Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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with him, and the terrible head, foaming, and
making horrid choking growls, was swun;;
round from her, and the dog lifted by the back


of the neck in the air, struggling- and kicking

Everyone had given back : Hippolyta had
thrown herself on Eustace, who drew her back,
crowding on us, into the porch; Harold, still
holding the dog at arm's length, made his voice
heard in steady tones, "Will some one give me
my other glove ? "

One hand, that which grasped the dog, was
gloved, but the free hand was bare, and it was
Dora who first understood, saw the glove at his
feet, sprang to his side, and held it up to him.
while he worked his hand into it, and she pulled
it on for him. Then he transferred his grasp
from one hand to the other, and in that mo-
ment the powerful bloodhound made a desperate
struggle, and managed to get one paw on the
ground, and writhe itself round so as to fly at
his face and make its teeth actually meet in his
beard, a great mouthful of which it tore out,
and we saw it champing the hairs, as he again
swung it up, so that it could only make frantic
contortions with its body and legs, while he held
it at arm's length with the iron strength of his

This had taken hardly three seconds, and in
that time Jack Horsman and a keeper or two
had been able to come up, but no one unarmed
could give efficient aid, and Harold said, 'Til
take him to the yard."

Mr. Horsman led the way, and as the keepers
followed with several of the gentlemen, I was
forced to let Harold vanish, carrying at arm's


length that immense dog, still making horrible
rabid struggles.

I don't clearly remember how we got back to
the house. Somebody had fainted, I believe, and
there was much confusion ; but I know nothing
but that there was the report of a pistol, and,
almost immediately after, I saw Harold coming
up to the hall door with Dora lying back in his
arms. Then my eyes and ears grew clear, and I
flew forward to ask the dreadful question. " No,'*
he said, "she is only a little upset." Unper-
ceived, that child had followed him down, hold-
ing the broken chain in which he might have
tripped, and had stood by even while he set the
poor beast on his feet, and held it for the merci-
ful death shot. It seemed that her purpose had
been to suck the wound if he had been bitten,
and when once she heard j\lr. Horsman exclaim,
"All safe, thank God!" she clung to Harold
with an inarticulate gasp, in one of those hysteri-
cal agonies by which her womanhood from time
to time asserted itself She could not breathe or
speak, and he only begged for a place to lay
her down. Old Marianne Horsman, the quiet
one of the family, took us to her own den, and,
with me, insisted on looking well at Harold's
hands and face. What might not that horrid
leap have done } But we convinced ourselves
that those fangs had only caught his beard,
where there was a visible gap, but no sign of a
wound ; and those riding-gloves had entirely
guarded his hands. How blessed the Providence,
for ordinarily he never touched gloves, and


common white kid ones would have availed
little. There was scarce time to speak of it, for
the child required all our care, and was only just
becoming calmer, as Harold held her, when the
bride and bridegroom came in, she, red and eager,
he, white and shaken, to summon us to the break-
fast. "Don't go!" was her moan, half asleep.

Harold bade me go, and as the bride de-
clared they could not sit down without him, he
answered, " Not yet, thank you, I couldn't" And
I remembered that his prompt deed of daring
had been in defiance of a strong nervous anti-
pathy. There was a spasmodic effort in the smile
he attempted, a twitching in the muscles of his
throat ; he was as pale as his browned cheeks
could become, and his hand was still so unsteady
that he was forced to resign to me the spoonful
of cordial to put into Dora's mouth.

And at that moment Eustace turned and said,
" Have you brought the nuggets } "

Without speaking Harold put his hand into
his pocket, and laid them in Eustace's hand.

" These t you said they were golden apples ; I
thought they would be bigger."

" They are wonderful," said Hippolyta ; " no
one ever had such a wedding-gift."

" Not that — a debt," said Harold, hoarsely ;
but Pippa Horsman came and summoned them,
and I was obliged to follow, answering old Mari-
anne's entreaties to say what would be good for
him by begging for strong coffee, which she pro-
mised and ordered, but in the skurry of the house-
hold, it never came.


