Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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poor man looked bewildered and unrealising under
Eustace^s incoherent history of the accident — a
far more conjectural and confused story than it
became afterwards.

I waited till Harold came down with Dora ;
and to my '' How could you } " and Eustace's
more severe and angry blame, she replied, " He
wanted me ; so of course I went.''^

Harold said not a word in defence of her or
of himself; but when I asked whether she had
been of any use, he said, smiling affectionately
at her, " Wasn't she .? "

Then we went and looked at the shattered
houses, and Harold showed us where he had
drawn out his poor friend, answering the aggrieved
owners opposite that there would be an inquiry,
and means would be found for compensation.

And when I said, " It is a bad beginning for
the Hydriot plans ! " he answered, " I don't know
that," and stood looking at the ruins of his
" Dragon's Head " in a" sort of brown study, till
we grew impatient, and dragged him home,




Harold did not like clergymen. " Smith was a
clergyman," he said, with an expressive look ;
and while George Yolland had his brother and
the nurse I had sent, he merely made daily
inquiries, and sometimes sat an hour with his

Mr. Crosse's curate had kindred in Stafford-
shire, and offered to exchange a couple of
Sundays with ^Ir. Benjamin Yolland, and this
resulted in the visitor being discovered to have
a fine voice and a great power of preaching,
and as he was just leaving his present parish,
this ended in 3*Ir. Crosse begging him to remain
permanently, not much to Harold's gratification ;
but the two brothers were all left of their family,
and, different as their opinions were, they were
all in all to each other.

The agreement with Mr. Crosse would hardly
have been made, had the brothers known all that
was coming. George Yollard was in a strange
stupefied state for the first day or two, owing, it
was thought, to the effects of the gas ; but he
revived into the irritable state of crankiness which
could not submit in prudent patience to Dr.
Kingston's dicta, but argued^ and insisted on his
own treatment of himself, and his own theory of
the accident, till he as good as told the doctor
that he was an old woman. Whether it were in


consequence or not, I don't know, but as soon as
Dr. Kingston could persuade himself that a shock
would do no harm, he wrote a polite letter ex-
plaining that the unfortunate occurrence from
which Mr. Yolland was suffering had so destroyed
the confidence of his patients, that he felt it due
to them to take steps to dissolve the partner-

Perhaps it was no wonder. Such things were
told and believed, that those who had never yet
been attended by George Yolland believed him
a wild and destructive theorist. Miss Avice
Stympson asked Miss Woolmer how she could
sleep in her bed when she knew he was in the
town, and the most astonishing stories of his
practice were current, of which I think the
mildest was, that he had pulled out all a poor
girl's teeth for the sake of selling them to a
London dentist, and that, when in a state of
intoxication, he had cut off a man^s hand, because
he had a splinter in his finger.

However, the effect was, that Harold sum-
moned a special meeting of the shareholders, the
same being nearly identical with the Directors of
the Hydriot Company, and these contrived to
get George Yolland, Esquire, appointed chemist
and manager of the works, with a salary of ^2^70
per annum, to be increased by a percentage on
the sales ! Crabbe objected vehemently, but was
in the minority. The greater number were
thoroughly believers in the discovery made on that
unlucky night, or else were led away by that
force of Harold's, which was almost as irresistible

THE WRATH OF niAI^A: . loi

; : , 5 — 1 M f \ , j-

by mind, as by matter. But'tlie •ticlmg^^'w6re'
received with horror by the town. Three nervous
old ladies who lived near the Lerne gave notice
to quit, and many declared that it was an indict-
able offence.

Small as the salary was, it was more than
young Yolland was clearing by his connection
with Dr. Kingston ; and as he would have to
spare himself during the next few months, and
could not without danger undertake the exertions
of a wide field of Union practice, the offer was
quite worth his acceptance. Moreover, he had
the enthusiasm of a practical chemist, and would
willingly have starved to see his invention carried
out, so he received the appointment with the
gruff gratitude that best suited Harold ; and
he and his brother were to have rooms in the
late " Dragon's Head," so soon as it should
have been rebuilt on improved principles, with a
workman's hall below, and a great court for the
children to play in by day and the lads in the

Of the clerical Yolland we saw and heard
very little. Harold was much relieved to find
that even before his brother could move beyond
the sofa, he was always out all day, for though
he had never spoken a word that sounded official,
Harold had an irrational antipathy to his black
attire. Nor did I hear him preach, except by
accident, for Arghouse chapelry was in the beat
of the other curate, and in the afternoon, when I
went to Mycening old church, he had persuaded
Mr. Crosse to let him begin what was then a

: :ifj2 ' ' ■j'Af^V' YOUNG ALCIDES.

