Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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sand pounder, could provide something better than
praties and buttermilk for herself at Killy Marey.'

I could not help thinking dear Harold might
have remembered Killy Marey's needs when he
gave me that half of his means. And as to going
back to Mount Eaton, ghosts of past times would
meet me there, whose pain was then too recent
to have turned into the treasure these recollections
are to me.

There would be just time, Dermot declared, if
he put up our banns the very next Sunday, to
go through with it before the time Pippa had
appointed for receiving Dora, and it would save all
the trouble of hunting up a surrogate and startling
him with his lovely face.

However, he did startle the poor old parish
clergyman effectually by calling on him to publish
the banns of marriage between Dermot Edward
St. Clear Tracy and Lucy Percy Alison, both
residing in this parish. He evidently thought we
were in hiding from someone who knew of some
just cause or impediment ; but whereas we certainly
did full justice to our ages twenty- eight and twenty-



362 MY YOUNG ALCIDES,



six, he could only try to examine us individually
very politely, but betraying how uncomfortable he
was.

It was most amusing to see how his face
cleared up when, two days later, he met us on the
beach with a dignified old white-haired gentleman,
though Dermot declared that the imposing title
mentioned on the introduction made him suspect
us of having hired a benignant stage father for the
occasion.

The dear old uncle Ery had actually come down
to chapcrone us, and really act as much as possible
as a father to me ; and as I had likewise sent for Col-
man and a white silk dress, the St. Clement's minds
were free to be pleasantly excited about us. Lord
Erymanth had intended to have carried us off to
be married from his castle, but we begged off, and
when he saw Dermot, he allowed that it was not
the time to make a public spectacle of what
(Dermot was pleased to say) would have the
pleasing pre-eminence of being "the ugliest of
weddings," both as to bridegroom and bridesmaid.
For ^he and Dora used to make daily fun of their
respective beauties, which were much on a par,
since, though she had three weeks' start of him,
the complaint having been unmitigated in her, had
left much more permanent-looking traces. Those
two chose to keep each other up to the most
mirthful nonsense-pitch, and yet I am sure none
of us felt so light of spirit as we must have
appeared, though, perhaps, the being on the edge
of such a great shadow made the sunshine seem
brighter.



CONCLUSION. 363



We had considered of beginning with a flying
visit to see how poor Viola really was, but
the Italian letters prevented this. Lady Diana
accepted me cordially and kindly as a daughter,
and said all that was proper ; but she actually
forestalled us by desiring her son not to come
out to her, for she thought it much better for
Viola not to have painful recollections revived,
and Viola herself wrote in a way that disap-
pointed us — loving indeed, but with a strain of
something between lightness and bitterness, and
absolutely congratulating her brother that there
was no one on my side to bring up bygones
against him. One half of her letter was a
mere guide-book to the Roman antiquities, and
was broken off short for some carnival gaiety.
Lord Erymanth clearly liked his letters as little
as we did. In the abstract, in spite of the
first cousinship, I am afraid he would rather
have given Viola to Pigou St. Glear than to
Harold Alison, but he had thought better of his
niece than to think she could forget such a man
so soon.

However, the day came. Dora slept with
me, and that last night when I came to bed, I
found the true self had made a reassertion in
one of those frightful fits of dumb hysteria. Half
the night Colman and I were attending to her,
but still she never opened to me, more than by
clinging frantically round my neck in the intervals.
She fell asleep at last, and slept till we actually
pulled her out of bed to be dressed for the wed-
ding ; but we agreed that we could not expose



;64 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.



our uncle (who was to escort her to Northchester
station) to being left alone with her in one of
these attacks, and, as our programme had never
been quite fixed, we altered it so far as to pass
through Northchester and see her safe into Baby
Horsman's hands.

She was altogether herself by day, gave no
sign of emotion, and was as merry as possible
throughout the journey, calling out to Dermot
airily from the platform that she should send
him a present of sour krout from Baden.
Poor child, it was five years before we saw her
again !

