Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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The full schedule of his debts, without reserve,
and the estimate of his means of paying them
off, was then given by Dermot to his mother,
and sent to his uncle, who went over them with
his solicitor.


Lady Diana writhed under the notion of
selHng Biston. It seemed to her to be the means
of keeping her son from the place in Ireland,
which she disliked more than ever, and she
hoped her brother would advance enough to
prevent this from being needful ; but for this
Lord Erymanth was far too wise. He said, as
Dermot felt, that Biston had never been any-
thing but an unjustifiable and pernicious luxury
and temptation ; but he did voluntarily, since
it joined his property, propose to purchase it
himself, and at such a sum as secured the possi-
bility of a real payment of the debts when the
other sales should have been effected.

And they were carried out. It was well for
Dermot that, as a convalescent in his mother's
house, he was sheltered from all counter influences,
such as his easy good nature might not have
withstood ; and under that shelter it was his
purpose to abide until the voyage which would
take him out of reach for a time, and bring him
home ready for his fresh start.

Of course Lady Diana hated the notion of
the voyage, and though her brother advised her not
to oppose it, yet to the last I think she entertained
hopes that it would end in Harold's going alone.

When Harold came in and told me that
Dermot Tracy's horses, English and Irish, were
all sold, and named the sum that they had
realised, my spirits leaped up, and I was certain
after such a voluntary sacrifice, the dear old
companion of my childhood would be a joy and
exultation to us all. instead of a sorrow and a grief.




In the Easter recess our Northchester member
had his house full, and among his guests was one
of the most influential men of the day, who,
though not a cabinet minister himself, was known
to have immense influence with Government and
in Parliament, from his great weight and cha-

Eustace and I were invited to meet him, also
Lady Diana and her daughter and son, who was
called well now, though far from strong. When
the gentlemen came out of the dining-room,
Eustace and Dermot came up to us, the former
much excited, and saying, " Lucy, you must make
preparations. They are all coming to luncheon
to-morrow at Arghouse."

"Yes, Sir James (the great man himself), and
Mr. Vernon, and the General, and all the party.
I asked them all. Sir James has heard of the
potteries, and of my system, and of the refor-
mation I have effected, and there being no
strikes, and no nothing deleterious — undesirable I
mean — and the mechanics having an interest, he
wants to see for himself — to inspect personally —
that he may name it in Parliament in illustration
of a scheme he is about to propose. So Mr.
Vernon will bring him over to see the Hydriot


works to-morrow, and I have asked them to
luncheon. Only think — named in ParHament !
Don't you think now it might lead to a baronetcy,

" Or a peerage," quoth naughty Viola, out of
reach of mother or Harold. " My Lord Hardbake
would be a sweet title."

" I should revive the old honours of the
family," said Eustace, not catching the bit of
wickedness. " Calldron of Arghouse was an old
barony. Lord Calldron of Arghouse ! Should you
object. Miss Tracy ? "

" Earthen pot or copper kettle } Which .? "
laughed Viola. " Ah ! there's Miss Vernon going
to sing. I want to hear her," and she jumped up.
" Sit down, Dermot, in my place ; you are not to

She threaded her way to the piano, followed by
Eustace, who still viewed himself as her suitor.

" Poor little Vi ! " said Dermot, who by this
time was aware of the courtship, and regarded it
with little favour.

"She will rub him off more easily among
numbers," I said, as he settled down by me.
"But is this really so, Dermot.?^'

" What, is she to be my Lady Calldron } I
am afraid my hopes of that elevation are not
high. But as to the luncheon, you will really have
to slaughter your turkeys, and declare war on your
surviving cocks and hens. He has been inviting
right and left. And tell Harold from me that
if he votes the thing a bore, and keeps out of
the way for fear of having to open his mouth,


he'll be doing- serious damage. If respect to the
future baronetcy makes him get into the back-
ground, tell him, with my compliments, the whole
thing will be a muddle, and I'll never speak a
good word for him again."

