but he wanted to hear what Harold thought of
the place and of the tone of the country; and,
after our meal, when he grew more confidential,
he elicited short plain answers full of information
in short compass, and not very palatable. The
estate was " not going on well." " Did Harold
think well of the agent .?" " He had been spoilt."
"How.?" "By calls for supplies." "Were the
people attached to Dermot } " " To a certain
degree." "Would it be safe for him to live
there .? " " He ought."

Lord Erymanth entirely assented to this, and
we found that he had all along held that his
sister had been in error for not having remained
at Killy Marey, and brought up her son to his
duties as a landlord, whatever the danger ; though
of course she, poor thing, could hardly be expected
to see it in that light. He evidently viewed this
absenteeism as the cause of the wreck of Der-
mot's youth, and those desultory habits of self-
indulgence and dissipation which were overcoming


that which was good and noble in him ; and
the good old man showed that he blamed him-
self for what he had conceded to his sister in
the first shock of her misfortune. Harold had
told him of the warm feeling shown by the
tenantry when Dermot was lying in danger of
his life, and their rejoicing when he turned the
corner and began to recover, and he asked
anxiously whether all this affection might not
awaken a responsive chord, and draw him to
" what was undoubtedly his proper sphere."
" It will," said Harold.

" You think so } And there is little doubt but
that your cousin's influence at such a critical
period may have great effect in turning the scale .'*"
Harold nodded.

" More especially as, from the intelligence I
have received, I have little doubt that the connec-
tion will be drawn a good deal closer before long,"
said Lord Erymanth with a benignant smile at
us both. " I suppose we must not begin to con-
gratulate one another yet, for I may conclude
that nothing had actually taken place when you
came away."
" Nothing."

" When my sister became conscious of the
condition of affairs and wrote to consult me, I
had no hesitation in replying that, though Viola's
connections might warrant greater expectations
in a worldly point of view, yet I thought that
there was every reason for promoting an attach-
ment to a gentleman of family equal to her own
on one side at least, and whose noble exertions


during the past two years for the welfare of all
concerned with him, not only obliterate all recol-
lection of past disadvantages, but in every way
promise honour and happiness to all connected
with him."

I was not a little excited, but one of the worst
fits of restlessness under Lord Erymanth's haran-
gues had come upon Harold. He only sat it
out by pulling so many hairs out of his beard that
they made an audible frizzle in the fire when he
brushed them off his knee, and stood up, saying
gruffly, " You are very good ; he deserves it. But
I must get Lucy home in good time. May I go
and speak to your coachman 1 Tracy gave me
a message for him."

Harold was off, and Lord Erymanth observ^ed,
"A very fine young man that. It is much
to be regretted that he did not employ the
advantages he enjoyed at Sydney as his cousin
Eustace did, and left himself so rugged and un-

"You must learn to like him, dear Lord Ery-
manth," I said. " He is all a very dear brother
could be to me."

And allegiance to him kept back every word
of that infinite superiority, which was never more
shown than by the opinion of Eustace, which
his great unselfish devotion continued, without
the least deceit, to impress on most people.
Lord Erymanth rejoiced, and we agreed that
it was very lucky for me that I preferred Harold,
since I should have had to yield up my possession
of Eustace. The old gentleman was most kind


and genial, and much delighted that the old
breach with the Ahsons should be healed, and
that his niece should make a marriage which he
greatly preferred to her sister's, and together we
sung the praises of our dear Viola, where we
had no difference of opinion.

Harold only came back when the carriage came
round, and no sooner had we driven off than I
broke out — " Harry, I had no notion matters had
gone so far. Fancy, Lady Diana consulting her
brother 1 It must be very near a crisis. I can't
think why you did not stay to see it."

" Because I am a fool."

The horse flew on till we were nearly out at
the park-gates, and a bewildered sense of his
meaning was coming before me. *' You wished
it," said I rather foolishly.

