Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

. (page 20 of 24)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 20 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Arked," he said, " Killy Marey is full of Dublin
workmen. My uncle has undertaken to make
it habiatble for me, like an old brick, and, in the
meantime, there's not a room fit to smoke or
sleep in, so I'm come home like a dutiful son."

" Then your mother is come } "

" Oh yes ; she is come for six weeks, and then
she and the St. Clears are to join company and
winter at Rome."

*' At Rome .? "

" Prevention, you see," said Dermot, with a
twinkle in his eye, as if he were not very uneasy.
" The question is whether it is in time. She will
have Piggy's attentions at Christmas. He is to
come out for the vacation."

Then he further told me that his mother had
brought home with her a Mrs. Sandford with a


daughter, heiress to ;£'6o,ooo, and to a newly-
bought estate in Surrey, and newly-built house
"of the most desirable description," he added,
shrugging his shoulders.

" And what sort of a young lady is she ? "
" Oh, very desirable, too, I suppose/'
" But what is she like ? "
• "Like? Oh, like other people," and he
whistled a little, seeming relieved when " Count
Stanislas " came in, and soon after going to hunt
up Harry at the Hydriot works.

It made me uncomfortable; it was so evi-
dently another attempt on his mothers part to
secure a rich home for him in England, and his
tone did not at all reassure me that, with his easy
temper, he would not drift into the arrangement
without his heart in it. "Why should I be so
vexed about it .? It might be very good for him,"
said I to myself

No, his heart was not in it, for he came back
with Harold, and lingered over our fire beyond
all reasonable time, talking amusing random stuff,
till he had left himself only ten minutes to ride
home in to dinner.

The next day Harold and I rode over to
Arked together. Dermot was the first person we
saw, disporting himself with a pug-dog at the
door. "The fates have sped you well, "''said he,
as he helped me down from my pony. " My
mother has taken Mrs. Sandford in state to call *
on Mrs. Vernon, having arranged that Viola and
I should conduct the sixty-thousand pounder to
admire the tints in the beech woods. The vouno-


ladies are putting on their hats. Will it be too
far for you, Lucy, to go with us ? ^'

Wherewith he fraternally shouted for " Vi,"
who appeared all in a rosy glow, and took me up-
stairs to equip me for walking, extracting from
me in the meantime the main features of the story
of the bloodhound, and trembling while she gave
exulting little nods.

Then she called for Nina (were they so intimate
already ?) and found that young lady in a point
device walking dress, nursing the pug and talking
to Dermot, and so we set forth for the beech- woods,
very soon breaking our five into three and two.
Certainly Lady Diana ought to have viewed
Dermot's attentions to the sixty-thousand pounder
as exemplary, for he engrossed her and me so
entirely with the description of Harold's victory
over a buck-jumper at Boola Boola, that it was full
a quarter of an hour before she looked round to
exclaim, " What is become of Viola ? " And then
we would not let her wait, and in truth we never
came again upon Viola and Harold till we over-
took them at the foot of the last hill, and they
never could satisfy Miss Sandford where they had
been, nor what they had seen, nor how they had
missed us ; and Dermot invented for the nonce a
legend about a fairy in the hill, who made people
gyrate round it in utter oblivion of all things ;
thus successfully diverting the attention of Miss
Sandford, who took it all seriously. Yes, she
certainly was a stupid girl.

Every moment that lengthened the veritable
enchantment of that autumn afternoon was pre-


cious beyond what we knew, and we kept Miss
Sandford prowling about the garden on all sorts
of pretexts, till the poor girl was tired out, as
well she might be, for we had kept her on her
feet for three hours and a half, and she made
her escape at last to join Viola.

I always think of Harold and Viola, as I saw
them at that moment, on the top of the western
slope of the lawn, so that there was a great
ruddy gold sky behind them, against which their
silhouettes stood out in a sort of rich dark purple

" Oh, they are looking at suck a sunset ! " cried
Miss Sandford, climbing up the hill.