"Then you have been speaking good words .-''*

"When Sir James began to inquire about the
Hydriots, Mr. Alison was called on to answer him,
and you are aware that, except to certain consti-
tutions of intellect, as my uncle would say, cer-
tain animals cannot open their mouths without
proclaiming themselves. The most sensible thing
he said was the invite to come and see. Really,
he made such mulls with the details that even
I had to set him right, and that led to Sir James
talking it out with me, when I had the oppor-
tunity of mentioning that a certain person, not
the smallest of mankind, had been entirely over-
looked. Yes I did, Lucy. I up and told him
how our friend came over as heir ; and when he
was done out of it, set to work as agent and
manager and improver-general, without a notion
of jealousy or anything but being a backbone to
this cousin of his, and I could not say what
besides to all that came in his way ; but I flatter
myself there's one man in the room who has
some notion of the difference there is between
the greater and the less.''^

" Harold would not thank you,'^ I said.

" Not he. So much the more reason that
you should take care he comes to the front.^^

Dermot did Eustace a little injustice in fancy-
ing he wanted to suppress Harold. He never


did. He was far too well satisfied with his own
great personality to think that anyone could
interfere with it ; and having asked everyone in
the room, ladies and all, to the inspection and
the luncheon, discoursed to me about it all the
way home, and would almost have made me and
all the serv^ants stay up all night to prepare.
Harold, who was still up when we came home,
received the tidings equably, only saying he would
go down to Yolland the first thing in the morning
and get things made tidy. " And don't bother
Lucy," he added, as we went upstairs.

Well, the supplies were contrived, and the
table laid without anyone being quite distracted.
From Richardson downwards, we all had
learnt to take our own way, while the master
talked, and Mrs. Alison was really very happy,
making delicate biscuits after a receipt of her
own. Things came to a point where I was sure
they would finish themselves off more happily
without either of us, and though one idle female
more might not be desirable, I thought at least
I might prevent Harold's effacement, and went
down to Mycening with Eustace to receive the

Sure enough, Harold was not in the entrance
yard, nor the superintendent's office. Mr. Yolland
was there, looking grim and bored, and on inquiry
being made, said that Mr. Harold had insisted
on his being on the spot, but was himself help-
ing the men to clear the space whence it would
be easiest to see the action of the machinery. I
made a rush after him, and found him all over


dust, dragging a huge crate into a corner, and
to my entreaty he merely repHed, pushing back
his straw hat, " I must see to this, or we shall
have everything smashed."

The carriages were coming, and I could only
pick my way back by the shortest route, through
stacks of drain-tiles and columns of garden-pots,
to Eustace, who, becoming afraid it would seem
as if he were keeping shop, was squeezing down
the fingers of his left-hand glove, while impressing
on Mr. Yolland and me that everyone must un-
derstand he was only there as chairman of the

The people came, and were conducted round,
and peeped about and made all sorts of remarks,
wise and foolish. Eustace was somewhat per-
plexed between the needful attentions to Mrs.
Vernon and to Sir James, who, being much more
interested in the men than the manufacture, was
examining Mr. Yolland on their welfare, spirit,
content, &c. ; and George Yolland might be
trusted for making Mr. Harold Alison the pro-
minent figure in his replies, till at last he could
say, " But here is Mr. Harold Alison, Sir James.
He can reply better than I." (Wliich was not
strictly true, for George Yolland had by far the
readiest tongue.) But he had managed to catch
Harold in the great court, moving back one of
his biggest barrels of heavy ingredients, with
face some degrees redder and garments some
degrees dustier than when I had seen him ten
minutes before. It really was not on purpose, or
from any wish to hide, but the place needed


clearing, there was little time, and his strength
could not be spared.

I am sorry to say that a chattering young
lady, who stood close to Eustace, exclaimed,
" Dear me, what a handsome young foreman ! "
making Eustace blush to the eyes, and say, " It
is my cousin — he is so very eccentric — you'll ex-
cuse him."

Sir James, meantime, had heartily shaken the
hand which, though begrimed at the moment,
Harold held out to him, and plunged into inquiries
at once, not letting him go again ; for Harold,
with the intuition that nothing was idly asked,
and that each observation told, answered to the
point as no man could do better, or in fewer
words. When the round was over, and Eustace
was prepared with the carriage to drive the
grandees the mile up to Arghouse, Sir James
returned his thanks, but he was going to walk
up with Mr. Harold Alison, who was going to
show him his workmen's reading-room, cottages,
&c. Eustace looked about for someone to whom
to resign the reins, but in vain, and we all had to
set off, my housewifely mind regretting that time
and Eustace had combined to make the luncheon
a hot instead of a cold one.