The banquet, held in a tent, was meant to be
a brilliantly merry one. The cake had a hunt in
sugar all round it, and the appropriate motto,
" Hip, hip, hurrah ! " and people tried to be
hilarious ; but witli that awful shock thrilling on
everybody's nerves we only succeeded in being
noisy, though, as we were assured, there was
no cause for alarm or grief. The dog had
been tied up on suspicion, and had bitten
nothing but one cat, which it had killed. Yet
surely grave thankfulness would have been better
for us all, as well as more comfortable than loud
witticisms and excited laughter. I looked at the
two or three clerical members of the clan and
wondered at them.

When the moment for healths came, the bride
called to her brother, the head of the house, by
his pleasing name of Baby, and sent him to fetch
Harold, whom he brought back with him. Dora
was sound asleep, they said, and room was made
for Harold in the bridal neighbourhood in time to
hear the baronet, who had married a Horsman of
the last generation, propose the health of the bride
with all the conventional phrases, and of the bride-
groom, as a gentleman who, from his first arrival,
had made it his study to maintain the old character
of the family, and to distinguish himself by in-
telligent care for the welfare of his tenants, &c., &c.

Hippolyta must have longed to make the speech
in return. We could see her prompting her hus-
band, and, by means of imitations of Lord Ery-
manth, he got through pretty well with his gracious
acceptance of all the praises.


Baby Jack proposed the health of the brides-
maids, adding, more especially, that of the
absent one, as a little heroine ; and, after the re-
sponse, came a ponderous speech by another
kinsman, full of compliments to Harold's courage
in a fulsome style that made me flush with the
vexation it must give him, and the annoyance
it would be to reply. I had been watching him.
As a pile of lumps of ice fortunately stood near
him, he had, at every interval, been transferring
one to his glass, filling it up with water, guarding
it from the circling decanters, and taking such a
draught at every toast that I knew his mouth
was parched, and I dreaded that sheer worry
would make him utter one of his " young bar-
barian " bluntnesses ; but what he did was to stand
up and say simply, " It is very kind of Colonel
Horsman to speak in this way of my share in
the great mercy and deliverance we have received
to-day. It is a matter of the greatest thankful-
ness. Let me in return thank the friends here
assembled for their welcome, and, above all, for
their appreciation of my cousin, whose position
now fulfils my great wish. Three years ago we
were friendless strangers. Now he has made him-
self one with you, and I thank you heartily
for it/'

I felt rather than heard Nessy Horsman
muttering, " pretty well for the large young
man ; " and it seemed to occur to no one that
friends, position, and all had been gained for
Eustace by Harold himself. He was requesting
permission to take Dora back with us, and it


was granted with some demur, because she must
be with Mrs. Randal Horsman on her return to
town on the Monday ; a day's lessons could not
be sacrificed, for she was very backward, and had
no application ; but Harold undertook that she
should meet the lady at the station, and gained
his point.

Clan Horsman knew too well what he had
done to deny him anything he asked. A man
who had not only taken a mad dog by the throat,
but had brought home two hundred and twenty
pounds worth of gold to lay on the table, deserved
something at their hands, though ice was all he
actually received ; but Eustace, when he came
to us while the bride was changing her dress,
was in a fretful, fault-finding mood, partly it
may be from the desire to assert himself, as
usual, above his cousin.

He was dissatisfied with the price paid for
Boola-Boola. Someone had told him it would
realise four times as much, and when Harold
would have explained that this was unreasonable,
he was cut short with the declaration that the
offer ought not to have been accepted without
reference to the other party concerned.

Next he informed Harold, in an off-hand way,
that some of the new improvements at Arghouse
would not work, and that he had a new agent — a
respo)isible digtnt — who was not to be interfered with.

There was, a certain growl in Harold's " very
well," but the climax was Eustace's indignation
when he heard of Prometesky's arrival. He had
worked himself, by way of doing the country


squire completely, into a disgust of the old exile,
far out-Heroding what he had heard from Lord
Erymanth, and that " the old incendiary " should
be in his house was a great offence.

" He shall not sleep there another night, neither
will I," said Harold, in a calm voice, but with such
a gleam in his eyes as I had seen when he fell on

It had at least the effect of reducing Eustace
to his old habit of subordination, and he fell into

an agony of " No, I did not mean that, and "

stammering out something in excuse about not
likino: the servants and all to think he was
harbouring a returned convict.