'* Query ! " murmured Dermot, for the faces
were in profile, not turning towards the sun in
the sky, but to the sunbeams in one another's
eyes — sunbeams that were still there when we
joined them, and, in my recollection, seem to
blend with the glorious haze of light that was
pouring down in a flood over the purple moor-
land horizon, and the wood, field, and lake below.
I was forced to say something about going home,
and Viola took me up to her room, where we had
one of those embraces that can never be forgotten.
The chief thing that the dear girl said to me was,
" Oh, Lucy. How he has suffered ! How shall I
ever make it up to him } "

Poor dear Viola, little did she think that she
was to cause the very sharpest of his sufferings.

Nay, as little did he, when we rode home
together with the still brilliant sky before us. I
never see a lane ending in golden light, melting


into blue, and dark pine trees framing as it were
the brightness, with every little branch defined
against it, without thinking of that silence of
intense, almost awe-struck joy in which Harold
went home by m.y side, only at long intervals
uttering some brief phrase, such as " This is
blessedness," or "Thank God, who gives women
such hearts."

He had told her all, and it had but added a
reverent, enthusiastic pity and fervour to that
admiring love which had been growing up so long,
and to which he had set the spark.

His old friend was admitted to share their
joy, and was as happy as we were, perhaps
doubly so, since he had beheld with despair
Harold's early infatuation and its results, which
had made him fear, during those three wretched
years, that all the lad's great and noble gifts
would be lost in the coarse excesses of his wild
life, with barbarous prosperity without, and a
miserable, hardening home. That he should
have been delivered from it, still capable of re-
finement, still young and fresh enough for a new
beginning, had been a cause of great joy, and
now that all should be repaired by a true and
worthy love, had seemed beyond hope. We built
our castles over the fire that evening, Harold
had already marked out with his eye the tract
of Neme Heath which he would reclaim ; and
the little he had already set me on doing among
the women and children at the potteries, had
filled us with schemes as to what Viola was to
carry out.


Some misgivings there were even then. Lady
Diana was not to be expected to Hke Harold's
;zf 1,200 a year as well as Piggy's heirship to
the Erymanth coronet, or any of the other
chances that might befall an attractive girl of

For coldness and difficulties we were prepared,
but not for the unqualified refusal with which she
met Harold the next morning, grounding all on
the vague term, "circumstances," preventing his
even seeing Viola, and cutting short the interview
in the manner of a grande dame whose family
had received an insult.

Dermot, however, not only raging, but raving,
on his side, assured him of the staunchness of his
sister, and her resolve to hold by him through
everything ; and further, in sundry arguments with
his mother, got to the bottom of the "circum-
stances." She had put away from herself the
objection to the convict birth and breeding, by
being willing to accept Eustace, to whom exactly
the same objections applied ; and when she called
Eustace a man of more education and manners,
her son laughed in her face at the comparison of
"that idiot" with a man like Harold.

Then came the " past life," a much more
tangible objection, but Dermot was ready there,
declaring that whatever Harold had done, con-
sidering his surroundings, was much less heinous
than his own transgressions, after such a bringing
up as his, and would his mother say that nobody
ought to marry him } Besides, to whom had she
given Di .'* They were not arguments that Lady


Diana accepted, but she weakened her own cause
by trying to reinforce it with all the Stympson
farrago, the exaggeration of which Dermot, after
his own meeting with Henry Alison, and with
Prometesky to corroborate him, was fully prepared
to explode, to the satisfaction even of Lord Ery-

Harold himself was deeply sensible of the stain
and burthen of his actual guilt, more so, indeed,
than he had ever been before, both from the
reli"-ious influences to which he had submitted


himself, and from the sense of that sweet inno-
cence of his Viola's ; but his feeling had come
to be that if his Heavenly Father loved and forgave
him, so, in a lesser way, Viola forgave him because
she loved him. He did not wonder at nor com-
plain of Lady Diana's not thinking him worthy of
her good and lovely child. He would be thankful
to submit to any probation, five, seven, ten years
without any engagement, if he might hope at
last. Even Lord Erymanth, when he saw how his
darling's soul was set on it, thought that thus much
might be granted.