We found the Tracys when we arrived at
home. Dermot was not equal to standing about
at the pottery, but Lady Diana had promised
to come and help me entertain the party, and
very kindly she did so during the very trying
hungry hour to which we had to submit, inas-
much as, when Sir James at last appeared, it turned


out that he never ate luncheon, and was in perfect
ignorance that we were waiting for him.

He offered me his arm and we went to the
long-deferred luncheon. I listened to his great
satisfaction with what he had seen, and the marvel
he thought it ; and meanwhile I looked for Harold,
and saw him presently come in, in exactly that
condition of dress as he considered due to me,
and with the long blue envelope I knew full well
in one hand, in the other the little figure of the
Hope of Poland which Miss Woolmer had given
him ; and oh ! what a gladness there was in his
eyes. He put them both down beside Sir James,
and then retreated to a side table, where Dora
had been set to entertain a stray school-boy or two.

I longed to hear Sir James's observations, but
his provoking opposite neighbour began to talk,
and I got nothing more to myself, and I had
to spend the next half-hour in showing our
grounds to Mrs. Vernon, who admired as if
she were electioneering, and hindered me from
knowing what anybody was about, till the
people had had their cups of coffee and their
carriages had come.

We three found ourselves in the porch together
when Eustace had handed in Mrs. Vernon, and
Sir James, turning for a last shake of Harold's
hand, said, " I shall expect you this day week."
Then, with most polite thanks to the master
of the house, he was driven off, while Harold,
beaming down on us, exclaimed, "It is as good
as done. I am to go up and see the Secretary
of State about it next week."


I had no doubt what it was, and cried out
joyfully to ask how he had done it. " I told
him who first discovered the capabilities of the
clay, and laid the state of the case before him.
He was very much touched, said it was just
such a matter as needed severity at the time,
but was sure to be pardoned now."

" Pardoned ! What do you mean } " exclaimed
Eustace. "You don't mean that you have not
done with that wretched old. Prometesky yet }
I thought at least, when you took up Sir James
all to yourself, spoiling the luncheon and keep-
ing everyone waiting, you were doing something
for the benefit of the family."

As Harold seemed dumb with amazement,
I asked what he could possibly have been
expected to do for the good of the family,
and Eustace mumbled out something about
that supposed Calldron barony, which seemed
to have turned his head, and I answered
sharply that Sir James had nothing at all to do
with reviving peerages ; besides, if this one had
ever existed, it would have been Harold's. I had
much better have held my tongue. Eustace
never recovered that allegation. That da}-, too,
was the very first in which it had been impos-
sible for Harold to avoid receiving marked pre-
ference, and the jealousy hitherto averted by
Eustace's incredible vanity had begun to awaken.
Moreover, that there had been some marked rebuff
from Viola was also plain, for, as the Arked
carriage was seen coming round, and I said we
must go in to the Tracys, Eustace muttered.


"Nasty little stuck-up thing; catch me making
up to her again ! "

It was just as well that Harold did not hear,
having, at sight of the carriage, gone off to fetch
a favourite cup, the mending of which he had
contrived for Viola at the potteries. When we
came into the drawing-room, I found Lady Diana
and Mrs. Alison with their heads very close to-
gether over some samples of Welsh wool, and
Dermot lying on the sofa, his hands clasped behind
his head, and his sister hanging over him, with her
cheeks of the colour that made her beautiful.

The two elder ladies closed on Eustace directly
to congratulate him on the success of his arrange-
ments, and Dermot jumped up from the sofa,
while Viola caught hold of my hand, and we all
made for the window which opened on the terrace.
" Tell her," said Viola to her brother, as we stood,

Dermot smiled, saying, " Only that Sir James
thinks he has to-day seen one of the most remark-
able men he ever met in his life."

" And he has promised to help him to Prome-
tesky's pardon," I said ; while Viola, instead of
speaking, leaped up and kissed me for joy. " He
is to go to London about it."