We had scarcely had time to settle in at
Killy Marey before Lady Diana implored us
to meet her in London, without explaining
what was the matter. When we came to Lord
Erymanth's house, we were met by Viola, very
thin, but with a bright red colour on her usually
pale cheeks, and a strange gleaming light in
her eyes, making them larger than ever ; and oh,
how she did talk ! Chatter, chatter, about all
they had seen or done, and all the absurdities
of the people they had met ; mimicking them
and making fun, and all the time her mother
became paler and graver, looking as if she had
grown ten years older. It went on so all dinner-
time. She talked instead of eating, and all the
evening those bright eyes of hers seemed to be
keeping jealous watch that no one should exchange
any words in private.

Nor could we till poor Lady Diana, with a
fagged miserable face, came to my room at night,



CONCLUSION. 365



and I called Dermot in. And then she told us
how the child had "seemed to bear everything
most beautifully," and had never given way. I
believe it was from that grain of perv^ersity in
Viola's high-spirited nature, as well as the having
grown up without confidence towards her mother,
which forbade her to mourn visibly among un-
sympathising watchers ; and when her hope was
gone led her in her dull despair to do as they
pleased, try to distract her thoughts, let herself
be hunted hither and thither, and laugh at and
play with Pigou St. Glear quite enough to pass
for an encouraging flirtation, and to lead all around
her to think their engagement immediately comino-
on. The only thing she refused to do was to go to
the Farnese Palace, where was the statue to which
there had more than once been comparisons made.
At last, one day, when they were going over the
Vatican Galleries, ever}^one was startled by a
strange peal of laughter, and before a frieze of
the Labours of Hercules stood Pigou, looking
pale and frightened, and trying to get Viola
away, as she stood pointing to the carrying home
of the Erymanthian boar, and laughing in this
wild forced way. They got her away at last, but
Piggy told his father that he would have no more
to do with her, even if their uncle left her half his
property, though he never would tell what she
had said to him.

Since that time she had gone on in this excited
state, apparently scarcely eating or sleepino-,
talking incessantly, not irrationally, but altogether
at random, mockingly and in contradiction to



366 MV YOUNG ALCIDES.

everyone ; caring chiefly to do the very thing her
mother did not wish, never resting, and apparently
with untiring vigour, though her cheeks and hands
were burning, and she was wasting away from day
to day.

Lady Diana really thought her mind was
going, and by this time would have given all she
had in the world to have been able to call Harold
back to her. Diana Enderby tried reproofs for her
flightiness, but only made her worse ; with Dermot
she would only make ridiculous nonsense, and
utter those heartrending laughs ; and when I tried
to soothe her, and speak low and quietly, she
started away from me, showed me her foreign
purchases, or sang snatches of comic songs.

Dermot went at last to consult the same doctor
to whom, half a year before, he had taken Harold ;
and it was contrived that he should see and hear
her at a dinner-party without her knowledge. He
consoled us very much by saying that her mind was
not touched, and that it was a fever on the nerves,
produced by the never having succumbed to the
unhappiness and the shock which, when he heard
in what manner she had lost Harold, he considered
quite adequate to produce such effects. Indeed, he
had been so much struck with Harold himself, that
he was quite startled to hear of his death, and
seemed to think an excess of grief only his due.
He bade us take her to her home, give her no
external excitement, and leave her as much as
possible to go her own way, and let her feel herself
unwatched, and, if we could, find her some new
yet calming, engrossing occupation.



CONCLUSION. 367

We took the advice, and poor Lady Diana
besought us to remain with her for the present ;
nor, indeed, could we have left her. Our chief care
was to hinder her oppressing her daughter with
her anxiety ; for we found that Viola was so
jealous of being watched that she would hardly
have tolerated us, but that I had real business in
packing up my properties at Mount Eaton. For
the first week she took up her old occupations in
the same violent and fitful way, never sitting long
to anything, but rushing out to dash round the
garden, and taking long walks in all weathers,
rejecting companionship.

From various causes, chiefly Lady Diana's
wretchedness and anxiety, Dermot and I had to
wait a week before we could have the pony-chaise
and go together to Harold's grave. The great,
massive, Irish granite cross was not ready then,
and there was only the long, very long, green
mound, at my mother's feet. There lay two
wreaths on it. One was a poor thorn garland —
for his own Hydriot children had, we heard, never
left it untended all the winter — the other was
of a great white-flowered rhododendron that was
peculiar to the Arked garden.

