Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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stared at my dismay at his having permitted such
an exertion. Before long, however, we saw an
unmistakable doctor's gig approaching, and from
it emerged Harold and Mr. Yolland. I saw now
that he was a sturdy, hard-working-looking young
man of seven or eight and twenty, with sandy
hair, and an honest, open, weather-beaten face.
He had a rather abrupt manner, but much more
gentleman-like than that of the usual style of
young Union doctors, who are divided between fine
wQrds and affectation and Sawbones roughness.

He said he had come in to enforce on us what
he could not get his patient to believe — that it
was madness to take such liberties with himself,
while such serious wounds were so fresh ; and
certainly Harold did not seem to suppose a two-
mile walk more of an exertion than a turn on
the terrace ; indeed, but for Mr. Yolland, he would
have set off again after breakfast for the inter-
rupted quest of horses at the fair. This, how-
ever, was forbidden, with a hint about even the
strongest constitution not being able to defy
tetanus. This made us all look grave, and sub-
mission being promised, the young doctor took
his leave, saying he would come in the evening
and dress the hands again for the night.

V



66 MY YOUNG ALCIDES,

"Why did you go to that fellow?" asked
Eustace. " It is the old doctor who attends gen-
tlemen ; he is only the partner."

" He is good enough for me," said Harold. " I
was right glad to meet him."

Then it appeared that as Harold was striding
into town, half distracted with the pain of his
hands, in the sunrise of that April morning, he
had had the good fortune to meet Mr. Yolland
just coming from the cottage where the poor
little boy lay who had been injured by the lion.
The fright and shock had nearly killed the mother,
and the young doctor had been up all night,
trying to save her, while on the floor, in a
drunken sleep, lay the father, a navvy, who had
expended the money lavished on the child by the
spectators of the accident, in a revel at the public-
house. If any were left, it was all in the brute's
pocket, and the only hope of peace was when he
should have drunk it up.

Eustace went off to the fair to look at horses,
Harold impressing on him to do nothing final
in haste ; and I could see that, while proud of
doing anything on his own account, he was al-
most afraid of the venture alone. Tired by his
sleepless night and morning walk, Harold, when
we went into the hall for Dora's lessons, lay down
on the white bear-skin, let us build a pile of
cushions for his head, and thanked us with " That's
nice." I suppose he had never been waited on
before, he smiled with such a grateful look, almost
of surprise.

Have I not said that ours was a black oak-



THE LION OF NEME HEATH. 67

panelled hall, with a wide fireplace, a gallery and
oriel window, matted, and so fitted up as to be
a pleasant resort for summer days. Our lessons
took place there, because I had found that my old
schoolroom, out of sight and sound of everything,
was such an intolerable prison to my little wild
Bush girl, that she really could not learn there,
since her very limited attention could only be
secured, under the certainty that Harold did not
leave the house without her.

He bade her let him hear how well she could
read, but he was very soon fast asleep, and I
was persuading her that the multiplication table
could not disturb his slumbers, when, at the
sound of horses' feet, she darted from my side,
like an arrow from a bow, to the open front
door, and there waved her hand in command,
calling to the rider in a hushed voice, " He is
asleep."

I followed, expecting to see Eustace ; but the
rider was instead Dermot Tracy, who in unfeigned
alarm asked if he were seriously ill ; and when I
laughed and explained, he gave his horse to the
groom, and came quietly enough, to satisfy Dora,
into the hall with us.

There he stood transfixed, gazing at the great
sleeping figure with a passion of enthusiasm in
his dark-grey eyes. " Glorious ! " he said. " Splen-
did fellow ! Worthy of the deed, Lucy ! It was
the most plucky thing I ever saw ! "

" You distinguished yourself too," I said.

•* I ? Why, I had a rifle. I galloped down
to Grice's for mine at the first, when I saw the



68 MV YOUNG ALCIDES.

nK.nagerie people were cowed. What's that to
going at him alone, and mastering him too, as
he had done before those idiots thought proper
to yell ? "

Being talked about, of course, awoke Harold ;
his eyes opened, and he answered for himself,
greeting Dermot heartily. Only then did we
understand the full history of what had happened.
The lion-tamer, whose part it was to exhibit the
liberty he could take with the animals, was ill,
and his assistant, after much bravado as to his
equal power, had felt his courage quail, and tried
to renew it with drink. Thus he was in no state
to perceive that he had only shot-to the bolt of
the door of the cage ; and his behaviour had so
irritated the beast that, after so dealing with him
that he lay in a most dangerous state, it had
dashed out at the door in rage and terror, and,
after seizing the hindmost of the flying crowd,
had lain down between the shafts of the waggon,
as we had seen him.