" Yes," Dermot said. " Sir James wants him to
meet some friends, who will be glad to pick his
brains about New South Wales. Hallo, Harry ! I
congratulate you. You've achieved greatness."

" You've achieved a better thing," said Viola,
with her eyes beaming upon him.

" I hope so," he said in an under tone.


«* I am so glad," with a whole heart in the four


" Thank you," he said. " This was all that was


The words must have come out in spite of
himself, for he coloured up to the roots of his hair
as they ended. And Viola not only coloured too,
but the moisture sprang into her fawn-like eyes.
Dermot and I looked at each other, both knowing
what it meant.

That instant Lady Diana called, and Dermot,
the first of all, stooped under the window to give
his sister time, and in the little bustle to which he
amiably submitted about wraps and a glass of
wine. Lady Diana failed to look at her daughter's
cheeks and eyes. Viola never even thanked
Harold for the cup, which he put into her lap after
she was seated beside Dermot's feet on the back
seat of the carriage. She only bent her head under
her broad hat, and there was a clasp of the two

I turned to go up to my sitting-room. Harold
came after me and shut the door.

" Lucy," he said, " may one %\v^ thanks for
such things } "

The words of the 107th Psalm came to my
lips : " Oh that men would therefore praise the
Lord for His goodness, and declare the wonders
that He doeth for the children of men."

He put his hands over his face, and said pre-
sently, in a smothered voice, "I had just begun
to pray for the old man."

I could not say any more for happy tears,



less for " the captive exile " ' than for my own

Soon he looked up again, and said with a
smile, " I shan't fight against it any longer."

"I don't think it is of any use," was my
answer, as if pretending to condole ; and where
another man would have uttered a fervent rhap-
sody, he exclaimed, " Lovely little darling ! "

But after another interval he said, " I don't
mean to speak of it till I come back." And on
my question, " From London ? " " No, from Boola

He had evidently debated the whole matter
during his midnight tramps, and had made up
his mind, as he explained, that it would be cruel
to Viola to touch the chord which would disclose
her feelings to herself. She was a mere child,
and if her fancy were touched, as he scarcely
allowed himself to believe, it was hard to lay
fully before her those dark pages in his history
which she must know before she could be allowed
to give herself to him. Besides, her mother and
uncle would, even if there were nothing else
amiss, be sure to oppose a match with one who
had nothing in England but his cousin's agency
and a few shares in the potteries ; and though
Harold had plenty of wealth at Boola Boola, it
was certain that he should not have a moment's
audience from the elders unless he could show
its amount in property in England. If things
went well, he would buy a piece of Neme
Heath, reclaim it, and build a house on it ; or,
perhaps, an estate in Ireland, near Killy Marey,


where the people had gained his heart. Till,
however, he could show that he had handsome
means in a form tangible to Lady Diana, to
express his affection would only be exposing Viola
to displeasure and persecution. Moreover, he
added, his character was not cleared up as m^uch
as was even possible. He had told Lord Ery-
manth the entire truth, and had been believed,
but it was quite probable that even that truth
might divide for ever between him and Viola,
and those other stories of the Stympsons both
cousins had, of course, flatly denied, but had never
been able otherwise to confute.

I asked whether it had ever struck him that
it was possible that the deeds of Henry Alison
might have been charged on his head. " Yes,"
he said, and he thought that if he could trace
this out, with Dermot as a witness, the authorities
might be satisfied so far as to take him for what
he was, instead of for what he had never been.
But the perception of the storm of opposition
which speaking at present would provoke, made
me allow that he was as wise as generous in
sparing Viola till his return, since I knew her too
well to fear that her heart would be given away
in the meantime. Still I did hint, "Might not
she feel your going away without saying any-
thing } "

"Not at all likely," said Harold. "Besides,
she would probably be a happier woman if she
forgot all about me."