But Lady Diana had still another entrench-
ment which she had concealed, as it were, to the
last, not wishing to shock and pain us all, she said.
Though she said she had reason to complain of not
having been told from the first that Harold had
once been insane, nothing could induce her to
sanction her daughter's marriage with a man whose
mind had been disordered ; nay, who had done
mortal injury in his frenzy. It was a monstrous


Dermot's reply to this was, that nobody, then,
ought to marry who had had a delirious fever ; and
he brought Prometesky over to Arked to testify
to her how far the attack had been from anything
approaching to constitutional insanity. The terrible
fall, of which Harold's head still bore the mark,
the shock, the burning sun, were a combination
of causes that only made it wonderful that he
should have recovered the ensuing brain fever,
and the blow to his rival had been fatal by the
mere accident of his strength. A more ordinary
man would have done no serious harm by such a
stroke, given when not accountable. Lady Diana
answered stiffly that this might be quite true, but
that there had been another cause for the tem-
porary derangement which had not been men-
tioned, and that it was notorious that Mr. Alison,
in consequence, had been forced to avoid all
liquors, and she appealed to Dermot as to the
effects of a very small quantity on his friend's

Poor Dermot ! it was bitter enough for him
to have that orgie at Foling brought forward
against his friend. Nor could any representation
appease Lady Diana.

I thought her very cruel and unreasonable
then, and I am afraid I believe that if Harold
had had ten, or even five thousand a year, these
objections would never have been heard of ;
but after years and experience have cooled my
mind, it seems to me that on several grounds
she was justified in her reluctance, and that, as
Viola was so young, and Harold's repentance had


been comparatively recent, she might fairly have
insisted on waiting long enough to see whether he
were indeed to be depended upon, or if Viola's
affection were strong enough to endure such risk
as there might be.

For Dermot, resolute to defend his friend, and
declaring that his sister's heart should not be
broken, was the prime mover in Harold going up
to consult the most eminent men of the day on
mental disease, Prometesky going with him as
having been his only attendant during his illness,
to give an account of the symptoms, and Dermot,
who so comported himself in his excitement as to
seem far more like the lover whose hopes might
have depended on the verdict on his doubtful
sanity, than did the grave, quiet, self-contained
man, who answered all questions so steadily.

The sentence was so far satisfactory that the
doctor confirmed Prometesky's original view, that
concussion of the brain, aggravated by circum-
stances, had produced the attack, and that there
was no reasonable ground for apprehension of its
recurrence, certainly not of its being hereditary.
But he evidently did not like the confession of the
strange horror of dogs, which Harold thought it
right to mention as having been brought on by the
circumstances of his accident, and he would not
venture to say that any " exciting cause '' might
not more easily affect the brain than if nothing
had ever been amiss. Yet when Dermot tarried,
explaining that he was the brother of a young
lady deeply concerned, the doctor assured him
that whereas no living man could be insured from


insanity, he should consider the gentleman he had
just seen to be as secure as any one else, since
there was no fear of any hereditary taint, and his
having so entirely outgrown and cast off all traces
of the malady was a sign of his splendid health
and vigour of constitution.

But Lady Diana was still not satisfied. She
still absolutely refused all consent, and was no
more moved at the end of three weeks than
before. Dear Harold said he did not wonder,
and that if he had seen himself in this true light,
he would have loved Viola at a distance without
disquieting her peace, but since he had spoken
and knew she loved him, he could not but per
severe for her sake. We could see he said it
with a steady countenance, but a burning heart.
Neither he nor I was allowed to see Viola, but
there was Dermot as constant reporter, and,
to my surprise, Viola was not the submissive
daughter I had expected. Lady Diana had never
had any real ascendancy over her children's wills
or principles. Even Viola^s obedience had been
that of duty, not of the heart, and she had from
the first declared that mamma might forbid her to
marry Harold, or to correspond with him, and she
should consider herself bound to obey ; but that
she had given him her promise, and that she
could not and would not take it back again.
She would wait on for ever, if otherwise it could
not be, but he had her troth plight, and she
would be faithful to it. She would not ^\\q
up her crystal cross, and she sent Harold
her love every day by her brother, often in her