" I did. I do. Only I don't want to see it."

" My poor dear Harold !"

" Pshaw ! " — the sound was like a wild beast's,
and made the horse plunge — " I shall get over it''
Then, presently, in a more natural voice, " I must
go out again in the spring. There are things to
be looked to at Boola Boola for both of us. I
shall only wait till Tracy is well enough to go with

"He! Dermot Tracy.?"

" Yes. It will be the best way to break out of
the old lines."

" I can fancy that. Oh, Harold ! are you going
to save him 1 That will be the most blessed work
of all ! " I cried, for somehow a feeling like an air
of hope and joy came over me.


"I don't know about that," said he, in a
smothered tone ; but it was getting dark enough
to loose his tongue, and when I asked, '* Was'^it
his illness that made him wish it ? " he answered,
" It was coming before. Lucy, those horses have
done worse for him than that wound in his
shoulder. They had almost eaten the very heart
out of him ! "

" His substance I know they have," I said ;
"but not his good warm heart."

"You would say so if you saw the poor
wretches on his property," said Harold. "The
hovels in the Alfy Valley were palaces compared
with the cabins. Such misery I never saw. They
say it is better since the famine. What must it
have been then .? And he thinking only how much
his agent could squeeze from them ! "

I could only say he had been bred up in
neglect of them, and to think them impracticable,
priest-ridden traitors and murderers. Yes, Lady
Diana had said some of this to Harold already.
It was true that they had shot Mr. Tracy, but
Harold had learnt that after a wild, reckless
spendthrift youth, he had become a Protestant
and a violent Orangeman in the hottest days of
party strife, so that he had incurred a special
hatred, which, as far as Harold could see, was
not extended to the son, little as he did for his
tenants but show them his careless, gracious
countenance from time to time.

Yet peril for the sake of duty would, as all
saw now, have been far better for Dermot than the
alienation from all such calls in which his mother


had brought him up. When her religious influ-
ence failed with him, there was no other restraint.
Since he had left the army, he had been drawn,
by those evil geniuses of his, deep into specula-
tions in training horses for the turf, and his affairs
had come into a frightful state of entanglement,
his venture at Doncaster had been unsuccessful,
and plunged him deeper into his difficulties, and
then (as I came to know) Harold's absolute
startled amazement how any living man could
screw and starve men, women, and children for
the sake of horseflesh, and his utter contempt
for such diversions as he had been shown at the
races, compared with the pleasure of making
human beings happy and improving one's land,
had opened Dermot's eyes with very few

The thought was not new when the danger
of death made him look back on those wasted
years ; and resolution began with the dawning
of convalescence, that if he could only free him-
self from his entanglements — and terrible com-
plications they were — he would begin a new life,
worthy of having been given back to him. In
many a midnight watch he had spoken of these
things, and Harold had soothed him by a pro-
mise to use that accountant's head of his in seeing
how to free him as soon as he was well enough.
Biston and the horses would be sold, and he
could turn his mind to his Irish tenants, who,
as he already saw, loved him far better than he
deserved. He caught eagerly at the idea of
going out to Australia with Harold, and it did


indeed seem that my brave-hearted nephew was
effecting a far greater deHverance for him than
that from the teeth and hoofs of wicked Sheelah.
" But you will not stay, Harold ? You will
come home ? " I said.

" I mean it," he answered.