Was it disloyal to Harry that we thought more
of Viola than we did of him that first time we
stood by his grave } It was an immense walk
from Arked to Arghouse Church, over four miles
even by the shortest way, which lay through rough
cart-tracks which we had avoided in coming, but
now felt we had better take.

Nearly half way home, under a great, old



368 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.



pollard ash, we saw a little brown figure. It was
Viola, crouched together with her head on her
knees, sitting on the bank. She started up and
tried to say something petulantly joking about
our always dogging her, but she broke down in
a flood of tears to which sheer weariness con-
duced. She was tired out at last, footsore, and
hardly able to move a limb, when Dermot almost
lifted her into the carriage, the dreadful, hard
self-control all over now, when, in those long
lanes, with the Maybushes meeting overhead, she
leant against me and sobbed with long -pent
anguish, while her brother walked at the pony's
head.

She had quite broken down now, and her
natural self was come back to us. When we came
home, I got her up to her own room and Dermot
went to his mother. She had a long, quiet sleep,
lying on her bed, and when she woke it was
growing dark on the May evening. She looked at
me a little while without speaking, and her eyes
were soft again.

"Lucy," she said, "I think I have been very
naughty, but they made me so."

I said, as I kissed her, that I thought " they "
had done so.

'^ He would not have let anybody make him
so," she said. " I was the bad one. I was almost
unfaithful. I told him so to-day."

" Not unfaithful, dearest, only harassed and
miserable beyond all bearing."

" Nothing is beyond bearing. I said so to
myself over and over again. That was why I
would let no one see that I minded."



CONCLUSION. 369



"You tried to bear it proudly, all by yourself,"
I said ; " that was what made it so dreadful."

" He said it was God's will," said poor Viola,
" but I knew it was mamma's. I did what he
told me, Lucy ; I did not get so wrong as long
as he lived, but after that I did not care what
became of me, and yet I did love him as much
as ever."

She seemed to look on me as his representa-
tive, and was now ready to take any persuasion
of mine as coming from him. She admitted
her mother, was gentle and natural with her,
ate and drank at her bidding, and went to bed
pale and worn down, but not ill. She never
gave in or professed indisposition, but for more
than ten days she "went softly," was very tired,
and equal to nothing but lying on the sofa and
sitting in the garden ; and it was in those days
that sometimes with her brother, sometimes
with me, she went over all that we could tell
her, or she tell us, of him who had been so dear
to us all. The first time she was alone with
Dermot, she kissed every remaining mark she
could find in his face, and said she had ached to
do it every time she saw him. All those wells
of deeper thought that had been so long choked
by the stony hardness of a proudly-borne sorrow
seemed suddenly to open, when she gave her-
self up to the thought of Harold. She even
arrived at sorrow for the way she had treated
her mother ; when he had given up his own
hope rather than make her disobedient. She
asked Lady Diana's pardon. She had never
done so voluntarily in her whole life. She was

2 B



370 MV YOUNG ALCIDES.

met by tears and humility that softened and
humiHated her in her sorrow more than aught
else. Her precious flower-pot was in her window
with its fragrant verbena, and I gave her the
crystal cross again, telling her where I had found
it, and she held it a moment and said, *' Some day
it will be buried with me. But I must do some-
thing to feel as if I deserved it. You know it
comes to me like a token out of the sea of glass
like unto crystal, where they stand that overcome !
I think I'll only wear it at night when I think
I have done something, or conquered a bit of my
perverseness with mamma."

A sudden idea came over me. Mr. Benjamin
Yolland was in dire want of a lady as reference
to a parish woman for his Hydriots. I had begun,
but had been called away. Miss Woolmer had
tried, but was not well enough, and there was
no one else whom he thought capable. I was to
stay at Arked for six weeks more ; should I put
Viola in the way ? It would be work for him.

She caught at it. Lady Diana bridled a little
as she thought of the two young men who managed
the Hydriots, but the doctor's prescription recurred
to her mind, and she consented.

