Charlotte Mary Yonge.

My young Alcides : a faded photograph online

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for him by repressing some of his sayings. His
first remark, when the brother and sister were out


of hearing-, was, " A very sweet, lively young lady.
I never saw her surpassed in Sydney ! "

" I should think not," said Harold.

*'Well, you know I have been presented and
have been to a ball at Government House.
There's an air, a tournure about her, such as uncle
Smith says belongs to the real aristocracy ; and
you saw she was quite at her ease with me.
We understand each other in the higher orders.
Don't be afraid, Lucy, we shall yet bring back
your friend to you."

" I'm glad she is gone," said Dora, true to her
jealousy. " I like Dermot ; he's got some sense
in him, but she's not half so nice and pretty as

At which we all laughed, for I had never had
any attempt at beauty, except, I believe, good hair
and teeth, and a habit of looking good-humoured.

" She's a tip-topper," pronounced Eustace, " and
no wonder, considering who she is. Has she
been presented, Lucy 1 "

Though she had not yet had that inestimable
advantage, Eustace showed himself so much struck
with her that, when next Harold found himself
alone with me, he built a very remarkable castle
in the air — namely, a wedding between Eustace
and Viola Tracy. •" If I saw him with such hap-
piness as that," said Harold, ''it would be all
right'. I should have no fears at all for him.
Don't you think it might be, Lucy } "

" I don't think you took the way to recom-
mend the family to Lady Diana," I said, laugh-


" I had not thought of it then/' said Harold ;
" I'm always doing something wrong. I wonder
if I had better go back and keep out of his
way ? "

He guessed what I should answer, I believe,
for I was sure that Eustace would fail without
Harold, and I told him that his cousin must not
be left to himself till he had a good wife. To
which Harold replied, "Are all English ladies like

He had an odd sort of answer the next day,
when we were all riding together, and met another
riding party— namely, the head of the Horsman
family and his two sisters, who had been on the
Continent when my nephews arrived. Mamma
did not like them, and we had never been great
friends ; but they hailed me quite demonstratively
with their eager, ringing voices : " Lucy ! Lucy
Alison! So glad to see you! Here we are again.
Introduce us, pray."

So I did. Mr. Horsman, Miss Hippolyta, and
Miss Philippa Horsman — Baby Jack, Hippo, and
Pippa, as they were commonly termed — and we
all rode together as long as we were on the Roman
road, while they conveyed, rather loudly, informa-
tion about the Dolomites.

They were five or six years older than I, and
the recollection of childish tyranny and compul-
sion still made me a little afraid of them. They
excelled in all kinds of sports in which we
younger ones had not had nearly so much prac-
tice, and did not much concern themselves whether
the .sport were masculine or feminine, to the dis-


tress of the quiet elder half-sister, who stayed at
home, like a hen with ducklings to manage.

They spoke of calling, and while I could not
help being grateful, I knew how fallen my poor
mother would think me to welcome the notice of
Pippa and Hippo.

Most enthusiastic was the latter as she rode
behind with me, looking at the proportions of
Harry and his horse, some little way on before,
with Dora on one side, and Pippa rattling on
the other.

" Splendid ! Splendiferous ! More than I was
prepared for, though I heard all about the lion
— and that he has been a regular stunner in Aus-
tralia — eh, Lucy, just like a hero of Whyte-Mel-
ville's, eh .'' "

'*I don't think so."

"And, to complete it all, what has he been
doing to little Viola Tracy t Oh, what fun !
Carrying her off bodily to see you, wasn't it }
Lady Diana is in such a rage as never was — says
Dermot is never to be trusted with his sister
again, and won't let her go beyond the garden
without her. Oh, the fun of it ! I would have
gone anywhere to see old Lady Di's face !"