^ 2 2


mother's very hearing, saying she was too proud
of him to be ashamed. She had resolved on her
own Hne of passive obedience, but of never re-
nouncing her engagement, and her brother upheld
her in it ; while her uncle let himself be coaxed
out of his displeasure, and committed himself to
that compromise plan of waiting which his sister
viewed as fatal, since Viola would only lose all
her bloom, and perhaps her health. Nothing, she
said, was so much to be deplored for a girl as
a long engagement. The accepting a reformed
rake had been always against her principles, and
she did not need even the dreadful possibility of
derangement, or the frightful story of his firs^
marriage, to make her inexorable. Viola, we
were told, had made up her mind that it was
a case for perseverance, and all this time kept
up dauntlessly, not failing in spirits nor activity,
but telling her brother she had always known
she should have to go through something, but
Harold's love was worth it, and she meant to be
brave ; how should she not be when she knew
Harold cared for her ; and as to what seemed to
be objections in the eyes of others, did they not
make her long the more to compensate him }

" She has to make all her love to me, poor
little woman, and very pretty love it is," said

Whether Harold made as much love in return
to their ready medium I cannot tell, for their con-
ferences were almost always out of doors or at the
office, and Harold was more reserved than ever.
He was not carrying matters with the same high


hand as his little love, for, as he always said, he
knew he had brought it all on himself.

He never complained of Lady Diana, but
rather defended her to her son for not thinking
him fit for her daughter, only adhering to his
original standpoint, that where there was so much
love, surely some hope might be granted, since he
would thankfully submit to any probation.

We all expected that this would be the upshot
of our suspense, and that patience and constancy
would prevail ; and by the help of immense walks
and rides, and a good deal of interest in some new
buildings at the potteries, and schemes for the
workmen, Harold kept himself very equable and
fairly cheerful, though his eyes were weary and
anxious, and when he was sitting still, musing,
there was something in his pose which reminded
me more than ever of Michel Angelo's figures,
above all, the grand one on the Medicean monu-
ment. He consorted much more now with Mr.
Yolland, the curate, and was making arrangements
by which the school chapel might expand into a
Mission Church, but still I did not know that he
was finding the best aid through this time in the
devotions and heart-searchings to which the young
clergyman had led him, and which were the real
cause of the calm and dignified humility with
which he waited.

At last Lady Diana, finding herself powerless
with her daughter, sent a letter to Harold, begin-
ning : " I appeal to your generosity." A very
cruel letter in some ways it was, representing
that he had acquiesced in her judgment, that


there were certain unfortunate passages in his
past Hfe which made it her painful duty to pre-
vent her child from following the dictates of an in-
experienced heart. Then she put it to him whether
it were not a most unfortunate position for a young
girl to be involved in an engagement which could
never be fulfilled, and which was contrary to the
commands of her only remaining parent, and she
showed how family peace, confidence, and maternal
and filial affection must suffer if the daughter
should hold fast persistently to the promise by
which she held herself bound. - In fact, it was an
urgent entreaty, for Viola's own sake, that he
would release her from her promise. Dermot was
shooting at Erymanth, and neither he nor I knew
of this letter till Harold had acted. He rode at
once to Arked, saw Lady Diana, and declared
himself convinced that the engagement, having no
chance of sanction, ought to be given up. Rather
than keep Viola in the wearing state of resistance
and disobedience her mother described, he would
resign all hopes of her.

Lady Diana went to her daughter with the
tidings, that Mr. Alison saw the hopelessness of
his suit, and released her from her promise.

"You have made him do so, mamma," cried
Viola. "If he releases me I do not release

Finally, Lady Diana, astonished to find Harold
so reasonable and amenable, perceived that the
only means of dealing with her daughter was to
let them meet again. Of course no one fully
knows what passed then. Harold told me, the


only time he spoke of it, that " he had just taken
out his own heart and crushed it?" but Viola dwelt
on each phrase, and, long after, used to go over
all with me. He had fully made up his mind
that to let Viola hold to her troth would neither
be right nor good for her, and he used his power
of will and influence to make her resign it. There
was no concealment nor denial of their mutual
love. It was Viola's comfort to remember that.
"But," said Harold, "your mother has only too
good reasons for withholding you from me, and
there is nothing for it but to submit, and give
one another up."