The keepers had lost their heads in the panic,
and no one durst go near him. The lion-tamer
had to be called from his bed, in lodgings in
the town, and only came on the scene just as
Dermot^s rifle had finished the struggle. The
master had quite seen the necessity, but was in
great despair at the loss of so valuable an
animal.

" 111 share in making it good to him," said
Harold.

" You } You are the last to do so. If you
had only been let alone, the beast would have



THE LION OF NEME HEATH. 69



been captured unhurt. No, no ! I settled all
that, as it was I who meddled in the matter
when, I believe, you could have settled him your-
self."

" I don't know that," said Harold. " I was
glad enough to see your rifle at his ear. But
I should like to have his skin, if they would
sell it."

Dermot explained that he had been bargain-
ing for the skin, and hoped Mr. Alison would
accept it from him, but here Harold's resolution
won the day, much as Dermot evidently longed
to lay the trophy at his feet. Poor Dermot, I
could see hero-worship growing in his eyes, as
they talked about horses, endlessly as men can
and do talk of them, and diligent inquiries
elicited from Harold what things he had done
wdth the unbroken animal in Australia.

I went off the scene at once, but when I re-
turned to luncheon they w^ere at it still. And
Eustace's return with tw^o steeds for Harold's
judgment renewed the subject with double vigour.
Dermot gave his counsel, and did not leave
Arghouse without reiterating an invitation to the
cousins to come to-morrow to his cottage at
Biston, to be introduced to his stables, let
doctors say what they might, and Eustace was
in raptures at the distinguished acquaintance
he fancied he had made for himself He had
learnt something of Mr. Tracy's sporting re-
nown, and saw himself introduced to all the
hunting world of the county, not to say of
England.



70 J/r YOUNG ALCIDES.



It gave me a great deal to consider, knowing,
as I did full well, that poor Dermot's acquaint-
ance was not likely to bring him into favour
with society, even if it were not dangerous in
itself. And my poor mother would not have
been delighted at my day, a thing I had totally
forgotten in the pleasantness of having someone
to talk to ; for it was six weeks since I had
spoken to anyone beyond the family, except Miss
Woolmer. Besides, it was Dermot ! And that
was enough to move me in itself.

I think I have said that his father was an
Irish landlord, who was shot at his own hall-
door in his children's infancy. Lady Diana
brought them back to her old neighbourhood,
and there reigned over one of her brother's
villages, with the greatest respect and admira-
tion from all, and viewed as a pattern matron,
widow, and parent My mother was, I i3.ncy, a
little bit afraid of her, and never entirely at ease
with her. I know I was not, but she was so
"particular" about her children, that it was a
great distinction to be allowed to be intimate
with them, and my mother was proud of my
being their licensed playfellow, when Horsmans
and Stympsons were held aloof. But even in those
days, when I heard the little Tracys spoken of
as pattern children, I used to have an odd feeling
of what it was to be behind the scenes, and
know how much of their fame rested on Di. I
gloried in the knowledge how much more charm-
ing the other two were than anyone guessed, who
thought them models of propriety.



THE LION OF NEME HEATH. 71

In truth, Dermot did not keep that reputation
much longer than his petticoats. Ere long he
was a pickle of the first order, equalling the sub-
lime naughtiness of Holiday House, and Avas con-
tinually being sent home by private tutors, who
could not manage him. All the time I had a
secret conviction that, if he had been my own
mother's son, she could have managed him, and
he would never have even wished to do what
she disapproved ; but Lady Diana had no sym-
pathy or warmth in her, and while she loved her
children she fretted them, and never thawed nor
unbent ; and when she called in her brother's
support, Dermot's nerves were driven frantic by
the long harangues, and his relief was in antics
which of course redoubled his offence. After he
had put crackers into his uncle's boots, peppered
the coachman's wig, inserted a live toad in the
centre of a fortification of clear jelly at a great
luncheon, and had one Christmas painted the
two stone wild boars that guard the iron gates
of Erymanth Castle into startling resemblance of
the porkers as displayed in butchers' shops, with
a little tin pail at the snout of each, labelling
each 7}^d. per lb., his uncle had little more hope
of him.