"Then I don't so much mind," said I, with
infinite relief; and he added, thinking that I wanted
further reassurance, that he should never give up
trying to get Prometesky's pardon ; and that this
was only a journey for supplies, and to see his old
friend, and perhaps to try whether anything could
be done about that other unhappy Harry. I
pressed him to promise me that he would return
and settle here, but though he said he would
come back, to settling at home he answered,
" That depends ;" and though I could not see, I
knew he was biting his moustache, and guessed,
poor dear fellow, that it depended on how far he
should be able to endure the sight of Eustace and
Viola married. I saw now that I had been blind
not to perceive before that his heart had been
going out to Viola all this time, while he thought
he was courting her for Eustace, and I also had
my thoughts about Viola, which made it no very
great surprise to me, when, in a few days more,
intelligence came that Eustace might be expected
at home, and he made his appearance in a petu-
lant though still conceited mood, that made me
suspect his wooing had not been prosperous,
though I knew nothing till Harold told me that
he was not out of heart, though Viola had cut
him short and refused to listen to him, for her


mother said she was a mere child who was taken
by surprise, and that if he were patient and
returned to the charge she would know her own
mind better.

Harold was certainly more exhilarated than
he chose to avow to himself on this discovery,
and the next week came a letter from Lady
Diana, and a short note from Dermot himself,
both saying he had not been so well, and begging
Harold to come and assist in the removal, since
Dermot protested that otherwise he could not
bear the journey, and his mother declared that
she should be afraid to think of it for him.

Viola's hitherto constant correspondence had
ceased ; I drew my own auguries, but I had to
keep them to myself, for Harold started off the
next day in renewed spirits, and I had Eustace
on my hands in a very strange state, not choosing
or deigning to suppose himself rejected, and yet
exceedingly angry with all young ladies for their
silliness and caprices, while he lauded Lady Diana
up to the skies, and abused Dermot, who, I think,
had laughed at him visibly enough to be at least
suspected by himself And, oddly enough, Dora
was equally cross, and had a fit of untowardness
unequalled since the combats at her first arrival,
till I was almost provoked into acquiescence in
Eustace's threat of sending her to school.

The journey was at last accomplished ; Harold
only parted with the Tracys at Arked House,
after having helped to carry Dermot to the room
that had been prepared for him on the ground-


I rode over the next afternoon to inquire,
and was delighted to meet Viola close within
the gate. We sent away my horse, and she drew
me into her favourite path while answering my
questions that Dermot had had a good night
and was getting up ; I should find him in the
drawing-room if I waited a little while. She
could have me all to herself, for mamma was
closeted with Uncle Ery, talking over tilings —
and on some word or sound of mine betraying
that I guessed what things, it broke out.

" How could you let him do it, Lucy ? You,
at least, must have known better."

" My dear, how could I have stopped him,
with all St. George's Channel between us } "

" Well, at any rate, you might persuade them
all to have a little sense, and not treat me as if
I was one of the elegant females in ' Pride and
Prejudice,' who only refuse for fun ! Is not that
enough to drive one frantic, Lucy } Can't you
at least persuade the man himself.''"

" Only one person can do that, Viola."

" But I can't ! That's the horrid part of it.
I can't get rid of it. Mamma says I am a foolish
child. I could tell her of other people more
foolish than I am. I can see the difference be-
tween sham and reality, if they can't."

" I don't think he means to be sham," I
rambled into defence of Eustace.

" Means it ! No, he hasn't the sense. I
believe he really thinks it was he who saved
Dermot's life as entirely as mamma does."

"No. Now do they really?"


" Of course, as they do with everything. It's
always 'The page slew the boar, the peer had
the gloire.' "

*' It's the page's own fault," I said. " He only
wants the peer to have the gloire."

"And very disagreeable and deceitful it is
of him," cried Viola ; "only he hasn't got a scrap
of deceit in him, and that's the reason he does
it so naturally. No, you may tell them that
borrowed plumes won't always serve, and there
are things that can't be done by deputy."

And therewith Viola, perhaps perceiving what
she had betrayed, turned more crimson than
ever, and hid her face against me with a sob
in her breath, and then I was quite sure of what
I did not dare to express, further than by saying,
while I caressed her, " I believe they honestly
think it is all the same."

" But it isn't," said Viola, recovering, and
trying to talk and laugh off her confusion. " I
don't think so, and poor Dermot did not find it
so when the wrong one was left to lift him, and
just ran his great stupid arm into the tenderest
place in his side, and always stepped on all the
boards that creak, and upset the table of physic
bottles, and then said it was Harold's way of
propping them up ! And that's the creature they
expect me to believe in !"