."%f ?/gi;eit'ciriinOYatibii-^a children's service, with open
doors, in the National School-room. Miss Woolmer
advised me to try the effect of this upon Dora,
whose Sundays were a constant perplexity end
reproach to me, since she always ran away into
the plantations or went with Harold to see the
horses ; and if we did succeed in dragging her
to church, there behaved in the most unedifying

" I don't like the principle of cutting religion
down for children," said my old friend. *' They
ought to be taught to think it a favour to be
admitted to grown-up people's services, and learn
to follow them, instead of having everything made
to please them. It is the sugar-plum system, and
so I told Mr. Ben, but he says you must catch
wild heathens with sugar ; and as I am afraid
your poor child is not much better, you had better
try the experiment."

I did try it, and the metrical litany and the
hymns happily took Dora's fancy, so that she
submitted to accompany me whenever Harold was
to sit with George YoUand, and would not take

One afternoon, when I was not well, I was
going to send her with Colman, and Harold
coming in upon her tempest of resistance, and
trying to hush it, she declared that she would
only go if he did, and to my amazement he
yielded and she led him off in her chains.

He made no comment, but on the next
Sunday I found him pocketing an immense
parcel of sweets. He walked into the town "with


us, and when I expected him to turn off to his
friend's lodging, he said, " Lucy, if you prefer the
Old church, I'll take Dora to the school. I like
the little monkeys."

He went, and he went again and again,
towering among the pigmies in the great room,
kneeling when they knelt, adding his deep bass
to the curate's in their songs, responding with
them, picking up the sleepy and fretful to sit on
his knee during the little discourse and the
catechising ; and then, outside the door, solacing
himself and them with a grand distribution of
ginger-bread and all other dainty cakes, especially
presenting solid plum buns, and even mutton
pies, where there were pinched looks and pale

It was delightful, I have been told, to see
him sitting on the low wall with as many children
as possible scrambling over him, or sometimes
standing up, holding a prize above his head, to
be scrambled for by the lesser urchins. It had
the effect of rendering this a highly popular
service, and the curate was wise enough not to
interfere with this anomalous conclusion to the
service, but to perceive that it might both bless
him that gave and those that took.

In the early part of the autumn, one of the
little members of the congregation died, and was
buried just after the school service. Harold did
not know of it, or I do not think he would have
been present, for he shrank from whatever re-
newed the terrible agony of that dark time in


But the devotions in the school were full of
the thought, the metrical litany was one specially
adapted to the occasion, so was the brief address,
which dwelt vividly, in what some might have
called too realising a strain, upon the glories
and the joys of innocents in Paradise. And,
above all, the hymns had been chosen with special
purpose, to tell of those who — ■

For ever and for ever
Are clad in robes of white.

I knew nothing of all this, but when I came
home from my own church, and went to my ow^n
sitting-room, I was startled to find Harold there,
leaning over the table, with that miniature of
little Percy, which, two months before, he had
bidden me shut up, open before him, and the
tears streaming down his face.

In great confusion he muttered, "I beg your
pardon," and fled away, dashing his handker-
chief over his face. I asked Dora about it, but
she would tell nothing ; I believe she was half
ashamed, half jealous, but it came round through
Miss Woolmer, how throughout the address
Harold had sat with his eyes fixed on the
preacher, and one tear after another gathering
in his eyes. And when the concluding hymn
was sung — one specially on the joys of Paradise — ■
he leant his forehead against the wall, and could
hardly suppress his sobs. When all was over,
he handed his bag of sweets to one of the Sun-
day-school teachers, muttering " Give them," and
strode home.