Dreading his father's fate for him, Lady Diana
put him into the Guards, to prevent him from
living in Ireland, and there he fell into all the
usual temptations of his kind, so that everybody
came to look on him as a black sheep, and all
the time I knew that, if any one had taken him
in the right way, he might have been kept out



72 MV YOUNG ALCIDES.



of it. Why there was one talk that he and I
had at a picnic on Kalydon Moor, which showed
me how hopeless he was of ever really pleasing
or satisfying his mother without being, what he
could never be, like his uncle in his youth, and
how knowing that I cared really might make a
difference to him. But mamma and Lady Diana
were both very much vexed about that talk ;
mamma was angry with me ; and when Dermot,
in a poetical game a little after, sent me some
verses — well, with a little more blarney and ten-
derness than the case required — there was a real
uproar about them. Di showed them to her
mother, who apologised in her lofty way for my
having been insulted. Oh ! how angry it did
make me ; and mamma absolutely cried about it.
It seems foolish to say so, but if they would have
let us alone I could have done something towards
inducing him to keep straight, whereas the way
he was treated by his mother and Di only made
him worse. Poor mamma ! I don't wonder at
her, when even his own mother and uncle would
not stand up for him ; but I knew, whenever we
met afterwards at ball or party, that it was pain
and grief to her for me to speak a word to him,
and that she thought me wrong to exchange any-
thing beyond bare civility. He was vexed, too,
and did not try; and we heard worse and worse
of him, especially when he went over to his place
in Ireland.

Then came the Crimean war, and all the
chances of showing what I knew he really was ;
but at the Alma he was wounded, not very



THE LION OF NEME HEATH. 73



dangerously, but just touching his lungs, and
after a long illness in London, the doctors said
he must not go back to Sebastopol, for to serve
in the trenches would be certain death to him.
He wanted to go back all the same, and had an
instinct that it would be better for him, but his
mother and uncle prevented him and made him
sell out, and after that, when he had nothing to
do — oh ! there's no need to think of it.

In the course of this last year he had taken
the shooting of Kalydon Moor, and a house with
it, with immense stables, which one of the Hors-
mans had made for his hunters, and had ruined
himself and died. He had not quarrelled with
his mother — indeed nobody could quarrel with
Dermot — and he used to go over to see her, but he
would not live at home, and since he had been
at Biston I had never once met him till I saw him
run up to attack the lion, the only man in all
the fair except Harold who had courage to do
so ! I could not help my heart bounding at
the thought, and afterwards enjoying the talk
with him that I could not help. But then it
made me feel undutiful to my dear mother, and
then there was the further difficulty to be faced.
It would have been all very well to live with
my nephews if we had been in a desert island,
but I could not expect them not to make friends
of their own ; and if mine chose to drop me, how
would it be for me, at my age, all alone in the
house }

Harold was forced to confess that he had
done too much that first day. His hand was



74 MV YOUNG ALCIDES,

inflamed, and pain and weariness forbade all
thought of spending a long day from home ; and,
besides, there arrived letters by the morning's post
which left grave lines on his brow.

So Eustace drove off alone, a good deal
elated at such an expedition, and I took Harold
to my own little sitting-room, so despised by
Dora, for the convenience of bathing the flesh
wounds on the right hand, which, though really
the least injured, was a much greater torment
than the broken fingers, and had allowed him
very little sleep.

It was the first time he had been in the
room, and on the chimney-piece stood open a
miniature-case containing a portrait, by Thorburn,
of my little brother Percy, in loose brown holland.
Harold started as he came in, and exclaimed,
" Where did that come from } " I told him, and
he exclaimed, " Shut it up, please," and sat down
with his back to it, resigning his hand to me>
and thanking me warmly when the fomentation
brought some relief, and when I asked if I could
do any more for him he seemed undecided, ex-
tracted some letters from his pocket with his
two-fifths of a hand, and sent Dora to his room
for his writing-case. I offered to write anything
for him, but he said, " Let me try," and then en-
deavoured ; but he found that not only did the
effort hurt him unbearably, but that he could
not guide the pen for more than a word or two ;
so he consented to make use of me, saying, how-
ever, " Dora, it is no use your staying in ; you
had better go out."