We turned at the moment and saw a hand-
kerchief beckoning to us from the window ; and
going in, found Dermot established on a couch
under it, and Harold packing him up in rugs, a
sight that amazed both of us ; but Dermot said,


"Yes, he treats me like Miss Stympson's dog, you
see. Comes over by stealth when I want him."

Dermot did look very ill and pain-worn, and
his left arm lay useless across him, but there was
a kind of light about his eyes that I had not seen
for a long time, as he made Harold set a chair
for me close to him, and he and Viola told the
adventures of their journey, with mirth in their
own style, and Harold stood leaning against the
shutter with his look of perfect present content,
as if basking in sunshine while it lasted.

When the mother and uncle came in, it was
manifestly time for us to convey ourselves away.
Harold had come on foot from Mycening, but I
was only too glad to walk my pony along the
lanes, and have his company in the gathering
winter twilight.

" You have spoken to her V he said.

" Yes. Harold, it is of no use. She will never
have him."

" Her mother thinks she will."

" Her mother knows what is in Viola no more
than she knows what is in that star. Has Dermot
never said anything "

"Lady Diana made everyone promise not to
say a word to him."

" Oh ! "

"But, Lucy, what hinders it.? There's nothing
eise in the way, is there .'' "

I did not speak the word, but made a gesture
of assent.

" May I know who it is," said Harold in a voice
of pain. " Our poor fellow shall never hear."


" Harold," said I, " are you really' so ridiculous
as to think any girl could care for Eustace while
you are by ? "

" Don't !" cried Harold, with a sound as of far
more pain than gladness.

" But why not, Harry ? You asked me."

" Don't light up what I have been struggling
to quench ever since I knew it."

" Why ? " I went on. " You need not hold back
on Eustace's account I am quite sure nothing
would make her accept him, and I am equally
convinced "

"Hush, Lucy!" he said in a scarcely audible
voice. " It is profanation. Remember "

"But all that is over," I said. "Things that
happened when you were a mere boy, and knew
no better, do not seem to belong to you now."

" Sometimes they do not," he said sadly ;
« but "

"What is repented," I began, but he inter-

" The fact is not changed. It is not fit that
the purest, gentlest, brightest creature made by
Heaven should be named in the same day with
one stained with blood — aye, and deeds I could
not speak of to you."

I could not keep from crying as I said, " If
I love you the more, Harry, would not she ? "

" See here, Lucy," said Harry, standing still
with his hand on my rein ; " you don't know what
you do in trying to inflame what I can hardly
keep down. The sweet little thing may have a
fancy for me because I'm the biggest fellow she


knows, and have done a thing or two ; but what
I am she knows less than even you do ; and would
it not be a wicked shame either to gain the tender
heart in ignorance, or to thrust on it the know-
ledge and the pain of such a past as mine ? " And
his groan was very heavy, so that I cried out :

"Oh, Harry! this is dreadful. Do you give
up all hope and joy for ever because of what you
did as an ungovernable boy left to yourself ? "

We went on for some time in silence ; then he
said in an indescribable tone, between wonder, dis-
gust, and pity, "And I thought I loved Meg Cree ! "

"You knew no one else," I said, feeling as if,
when Dora threw away that ring, the wild, pas-
sionate animal man had been exorcised ; but all
the answer I had was another groan, as from the
burthened breast, as if he felt it almost an out-
rage to one whom he so reverenced to transfer to
her the heart that had once beat for Meg Cree.
There was no more speech for a long time,
during which I feared that I had merely made
him unhappy by communicating my conjecture,
but just as we were reaching our own grounds
he said, " You will say nothing, Lucy ? "

" No, indeed."