Need I tell you how dear Aunt Viola's soul
and spirit have gone forth with those Hydriot
people, how from going once a week to meet
the parish woman at Miss Woolmer's, she soon
came to presiding at the mothers' meetings, to
knowing everybody, and giving more and more
of her time, her thoughts, her very self to them and
being loved by them enormously. The spirit, fun^
and enterprise that were in her fitted her, as they



CONCLUSION, 371



began to revive, for dealing with the lads, who
were sure to be devoted to anything so pretty
and refined. When she began, the whisper that
she was the love of their hero, gave them a romantic
interest, and though with the younger generation
this is only a tradition, yet " our lady " has won
ground of her own, and is still fair and sweet
enough to be looked on by those youths as a sort
of flower of the whole world, yet their own peculiar
property. For is she not a Hydriot shareholder,
and does she not like to know that it was to
Harold's revival of those shares that she chiefly
owes her present means ? Since her mother's
death she has lived among them at the house
that was old Miss Woolmer's, and is tranquilly
happy in finding happiness for other people, and
always being ready when any one needs her, as
our dear old uncle does very often, though I think
her Hydriot boys have the most of her.

Hippolyta made Eustace a good wife, and
watched over him well ; but there was no preventing
his deficiency from increasing ; it became acknow-
ledged disease of the brain, and he did not survive
his cousin six years. Happily none of his feeble-
ness of intellect seems to have descended to
Eustace the third, who is growing up a steady,
sensible lad under his mother's management ; and
perhaps it is not the worse for Arghouse to have
become a Horsman dependency.

It was the year before Eustace's death that
the conductress of the school at Baden wrote to
Mrs. Alison about Dora. The sad state of her
brother had prevented her coming home or being
visited, and though I exchanged letters with her



372 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.

periodically, we had not sufficient knowledge of
one another for any freedom of expression after
she had conquered the difficulties of writing.

When she was a little more than sixteen, came
a letter to tell that she was wasting away in either
atrophy or consumption, and that the doctors said
the only hope for her was home and native air.
Poor child ! what home was there for her, with her
sister-in-law absorbed in the care of her brother,
whose imbecility was no spectacle for one in a
critical state of health and failing spirits ? We
were at Arked at the time, and offered to go and
fetch her (it was Dermot's kind thought), leaving
the children to Viola's care.

Poor dear, what a sight she was ! Tall in
proportion to the giant breed she came of, but
thin to the most painful degree, and bending like
a fishing-rod, or a plant brought up in the dark,
which, by-the-by, she most resembled, with her
white face and thin yellow hair. Her complexion had
recovered, but her hair never had, nor, as it proved,
her health, for she had been more or less ailing
ever since she came, and the regimen of the frugal
Germans had not supported the fast-growing
English girl's frame, any more than the strict and
thorough-going round of accurate education had
suited the untrained, desultory intellect, unused to
method or application. Nor did the company of
the good, plodding, sentimental madchens give
any pleasure to the vehement creature, whose
playfellow from babyhood had been a man — and
such a man ! Use did no good, but rather, as the
childish activity and power of play and the sense
of novelty passed, the growth of the womanly soul



CONCLUSION. 373



made the heart-hunger and solitude worse, and
spirit and health came yearly to a lower level.

She was too languid to be more than indif-
ferent when she saw us, and the first sign of
warmth that she gave was her kiss, when I went
back to visit her after putting her to bed at the
hotel. She looked up, put her arms round my
neck, and said, " This is like the old days."

We brought her by slow stages to London,
where Hippolyta came up to see her for one day,
and was terribly shocked. The doctors were not
hopeful, but said she might go where she pleased,
and do what she liked, and as her one wish was
to be with us, my dear husband laughed to scorn
the notion that, whatever had been dear to
Harold, should not be his sacred charge, and so
we took her back.

And there, she did not die. She lay on the
sofa day after day, watched the children at play,
and listened dreamily to the family affairs, rested
and was petted by us both, called it very com-
fortable, and was patient, but that whole winter
seemed to remain where she was, neither better
nor worse. With the spring came a visit from
George YoUand, a prosperous man, as he well
deserved to be, and the foremost layman in all
good works in the neighbourhood since dear old
Lord Erymanth had been disabled. In the fore-
noons, when I was teaching the children, and
Dermot was busy, he was generally in the draw-
ing-room, talking to Dora, whose blue eyes had
a vivid silent intelligence, like no one but Harold's.
From the first day he had confirmed my con-
viction that, at any rate, she was not dying now,



574 ^^^ YOUNG ALCIDES,

and she bejan to start into strength. She sat
up all the evening, she walked round the garden,
she drove out, she came down to breakfast. The
day after that achievement, she came to me
sobbing for joy with something inaudible about
" his sake," while George was assuring Dermot that
there was only one woman in the world for him !