In which, of course, there was no agreeing;
but he had made up his mind, and it was plain


it was the nobler part — nay, the only honest
part, since it was plainly of no use to speak
openly. I wondered a little that his love was
so self-restrained. It was an intense glow, but
not an outbreak ; but I think that having gone
through all the whirlwind of tempestuous passion
for a mere animal like poor Meg made him the
more delicately reverent and considerate for the
real love of the higher nature which had now
developed in him. He said himself that the
allowing himself to hope, and ceasing to crush
his feelings, was so great a change as to be
happiness enough for him ; and I guarded care-
fully against being forced into any promise of
silence, being quite determined that, if I saw
Viola unhappy, or fancying herself forgotten,
I would, whether it could be called wise or
foolish, give her a hint of the true state of

Nothing was to be said to Eustace. He
would have the field to himself, and it was better
that he should convince himself and Lady Diana
that there was no hope for him. Harold thought
he could safely be commended to George Yolland
and me for his affairs and his home life ; and, to
our surprise, he did not seem half so reluctant to
part with his cousin as we had expected. He
had gone his own way a good deal more this
winter and spring, as Harold seldom had time to
hunt, and did not often drive out, and he had
grown much more independent. His share of
Boola Boola was likewise to be sold, for neither
cousin felt any desire to keep up the connection


with the country where they had never had a
happy home ; and he gave Harold full authority
to transact the sale.

Perhaps we all had shared more or less in
Dora's expectation that Harold would come
home from London with Prometesky's pardon in
his pocket ; though I laughed at her, and Eustace
was furious when we found she thought he was
to kneel before the Queen, present his petition,
and not only receive the pardon, but rise up
Sir Harold Alison! It did fall flat when he
came back, having had very satisfactory inter-
views, but only with the Secretaries of State, and
having been assured that Prometesky would be
certainly pardoned, but that, as a matter of form,
some certificates of conduct and recommendations
must be obtained from New South Wales before
the pardon could be issued.

This precipitated Harold's departure. Dermot
was just well enough to be likely to be the better
for a voyage, and the first week in ]vlay was fixed
for their setting forth. A great box appeared in
my sitting-room, where Harold began to stow all
manner of presents of various descriptions for
friends and their children, but chiefly for the shep-
herds' families at Boola Boola ; and in the midst,
Mrs. Alison, poor thing, brought a whole box of
beautifully-knitted worsted stockings, which she
implored Harold to carry to her dear Henry;
and he actually let her pack them up, and pro-
mised that, if he ever found Henry, they should
be given. " And, this little Bible," said the good
old lady; "maybihe has lost his own. Tell him


it is his poor papa's, and I know he will bring
it back to me."

" He shall if I can make him," said Harold.
"And Harold, my dear," said Mrs. Alison,
with her hand on his shoulder, as he knelt
by his box, " you'll %o to see your own poor
mamma ? "

Harold started and winced. " My mother is in
New Zealand," he said.

" Yes, my dear," said the old lady trium-
phantly ; " but that's only the other side of the
way, for I looked in Lucy^s map."

" And she has a husband," added Harold be-
tween his teeth, ignoring what the other side of
the way might mean.

" Yes, my dear, I know he is not a nice man,
but you are her only one, aren't you }^'

"And I know what that is — not that I ever
married anyone but your poor uncle, nor ever
would, not if the new rector had asked me, which
many expected and even paid their compliments
to me on, but I always said ' No, no.' But you'll
go and see her, my dear, and comfort her poor
heart, which, you may depend, is longing and
craving after you, my dear ; and all the more if
her new gentleman isn't quite as he should be."
Harold could not persuade himself to bring
out any answer but " Pll see about it ;" and
when we were alone, he said with a sigh, " If I
sliould be any comfort to her poor heart.''^

" I should think there was no doubt of that,^'
•* I am afraid of committing murder," an-


swered Harold, almost under his breath, over
the trunk.

" Oh, Harold ! Not now/*

"I don^t know,^"* he said.

"You have not seen him for ten years. He
may be altered as much as you/^

"And for the worse. I could almost say I
dare not.'''

"There's nothing you don't dare, God helping
you/' I said.

"I shall think. If it is my duty, I suppose
God will help me. Hitherto, I have thought my
rage against the brutes made it worse for her,
and that I do best for her by keeping out of the

"I think they would respect you now too
much to do anything very bad before you.'^

" She would fare the worse for it after-

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 16 of 24)