I had taken care of that. I knew how " that
that there Potsky" was the ogre of the riots, and
I had guarded against his identification by speak-
ing of our guest as the foreign gentleman who had
come home with Mr. Harold, and causing him to
be called Count Stanislas; and, on hearing this,
Eustace became so urgent in his entreaties, that
Harold, though much hurt, relented so far as to
promise at any rate to remain till Monday, so that
Dora should not detect the offence.

We saw the happy pair off, among the old
shoes, to spend some months abroad, while the
old house was revivified for them, and then we
had our own drive home, which was chiefly occu-
pied with Dora, who, sitting on Harold's knee,
seemed to expect her full rescue from all
grievances, and was terribly disappointed to find
that he had no power to remove her from her
durance in the London school-room, where she


was plainly the dunce and the black sheep, a
misery to herself and all concerned, hating every-
one and disliked by all. To the little maiden
of the Bush, only half tamed as yet, the
London school-room and walks in the park
were penance in themselves, and the company
of three steady prim girls, in the idealess state
produced by confinement to a school-room, and
nothing but childish books, was as distasteful to
her as she was shocking to them, and her life was
one warfare with them and with their Fraulem.
The only person she seemed able to endure was
Nessy Horsman, who was allowed to haunt his
cousin Randal's house, and who delighted in
shocking the decorous monotony of the trio ot
sisters, finding the vehement little Australian far
more entertaining, while, whether he teased or
stimulated her, she found him the least uncon-
genial being she met in Paddington. But what
struck me most was the manner in which Harold
spoke to her, not merely spoiling her, and giving
her her own way, as if he were only a bigger
child, but saying " It will all get better, Dora, if
you only try to do your best" ^^
" I haven't got any best to do."
** Ever>^body has."
" But I don't want it to be better. I want to be

with you and Lucy." ,

Then came some reasoning about impossibilities,
too low for me to hear in the noise of the wheels,
but ending with "It is only another thing to
conquer. You can conquer anything if you only
try, and pray to God to help you."


" I haven't said my prayers since I went away.
They ordered me, and said I was wicked ; but you
don^t Harold, do you?" she cried triumphantly,
little expecting the groan she met in answer,
" Yes, indeed I do, Dora. I only wish I had done
so sooner."

" I thought it was no use," she said, crying at
his tone. " It was so unkind to take me away
from Lucy;" and whereas she hardly ever shed
tears and was now far from restored after the
fright, when she once began we could hardly
stop her weeping, and were thankful when she
was soothed into another sleep, which we durst
not peril by a word.

It deepened and lasted so that Harold carried
her upstairs still asleep, and laid her on her own
little bed. Then he came out with me into my
dear old sitting-room, where, without another word,
he knelt in the old place and said, " That psalm,
please Lucy."

" I think we ought to give thanks in church,"
I said, presently.

" Whatever is right," he said fervently.

" It was the greatest escape you ever had," I

" Yes," he said, shuddering ; " at least it
seemed so. I really thought the dog had bitten
me when he flew in my face. It felt just like it,
and I was very near giving up. I don't mean
letting him go, but not heeding whether he
touched me or not. It kept on haunting me till
I was alone with Dora, and could examine at the


Of course I was not content till I had likewise
again convinced myself by searching into the
beard, and then I added, "Ah! this is worse
than the lion, though then you were really hurt."^

" Yes, but there one knew the worst. Besides,**
he said, again overcoming a shudder, "I know
my feeling about dogs is a weakness owing to my
sin. * Deliver me from the power of the dog/ to
me expresses all the power of evil."

Then he sat down and took a pen to write to
Mr. Crosse. " Harold Alison wishes to give
thanks to Almighty God for a great mercy."

And after that he never alluded to the adven-
ture again. I told the story to Prometesky in his
absence, and we never mentioned it more.

Indeed the next thing Harold said, as he ad-
dressed his envelope, was, " It is a pity to lose

this room."