" But we do not leave off loving one another,"
said poor Viola.

" We cannot do what we cannot."

"And when we are old "

"That would be a mental reservation," said
Harold. " There must be no mutual understand-
ing of coming together again. I promised your
mother. Because I am a guilty man, I am not
to break up your life.''^

He made her at last resign her will into his,
she only feeling that his judgment could not be
other than decisive, and that she could not resist
him, even for his own sake. He took her for a
moment into his arms, and exchanged one long
burning kiss, then, while - she was almost faint and
quite passive with emotion, he laid her on the
sofa, and called her mother. " Lady Diana," he
said, " we give up all claim to one another's
promise, in obedience to you. Do we not,


" Yes," she faintly said.

He gave her brow one more kiss, and was

He took his horse home, and sent in a pencil
note to me : " All over ; don't wait for me. —
H. A."

I was dreadfully afraid he would go off to
Australia, or do something desperate, but Count
Stanislas reassured me that this would be unlike
Harold's present self, since his strength had come
to be used, not in passion, but in patience. We
dined as best we could without him, waited all
the evening, and sat up till eleven, when we heard
him at the door. I went out and took down the
chain to let him in. It was a wet misty night,
and he was soaked through. I begged him to
come in and warm himself, and have something
hot, but he shook his head, as if he could not
speak, took his candle, and went upstairs.

I made the tea, for which I had kept the
kettle boiling all this time, and Prometesky took
his great cup in to him, presently returning to
say, " He is calm. He has done wisely, he has
exhausted himself so that he will sleep. He says
he will see me at once to my retreat in Normandy.
I think it will be best for him."

Count Stanislas was, in fact, on the eve of
departure, and in a couple of days more Harold
went away with him, having only broached the
matter to me to make me understand that the
break had been his, not Viola's ; and that I
must say no more about it.

Dermot had come over and raged against hi.s


mother, and even against Harold, declaring that if
the two had "stood out" they would have pre-
vailed, but that he did not wonder Harold was
tired of it.

Harold's look made him repent of that bit of
passion, but he was contemptuous of the '' for her
sake/' which was all Harold uttered as further
defence. "What! tell him it was for her sake
when she was creeping about the house like a
ghost, looking as if she had just come out of a
great illness ?"

Dermot meant to escort his mother and sister
to Florence, chiefly in order to be a comfort to the
latter, but he meant to return to Ireland as soon
as they had joined the St. Clears. " Taking you
by the way,'' he said, " before going to my private
La Trappe."

Prometesky took leave of me, not quite as if
we were never to meet again, for his experimental
retreat was to be over at Christmas, and he would
then be able to receive letters. He promised me
that, if I then wrote to him that Harold stood
in need of him for a time, he would return to us
instead of commencing the novitiate which would
lead to his becoming dead to the outer world.

Harold was gone only ten days, and came
back late on a Friday evening. He tried to tell
me about what he had done and seen, but bcoke
off and said, " Well, I am veiy stupid ; I went to
all the places they told me to see at Rouen and
everywhere else, but I can't recollect anything
about them.-"

So I let him gaze into the fire in peace, and all


Saturday he was at the potteries or at the office,
very busy about all his plans and also taking in
hand the charge for George Yolland, for both
brothers were going on Monday to take a fortnight's
holiday among their relations. He only came in
to dinner, and after it told me very kindly that
he must leave me alone again, for he wanted to
see Ben Yolland. A good person for him to wish
to see, ** but was all this restlessness ?" thought this
foolish Lucy,

When he came in, only just at bed-time, there
was something more of rest, and less of weary
sadness about his eyes than I had seen since the
troubles began, and as we wished one another
good night he said, " Lucy, God forgives while
he punishes. He is better to us than man. Yol-
land says I may be with you at church early

Then my cheeks flushed hot with joy, and I
said how thankful I was that all this had not dis-
tracted his thoughts from the subject. " When I
wanted help more than ever.-*" he said.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 20 of 24)