From that time I believe there never was a
day that he did not come to my sitting-room to
gaze at Httle Percy. He chose the time when I
was least likely to be there, and I knew it well
enough to take care that the coast should be left
clear for him. I do believe that, ill-taught and
unheeding as the poor dear fellow had been, that
service was the first thing that had borne in upon
him any sense that his children were actually
existing, and in joy and bliss ; and that when
he had once thus hearkened to the idea, that
load of anguish, which made him wince at the
least recollection of them, was taken off. It was
not his nature to speak in the freshness of emotion,
and, after a time, there was a seal upon his feel-
ings ; but there was an intermediate period when
he sometimes came for sympathy, but that was
so new a thing to him that he did not quite know
how to seek it.

It was the next Sunday evening that I came
into my room at a time I did not expect him to
be there, just as it was getting dark, that he
seemed to feel some explanation due. " This
picture," he said, " it is so like my poor little

Then he asked me how old Percy had been
when it was taken ; and then I found myself
listening, as he leant against the mantelpiece, to
a minute description of poor little Ambrose, all
the words he could say, his baby plays, and his
ways of welcoming and clinging to his father,
even to the very last, when he moaned if anyone
tried to take him out of Harold's arms. It seemed


as though the dark shadow and the keen sting"
had somehow been taken away by the assurance
that the child might be thought of full of enjoy-
ment ; and certainly, from that time, the peculiar
sadness of Harold's countenance diminished. It
was always grave, but the air of oppression went

I said something about meeting the child
again, to which Harold replied, " You will, may

" And you, Harold.^^ And as he shook his
head, and said something about good people, I
added, " It would break my heart to think you
would not.^^

That made him half smile in his strange,
sad way, and say, " Thank you, Lucy ; " then
add, " But it^s no use thinking about it ; Tm
not that sort.^^

" But you are, but you are, Harold V I remem-
ber crying out with tears. " God has made you
to be nobler, and greater, and better than any
of us, if you only would ^^

" Too late,^^ he said. " After all I have been,
and all I have done "

" Too late ! Harry — with a whole lifetime
before you to do God real, strong service in?^'

" It won^t ever cancel that ^^

I tried to tell him what had cancelled all ;
but perhaps I did not do it well enough, for he
did not seem to enter into it. It was a terrible
disadvantage in all this that I had been so
slightly taught. I had been a fairly good girl
I believe, and my dear mother had her sweet


quiet, devotional habits ; but religion had always
sat, as it were, outside my daily life. I should
have talked of "performing my religious duties ^^
as if they were a sort of toll or custom to be
paid to God, not as if one^s whole life ought to
be one religious duty. That sudden loss, which
left me alone in the world, made me, as it were,
realise who and what my Heavenly Father was
to me; and I had in my loneliness thought more
of these things, and was learning more every
day as I taught Dora ; but it was dreadfully
shallow, untried knowledge, and, unfortunately, I
was the only person to whom Harold would talk.
Mr. Smithes having been a clergyman had given
him a distaste and mistrust of all clergy ; nor
do I think he was quite kindly treated by those
around us, for they held aloof, and treated him
as a formidable stranger with an unknown ill
repute, whose very efforts in the cause of good
were untrustworthy.

I thought of that mighty man of Israel whom
God had endowed with strength to save His
people, and how all was made of little avail
because his heart was not whole with God, and
his doings were self-pleasing and fitful. Oh ! that
it might not be thus with my Harold .'' Might not
that little child, who had for a moment opened
the gates to him, yet draw him upwards where
naught else would have availed }

As to talking to me, he did it very seldom,
but he had a fashion of lingering to hear me
teach Dora, and I found that, if he were absent,
he always made her tell him what she had


learnt ; nor did he shun the meeting me over
Percy's picture in my sitting-room in the twihght
Sunday hour. Now and then he asked me to
find him some passage in the Bible which had
struck him in the brief instruction to the children
at the service, but what was going on in his
mind was entirely out of my reach or scope ;
but that great strength and alertness, and keen,
vivid interest in the world around, still made the
present everything to him. I think his powerful-
ness, and habit of doing impossible things, made
the thought of prayer and dependence — nay^ even
of redemption — more alien to him, as if weak-
ness were involved in it ; and though to a cer-
tain extent he had, with Prometesky beside him,
made his choice between virtue and vice beside
his uncle's death-bed ; yet it was as yet but the
Stoic virtue of the old Polish patriot that he had

And yet he was not the Stoic. He had far
more of the little child, the Christian model in
his simplicity, his truth, his tender heart, and that
grand modesty of character which, though natural,
is the step to Christian humility. How one longed
for the voice to say to him, " The Lord is with
thee, thou mighty man of valour."