" There is one that I can fit up like it," I said.
" All the things here are mine." And then I was
glad to divert his attention by proposing to go
and inspect Mount Eaton, as soon as he had had
some much-needed food, since Prometesky was
out, and we at once plunged into the "flitting"
affairs, glad in them to stifle some of the pain
that Eustace had given, but on which we neither
of us would dwell.

Was Harold changed, or had he only gone
on growing in the course he had begun? He
was as simple and unconsciously powerful as ever,
but there was something there was not before,
reminding me of the dawning of Undine's soul.

He was called off in the middle of our consul-



tation as to the house, which was our common
property, by a message that Mr. Crabbe would be
glad of a few minutes with him.

"Was there any fresh annoyance about the
Hydriots ? " I asked, when he came back.

" Oh, no ! The rascal is come over to my side.
What do you think he wanted to say ? That he
had been to look at my grandfather's will, and he
thinks you could drive a coach and horses through
it ; and he proposes to me to upset it, and come
in as heir-at-law ! The scoundrel ! "

" After all," I said, after a pause, " it would be
very good for poor Arghouse if you thought it

" / should not be very good for Arghouse if I
did such a thing as that," returned Harold. " No,
poor old Eu, I'm not going to disturb him
because he has got out of my hands, and I think
she will take care of the people. I daresay I
bullied him more than was bearable."

Would Harold have so forgiven even Eustace's
ingratitude three years ago ?



Vv E had a happy time after that ; our Sunday
was a very glad and peaceful one, with our
thanksgiving in the morning, and Dora's plea-
sure in the dear old children's service in the


afternoon. Poor child, she Hked everything that
she had only submitted to when she was with
us, and Harold took her away on the Monday
in a more resigned frame of mind, with a kind
of promise that she would be good if the
Horsmans would let her.

Then came the removal, and I must say there
was some compensation for the pain of leaving
my old home in that sense of snugness and liberty
in our new plenishing, rather like the playing at
doll's houses. We had stable room for Harold's
horse and my pony — the kangaroo, alas! had
pined and died the winter that Harold was away ;
the garden was practicable, and the rooms were
capable of being made home-like and pleasant.

The Tracys were out of reach for the pre-
sent. Dermot was gone to Ireland, and Lady
Diana and her daughter were making a long
round of visits among friends, so that there was
nothing for it but waiting, and as it was hopeful
waiting, enlivened by Viola's letters to me, Harold
endured it very happily, having indeed much to
think about.

There was Prometesky's health. It was ascer-
tained that he must undergo an operation, and
when we found that all the requisite skill could
be had near at hand, I overruled the scruples
about alarming or distressing me. I knew that
it would be better for him to be watched by
George YoUand, and^ for Harold to be at home,
and I had come to love the old man very


One day of expectation, in which he was the


most calm and resolute of us, one anxious day
when they sent me to Miss Woolmer, until Harold
came, thankful and hopeful to fetch me, a few
more of nursing accepted with touching gratitude,
and he was soon downstairs again, a hale old
man, though nearly seventy, but more than ever
bent on his retreat to La Trappe. It distressed
us much. He seemed so much to enjoy intelligent
talk with Miss Woolmer and the Yollands ; he so
delighted in books, and took such fresh interest
in all, whether mechanical or moral, that was
doing at the Hydriots — of which, by-the-by, as
first inventor, the company had contrived, at
Harold's suggestion, to make him a shareholder
to an extent that would cover all his modest
needs, I could not think how he would bear
the change.

" My dear young lady," he said to me, when
I tried to persuade him out of writing the first
letter, "you forget how much I have of sin
upon me. Can years of negation of faith, or the
ruin of four young lives, and I know not of how
many more, be repented of at ease in your plea-
sant town, amid the amiable cares you young
people are good enough to lavish on the old
man i

I made some foolish answer about his having
meant all for good and noble purposes, but he
shook his head.

" Error, my dear madam, error excusable,
perhaps, in one whose country has been destroyed.
I see, now that I have returned, after years alone
with my God, that the work I tried to precipitate


was one of patience. The fire from heaven must
first illuminate the soul, then the spirit, and then
the bonds will be loosed of themselves ; otherwise
we do but pluck them asunder to set maniacs
free to rush into the gulf And as to my influence
on my two pupils, your brothers, I see now
that what began in filial rebellion and disobedience
could never end well. I bless God that I have
been permitted to see, in the next generation, the
true hero and reformer I ought to have made of
my Ambrose. Ah ! Ambrose, Ambrose ! noble
young spirit, would that any tears and penance of
mine would expiate the shipwreck to which I led
thee ! " and he burst into tears.