THE LION OF NEME HEATH. 75

Dora, of course, wanted to stay; but I devised
that she should go, under the escort of one of
the maids, to carry some broth to the wounded
boy, an expedition which would last her some
time, and which Harold enforced with all his
might as a personal favour, till she complied.

" Thank you," said Harold ; " you see this
must be done at once, or we shall have them
coming over here."

He gave me the sheet he had begun with
"Dear Mother," and went on dictating. It was
not at all after Julius Caesar's fashion of dictating.
He sat with his eyes on his own letter, and
uttered one brief but ponderous sentence after
another, each complete in all its parts, and quite
unhesitating, though slowly uttered. I gathered
it up, wrote it down, said " Well," and waited
for more in silence, till, after I had looked at him
once or twice to see whether he were asleep or
in a reverie, another such sentence followed, and
I began to know him very much better.

After saying " My hands have been lamed
for a few days, and my aunt is so good as to
write for me," he went on to say, in forcible and
not very affectionate terms, that " Smith must
not think of coming home ; Eustace could do
nothing for him there, but as long as the family
remained at Nelson their allowance should be
increased by one hundred pounds a year." I filled
up an order, which he signed on a Sydney bank
for the first quarter. " It must not be more,"
he said, as he told me the sum, " or they will be
taking their passage with it"



76 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.



"No more?" I asked, when he prepared ta
conclude this short letter.

"No. Smith reads all her letters."

"That is very hard on you."

"She meant to do well for me, but it was a
great mistake. If Smith comes home to prey
upon Eustace, it will be a bad business."

" But he has no claim on Eustace, whatever
he may think he has on you/^

" He is more likely to come now. He knows
he can get nothing out of me — " Then, as I looked
at the order, he added, "Beyond my mother's
rights. Poor mother ! "

I found that the schoolmaster had been
induced to marry Alice Alison in the expectation
that her share in the proceeds of Boola Boola
would be much larger than it proved to be. He
had fawned on the two Eustaces, and obtained
all he could from the elder, but, going too far
at last, had been detected by the Sydney bank
in what amounted to an embezzlement. Prosecu-
tion was waived, and he was assisted to leave
Australia and make a fresh start in New Zealand,
whence he had never ceased to endeavour to gain
whatever he could from Boola Boola. He could
twist Eustace round his finger, and Harold,
though loathing and despising him, would do
anything for his mother, but was resolved, for
Eustace's sake, to keep them at a distance, as
could only be done by never allowing them a
sufficient sum at once to obtain a passage home,
and he knew the habits of Smith and his sons
too well to expect them to save it. In fact, the



THE LION OF NEME HEATH. 77

letter before him, which he ended by giving me
to read, had been written by the poor woman
at her husband's dictation, in the behef that
Harold was the heir, to demand their passage-
money from him, and that there was a sad httle
postscript put in afterwards, unknown to her tyrant.
**My boy, don't do it. It will be much better
for you not ; " and, brave woman as she was, she
added no entreaty that his refusal might be
softened. I asked if she had had any more
children. *' No, happily," was Harold's answer.
" If I might only wring that fellow's neck, I
could take care of her." In fact, I should think,
when he wanted to come within Harold's grasp,
he hardly knew what he asked.

This finished, it appeared that Harold wanted
to have a letter finished to Prometesky which he
had beorun some davs before. This astonished
me more, both by the questions Prometesky had
been asking, and the answers Harold was return-
ing, as to the state of the country and the
condition of the people. They did much to
relieve my mind of the fears I had sometimes
entertained of Harold's being a ferocious dema-
gogue incited thereto by his friend.

Who would have thought there was so much
depth in his brain t He ended by saying, "Eustace
takes kindly to his new position, and is gone to-
day to see Mr. Tracy, nephew to Lord Erymanth,
but who does not appear disposed to carry on the
same hostility to us."

I exclaimed at his having said nothing of the
lion either to his mother or his friend, and asked



78 MY YOUNG ALCIDES.

leave to add it, which he did not refuse, though
saying there was no use in it, and that he
wanted me to do one thing more for him — namely,
to write to his agent in Sydney an order which
he signed for the transmission of some money to
England. He had learnt from Mr. YoUand that
morning that the " Dragon's Head " and some
adjoining houses at Mycening were for sale, and
that the purchaser could have immediate pos-
session.