And so time went on, and we were still in
solitude. People came and went, had their season
in London and returned, but it made no differ-
ence to us. Dermot Tracy shot grouse, came home
and shot partridges, and Eustace and Harold
shared their sport with him, though Harold found
it dull cramped work, and thought English gentle-


men in sad lack of amusement to call that sport.
Lady Diana and Viola went to the seaside, and
came back, and what would have been so much to
me once was nothing now. Pheasant shooting had
begun and I had much ado to prevent Dora from
joining the shooting parties, not only when her
brother and cousin were alone, but when they were
going to meet Mr. Tracy and some of the officers
to whom he had introduced them.

On one of these October days, when I was
tr>'ing to satisfy my discontented Dora by a game
at ball upon the steps, to my extreme astonish-
ment I beheld a white pony, led by Harold, and
seated on the same pony, no other than my
dear little friend, unseen for four months, Viola
Tracy !

I rushed, thinking some accident had happened,
but Harold called out in a tone of exultation,
" Here she is ! Now you are to keep her an hour,"
and she held out her arms with " Lucy, Lucy,
dear old Lucy ! " and jumped down into mine.

" But Viola, your mother "

'' I could not help it," she said with a laughing
light in her eyes. " No, indeed, I could not. I
was riding along the lane by Lade Wood, on my
white palfrey, when in the great dark glade
there stood one, two, three great men with guns,
and when one took hold of the damsel's bridle
and told her to come with him, what could she
do .? "

I think I said something feeble about " Harold,
how could you } " but he first shook his head,
and led off the pony to the stable, observing,


" I'll come for you in an hour," and Dora rushing
after him.

And when I would have declared that it was
very wrong, and that Lady Diana would be very
angry, the child stopped my mouth with,
" Never mind, I've got my darling Lucy for an
hour, and I can't have it spoilt."

Have I never described my Viola ? She was
not tall, but she had a way of looking so, and
she was not pretty, yet she always looked prettier
than the prettiest person I ever saw. It was
partly the way in which she held her head and
long neck, just like a deer, especially when she
was surprised, and looked out of those great
dark eyes, whose colour was like that of the lakes
of which each drop is clear and limpid, and yet,
when you look down into the water, it is of a
wonderful clear deep grey.

Those eyes were her most remarkable feature ;
her hair was light, her face went off suddenly
into rather too short a chin, her cheeks wanted
fulness, and were generally rather pale. So people
said, but plump cheeks would have spoilt my
Viola's air, of a wild, half-tamed fawn, and
lessened the wonderful play of her lips, which
used often to express far more than ever came
out of them in words. Lady Diana had done
her utm.ost to suppress demonstrativeness, but
unless she could have made those eyes less trans-
parent, the corners of that mouth less flexible,
and hindered the colour from mantling in those
cheeks, she could not have kept Viola's feelings
from being patent to all who knew her.


And now the child was really lovely, with
the sweet carnation in her cheeks, and eyes
dancing with the fear and pretence at alarm,
and the delight of a stolen interview with me.

" Forth stepped the giant ! Fee ! fo ! fum ! "
said she ; " took me by the bridle, and said, * Why
haven't you been to see my Aunt Lucy ? '

" I must not," she said.

"And I say you must," he answered. "Do
you know she is wearying to see you.?"

Then I fancy how Viola's tears would swim
in her eyes as she said, " It's not me ; it's mamma."
And. he answered, "Now, it is not you, but I,
that is taking you to see her."

" Should auld acquaintance be forgot ! " was
whistled out of the wood ; and the whistle Viola
knew quite well enough to disarm me when I
came to the argument what was to become of
her if she let such things be done with her; and
she had quite enough of Dermot's composition
in her to delight in a "little bit of naughtiness
that wasn't too bad," and when once she had
resigned herself into the hands of her captor
she enjoyed it, and twittered like a little bird ;
and I believe Harold really did it, just as he
would have caught a rare bird or wild fawn, to
please me.