He had, of course, seen the Roman Catholic
priest several times before encountering the danger
of the operation, and was a thoroughly devout
penitent, but of his old Liberalism he retained
the intense benevolence that made the improve-
ments at the potteries a great delight to him,
likewise the historical breadth of understanding
that prevented his thinking us all un-Catholic and


It was a great blessing that Harold was not
held back but rather aided and stimulated by the
example of the man to whom he most looked up ;
but with his characteristic silence, it was long
before I found that, having felt, beside his mother's
death-bed, how far his spiritual wants had out-
grown me, he had carried them to Ben Yolland,
though the old morning habit remained unbroken,
and he always came to the little room I had made
like my old one.


Ben Yolland had become more entirely chaplain
to the Hydriots. Those two brothers lived together
in a curious way at what we all still called the
" Dragon's Head," each with his own sitting-room
and one in common, one fitted as a clergyman's
study, the other more like a surgery ; for though
George had given up his public practice since he
had been manager of the works, he still attended
all the workpeople and their families, only making
them pay for their medicines " when it was good
for them."

Thus the care of the souls and bodies of the
Hydriots was divided between the two, and they
seemed to work in concert, although George
showed no symptom of change of opinions, never
saying anything openly to discredit his brother's
principles, nay, viewing them as wholesome re-
straints for those who were not too scientific to
accept them, and even going to church when he
had nothing else to do, but by preference looking
up his patients on a Sunday. He viewed every-
thing, from religion to vice, as the outcome of
certain states of brain, nerves, and health ; and
so far from being influenced by the example of
Prometesky, regarded him as a proof of his own
theory, and talked of the Sclavonic temperament
returning to its normal forms as the vigour of life

Nevertheless, he did not seem to do harm to
the workpeople. Drunkenness was at least some-
what restrained, though far from conquered, and
the general spirit of the people was wonderful,
compared with those of other factories. Plans


were under discussion for a mission chapel, and
the people themselves were thoroughly anxious
for it.

Lord Erymanth returning, kindly came to call
on me in my new house, and as I was out of the
drawino - room at the time, he had ten minutes'


conversation with the gentleman whom he found
reading at the window, and was so much pleased
with him that when making the tour of our small
domain, he said, " You did not introduce me, Lucy.
Is that an Australian acquaintance of Harold
Alison's ? I did not expect such high cultivation."

"An Australian acquaintance, yes," said I,
" and also a Polish count."

" Prometesky ! "

" Prometesky," said I, to whom the name had
begun to sound historical. " I did not know you
did not recognise him."

I was afraid my old friend would be angry
with me, but he stood still and said, *'I never
saw him except at his trial. I can understand
now the fascination he was said to have possessed.
I could not conscientiously assist your nephew in
his recall, but I highly honour the generous perse-
verance with which he has effected it ; and I am
happy to acknowledge that the subject is worthy
of his enthusiasm. Animosity may be laid aside
now, and you may tell Mr. Harold Alison that I
heartily congratulate him."

"And he — Count Stanislas we call him — sees
now that he was mistaken," I said.

"Does he.? That is the best of the higher
stamp of men, my dear. They know when they


are wrong, and own it. In fact, that's the greatest
difference between men. The feeble and self-
opinionated never acknowledge an error, but the
truly sincere can confess and retrieve their hallu-
cinations and prejudices. Well, I am glad to
have seen Prometesky, and to be disabused of
some ideas respecting him."

Count Stanislas, on the other hand, received me
with, " So that is Erymanth ! The tyrant, against
whom we raged, proves a charitable, benevolent,
prosy old gentleman. How many illusions a
few decades dispel, and how much hatred one
wastes ! "

Lord Erymanth had told me that his sister
would soon be at home, and in September I was
surprised by a call from Dermot. " Yes, I'm at

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 19 of 24)