So, on a bright summer day, we gave her to the
friend Harold had gained on the same day as
Dermot, and she went to be the happy mistress of
Mount Eaton, and reign there, an abrupt woman,
not universally liked, but intensely kind and true,
and much beloved by all who have cared to
penetrate through her shell.

There ! my work is done, though I fear it is a
weaker likeness of my young Alcides than even
the faded photograph by my side, but I could not
brook that you, my children, should grow up un-
knowing of the great character to whom your
father and I owe one another, and all besides that
is best in our lives. There are things that must
surprise you about your dear father. Remember
that he insisted on my putting them in, and would
not have them softened, because, he said, you
ought to have the portrait in full, and that, save
at his own expense, you could not know the full
gratitude he feels to the man who made a new
era in our lives. He says he is not afraid either
of the example for you, or that you will respect
him less, and I know you will not, for you will
only see his truth and generosity.

L. P. T.

All that your mother has written is true —
blessings on her 1 — every word of it, except that she



CONCLUSION. 375



never could, and I hope none of you ever will,
understand the depth and blackness of the slough
Harold Alison drew me out of, by just being the
man he was ; nor will she show you — for indeed
she is blind to it herself — that it was no other than
she, with her quiet, upright sweetness and resolu-
tion, that was the making of him and of both of
us. Very odd it is that a woman should set it
all down in black and white, and never perceive
it was all her own doing. But if you see it, young
people, what you have to do is to be thankful for
the mother you have got and try to be worthy of
her, and if the drop of Alison blood in you should
make one of you even the tenth part of what
Harold was, then you'll be your father's pride, and
much more than he deserves.

D. E. St. G. T.

Thank you, dear brother, for having let me see
this, though I know Lucy did not intend it for my
eyes, or she would not have been so hard on poor
mamma. It shows me how naughty I must have
been to let her get such a notion of our relations
with one another, but an outsider can never judge
of such things. For the rest, dear Lucy has done
her best, and in many ways she did know him
better than anybody else did, and he looked up to
her more than to anyone. But even she cannot
reach to the inmost depth of the sweetness out of
the strong, nor fully know the wonderful power of
tender strength that seemed to wrap one's mind
round and bear one on with him, and that has
lasted me ever since, and well it may, for he was
the very glory of my life.

V. T.



376 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.



I am glad to have read it, because it explains

a great deal that I was too much of a child to

understand ; but I don't like it. I don't mean for

putting in the fatal thing I did in my ignorant

folly. I knew that, and she has softened my

wilfulness. But there's too much flummery, and

he was a hundred times more than all that. I

had rather recollect him for myself, than have

such a ladylike, drawing-room picture ; but Lucy

means it well, and it is just as he smoothed and

combed himself down for her. Nobody should

have done it but George. He would have made

a man of him.

D. Y.

As if George could have done it ! A lady must
always see a man somewhat as a carpet knight,
and ill would betide both if it were not so. But,
allowing for this, and the want of "more power
to her elbow," I am thankful to Mrs. Tracy for
this vivid recall of the man to whom I and
all here owe an unspeakable debt. For my own
part, I can only say that from the day when I
marvelled at his fortitude under the terrible pain
of the lion's bites, to that when I saw the almost
unexampled triumph of his will over the prompt-
ings of a disordered brain, he stood before me
the grandest specimen of manhood I ever met,
ever a victor, and, above all, over himself.

G.Y.

^HE END.



CHARLOTTE M. YONGES

Novels and Tales.



NEW UNIFORM EDITION.



IN 12mo, CLOTH GILT, $1.50 PER VOLUME,



UNKNOWN to HISTORY.

The HEIR of REDCLYFFE.

HEARTSEASE.

The DAISY CHAIN.

The TRIAL ; More Lixes of the Daisy Chain.

HOPES and FEARS.

DYNEVOR TERRACE.

CLEVER WOMAN of the FAMILY.

The YOUNG STEPMOTHER.


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 23 of 24)