" What are you going to do with it ? "

"Shut it up."

" You can't do much good by shutting up one
public-house."

" Eustace will do the same with those on his
property."

" I am very much afraid your crusade will not
succeed, unless you can put something better into
people's minds."

" I shall see about that," he answered, thinking,
I believe, that I was going to suggest religion,
from all mention of which he shrank, as if it
touched a wound. " Smith talked of religion,"
he once said, with a shudder. Besides, he was a
creature in the superabundance of all human
faculties to whom their exercise seemed for a
time all-sufficient, and the dark shade of horror
and remorse in the depths of his heart made
him unwilling to look back or think. At any
rate, he silenced me on that head ; but, thinking,
perhaps, that he had been unkindly blunt, he
resumed, " There is no risk for Eustace in this
acquaintance?"



THE LION OF NEME HEATH. 79

In spite of the pang that smote me, I felt
that this was the only time I might have for
that word of warning which seemed incumbent
on me. " I do not think there is danger in his
going to-day, but it does seem right to tell you
that poor Dermot Tracy is said to be very extra-
vagant, and to lead a wild life. And Harold,
though I have known him all my life, I have
been thinking that it will not do for me to be
here, if this should become a resort of the set of
people he has made friends of"

Harold answered in his steady, grave way,
** I see. But, Lucy, I suppose none of them have
been so bad as I have been .? "—rather as if he
were wondering over the matter.

" But you belong to me," I answered, and I
saw a look of real pleasure meet my smile.

" I wish I knew what was best for Eustace,"
he said, after a few more moments' thought. " Is
it doing him harm for me to be here .? I could
go back to New South Wales at once, only in
some ways I don't think the old fellow could get
on without me, till he is more used to it all,
and in safe hands."

I had no hesitation in answering that Eustace
would be much worse off without his cousin, and
that the treatment we were receiving was chiefly
on account of the fathers of both, not personal to

Harold.

"Then you think it would not help him for

me to leave him } "

' I think he is far more likely to live it down

with you to help him."



So MY YOUNG ALCIDES,

" But, Lucy, are you being given up by all
your friends for our sakes ? We did not know it
meant that when we asked you to stay with
us!"

" No more did I. But don't be uneasy about
that, Harold dear. Don't you think one's own
flesh and blood is more than all such friends?"

" I should not have thought two fellows like
us could have been worth much to you," said
Harold, gravely pondering. " That pretty little
thing who was with you the night we came ; she
has never been here again. Don't you miss her } "

" It is not her fault," I said. " Besides, nothing
is like the tie of blood."

I shall never forget the look that was in
Harold^s eyes. I was standing over him, putting
some fresh warm water on his hand. He put
back his head and looked up earnestly in my
face, as if to see whether I meant it, then said,
*' We are very thankful to you for thinking so."

I could not help bending and touching his
forehead with my lips. His eyes glistened and
twinkled, but he said nothing for a little space,
and then it was, " If any one like you had been
out there "

I don^t think I ever had a compliment that
gave me more pleasure, for there w^as somehow
an infinite sense of meaning in whatever Harold
said, however short it might be, as if his words
had as much force in them as his muscles.

After a good deal more of silent sponging
and some knitting of his brows, either from
thought or from pain, he said, "Then, as I un-



THE LION OF NEME HEATH, 81

derstand, you cast in your lot with us, and give
us the blessing of your presence and care of poor
little Dora, to help to set Eustace in his proper
place in society. I see then that it is your due
that we should bring no one here of whom you
do not fully approve."

" It is not only a matter of approval," I ex-
plained. " There are many with whom I could
freely associate in general society, or if I had
any lady with me, whom I ought not to have
constantly here with only you two."

" England is different from the Bush," he an-
swered, and meditated for ten minutes more, for
no doubt it was the Australian practice to offer
free quarters to all comers without Mrs. Grundy,
who had hardly yet had her free passage. My
heart smote me lest I were acting unkindly for
her sake, but then surely I was saving my alle-
giance to my dead mother, and while I was
still thinking it over, Harold said :



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 5 of 24)