" I thought it was all over, and for ever," he
said, pausing ; " it ought to have been. But the
gates of a new world were opened to me when I
saw her and you walking in the garden ! If it
had only been five or six years sooner!"

He could not say any more, for Dora, who
had been watching, here burst on us with cries
of welcome, and it was long before there was


any renewal of the conversation, so that I could
not tell whether he really persuaded himself that
he had no hopes, or was waiting to see how
matters should turn out.

It was never easy to detect expressions of
feeling or spirits on his massive face, and he could
hardly be more silent than usual ; but it was
noticeable that he never fell asleep after his former
wont when sitting still. Indeed, he seldom was
still, for he had a great deal of business both for
the estate and the potteries on his hands, and stayed
up late at night over them ; and not only over them,
for my room was next to his, and I heard the
regular tramp, tramp of his feet, and the turn at
the end of the room, as he walked up and down
for at least an hour when the rest of the house
were asleep, or the closing of the door when he
returned from wandering on the moor at night.
And in the early morning, long before light, he
always walked or rode over to Arked House,
bestowed on Dermot's hurts the cares which
both had come to look on as essential, and stayed
with him till the family were nearly ready to ap-
pear at their nine o'clock breakfast, not seeing
Viola at all, unless any special cause led to a
meeting later in the day, and then his eyes glowed,
and he would do her devoted, unobserved service —
no, not unobserved by her, whom it made blush
and sparkle — and utter little words of thanks, not
so gay as of old, but deeper, as if for a great honour
and delight. And then he would bow his head,
colour, and draw into the background, where, with
folded arms, he could watch her.


Once, when Dora, in her old way, claimed to
be his wife, Harold told her with some impatience
that she was growing too old for that nonsense.
The child looked at him with bent brows and ques-
tioning eyes for a moment, then turned and fled.
An hour later, after a long search, I found her
crouched up in the corner of the kangaroo's stall
among the straw, having cried herself to sleep, with
her head on the creature's soft back.

As soon as Dermot was able to bear any strain
on mind or attention, he gave his keys to Harold.
All his long and unhappy accumulation of bills
and bonds were routed out from their receptacles
at Biston, and brought over by Harold to his
office, where he sorted them, and made them in-
telligible, before harassing his friend with the ques-
tions he alone could explain. An hour a day
was then spent over them— hours that cost poor
Dermot more than he was equal to ; but his mind
was made up, as he told me, " to face anything
rather than go on in the old miserable way."
It was much that he had learnt to think it


Lady Diana was not much obliged to Harold.
She could not think why her patient was so
often left out of spirits, and with a headache after
those visits, while he was in a feverish state
of anxiety about them, that made it worse to
put them off than to go through with them ; and
then, when she had found out the cause, the
family pride much disliked letting an outsider
into his involvments, and she thought their
solicitor would have done the thing much better.


Poor woman, it was hard that, when she
thought illness was bringing her son back to her,
she found his confidence absorbed by the " bush-
ranger," whom she never liked nor trusted, and
his reformation, if reformation it were to prove,
not at all conducted on her views of visible re-
pentance and conversion. Dermot was respon-
sive to her awakened tenderness, but he was
perversely reticent as to whether repentance or
expedience prompted him. She required so
much religious demonstration, that she made
him shrink from manifesting his real feelings as
"humbug," and Viola knew far more that his
repentance was real than she did. Those proofs
of true repentance — confession and restitution
— I am sure he gave, and that most bravely,
when, after weeks of weary and sorrowful work
on Harold's part and his, the whole was suffi-
ciently disentangled to make a lucid statement
of his affairs.

He made up his mind to make an arrange-
ment with his creditors, giving up Biston, all
his horses — everything, in fact, but Killy Marey,
which was entailed on his Tracy cousins. And
this second year of George Yolland's manage-
ment had made the shares in the Hydriot Com-
pany of so much value, that the sale of them
would complete the clearance of his obligations.

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 15 of 24)