" Then you were not frightened t " I said.
" Frightened } No. It was such fun ! Besides,
we heard how he mastered the lion to save that
poor little boy, and how he has looked after
him ever since, and is going to bind him appren-
tice. Oh, mind you show me his skin — the lion's,


I mean. Don't be tiresome, Lucy. And how he
goes on after the children's service with the dear
Httle things. I should think him the last person
to be afraid of."

" I wish your mother saw it so."

Viola put on a comically wise look, and shook
her head, as she said, "You didn't go the right
way to work. If you had come back in the
carriage, and consulted her, and said it was a
mission — yes, a mission — for you to stand, with
a lily in your hand, and reform your two bush-
ranger nephews, and that you wanted her consent
and advice, then she would have let you go back
and be crood aunt, and what-not. Oh, I wish
you had, Lucy ! That was the way Dermot
managed about getting the lodge at Biston. He
says he could consult her into going out hunting."

" For shame, Viola ! O fie ! O Vi ! " said I,
according to an old formula of reproof.

''Really, I wanted to tell you. It might not
be too late if you took to consulting her now ;
and I can't bear being shut up from you. Every-
thing is grown so stupid. When one goes to a
garden-party there are nothing but Horsmans
and Stympsons, and they all get into sets of
themselves and each other, and now and then
coalesce, especially the Stympsons, to pity poor
Miss Alison, wonder at her not taking mamma's
advice, and say how horrid it is of her to live
with her cousins. I've corrected that so often
that I take about with me the word 'nephews*
written in large text, to confute them, and I've
actually taught Cocky to say, ' Nephews aren't


cousins.' Dermot is the only rational person in
the neighbourhood. I'm always trying to get
him to tell me about you, but he says he can't
come up here much without giving a handle to
the harpies."

I had scarcely said how good it was in Dermot,
when he sauntered in. "There you are, Vi ; I'm
come to your rescue, you know," he said, in his
lazy way, and disposed himself on the bear-skin
as we sat on the sofa. I tried again to utter a
protest. " Oh Dermot, it was all your doing."

" That's rather too bad. As if I could control
your domestic lion-tamer."

'' You abetted him. You could have prevented

" Such being your wish.''

" I am thinking of your mother.''

** Eh, Viola, is the meeting worth the reckon-
ing .? ''

" You should not teach her your own bad
ways," said I, resisting her embrace.

" Come, we had better be off, Dermot," she
said, pouting ; " we did not come here to be

" I thought you did not come of your own
free will at all," I said, and then I found I had
hurt her, and I had to explain that it was. the
disobedience that troubled me ; whereupon they
both argued seriously that people were not bound
to submit to a cruel and unreasonable prejudice,
which had set the country in arms against us.
" Monstrous," Dermot said, " that two fellows
should suffer for their fathers' sins, and such



fellows, and you too for not being unnatural to
your own flesh and blood."

"But that does not make it right for Viola
to disobey her mother."

" And how is it to be, Lucy t " asked Viola.
"Are we always to go on in this dreadful way.?"

By this time Eustace could no longer be with-
held from paying his respects to the lady guest,
and Harold and Dora came with him, brineine
the kangaroo, for which Viola had entreated ; and
she also made him fetch the lion-skin, which had
been dressed and lined and made into a beautiful
carriage-rug ; and to Dora she owed the exhibition
of the great scar across Harold's left palm, which,
though now no inconvenience, he would carry
through life. It was but for a moment, for as
soon as he perceived that Dora meant anything
more than her usual play with his fingers, he
coloured and thrust his hand into his pocket.

We ail walked through the grounds with
Viola, and when we parted she hung about my
neck and assured me that now she had seen me
she should not grieve half so much, and, let mamma
say what she would, she could not be sorry ; and
I had no time to fight over the battle of the
sorrow being for wrongdoing, not for reproof, for
the pony would bear no more last words.

Eustace had behaved all along with much
politeness ; in fact, he was always seen to most
advantage with strangers, for his manners had
some training, and a little constraint was good

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 7 of 24)