I DO not recollect anything happening for a good
while. Our chief event was the perfect success of
Mr. Yolland's concentrated fuel, which did not
blow up anything or anybody, and the production
of some lovely Etruscan vases and tiles, for which
I copied the designs out of a book I happily dis-
covered in the library. They were sent up to the
porcelain shops in London, and orders began to
come in, to the great exultation of Harold and
Co., an exultation which I could not help par-
taking, even while it seemed to me to be plunging
him deeper and deeper in the dangerous specu-

We put the vases into a shop in the town
and wondered they did not sell ; but happily
people at a distance were kinder, and native genius
was discovered in a youth, who soon made beau-
tiful designs. But I do not think the revived
activity of the unpopular pottery did us at that
time any good with our neighbours.

Harold and Eustace sent in their subscrip-
tions to the hunt and were not refused, but there
were rumours that some of the Stympsons had
threatened to withdraw.

I had half a mind to ride with them to the
meet, but I could not tell who would cut me, and
I knew the mortification would be so keen to


them that I could not tell how they would behave,
and I was afraid Eustace's pride in his scarlet
coat might be as manifest to others as to us, and
make me blush for him. So I kept Dora and
myself at home.

I found that by the management of Dermot
Tracy and his friends, the slight had been less
apparent than had been intended, when all the
other gentlemen had been asked in to Mr. Stymp-
son's to breakfast, and they had been left out with
the farmers ; Dermot had so resented this that he
had declined going into the house, and ridden to
the village inn with them.

To my surprise, Eustace chose to go on hunt-
ing, because it asserted his rights and showed he
did not care ; and, besides, the hard riding was
almost a necessity to both the young men, and
the Foling hounds, beyond Biston, were less ex-
clusive, and they were welcomed there. I believe
their horsemanship extorted admiration from the
whole field, and that they were gathering acquaint-
ance, though not among those who were most
desirable. The hunting that was esteemed hard
exercise here was nothing to them. They felt
cramped and confined even when they had had
the longest runs, and disdained the inclosures
they were forced to respect. I really don't know
what Harold would have done but for Kalydon
Moor, where he had a range without inclosures
of some twelve miles. I think he rushed up
there almost every day, and thus kept himself in
health, and able to endure the confinement of our
civilised life.


A very hard winter set in unusually early,
and with a great deal of snow in December. It
was a great novelty to our Australians, and was
not much relished by Eustace, who did not enjoy
the snow-balling and snow fortification in which
Harold and Dora revelled in front of the house
all the forenoon. After luncheon, when the
snowstorm had come on too thickly for Dora to
go out again, Harold insisted on going to see
how the world looked from the moor. I en-
treated him not to go far, telling him how easy
it was to lose the way when all outlines were
changed in a way that would baffle even a black
fellow ; but he listened with a smile, took a plaid
and a cap and sallied forth. I played at shuttle-
cock for a good while v/ith Dora, and then at
billiards with Eustace ; and when evening had
closed darkly in, and the whole outside world was
blotted out with the flakes and their mist, I besfan
to grow a little anxious.

The hall was draughty, but there was a huge
wood fire in it, and it seemed the best place to
watch in, so there we sat together, and Eustace
abused the climate and I told stories — dismal ones,
I fear — about sheep and shepherds, dogs and
snowdrifts, to the tune of that peculiar howl that
the wind always makes when the blast is snow
laden ; and dinner time came, and I could not
make up my mind to go and dress so as to be
out of reach of — I don't know what I expected
to happen. Certainly what did happen was far
from anything I had pictured to myself.

Battling with the elements and plunging in


the snow, and seeing, whenever it slackened, so
strange and new a world, was a sort of sport to
Harold, and he strode on, making his goal the
highest point of the moor, whence, if it cleared
a httle, he would be able to see to a vast distance.
He was curious, too, to look down into the railway
cutting. This was a sort of twig from a branch
of the main line, chiefly due to Lord Erymanth,
who, after fighting off the railway from all points
adjacent to his estate, had found it so inconvenient
to be without a station within reasonable distance,
that a single line had at last been made from
Mycening for the benefit of the places in this
direction, but not many trains ran on it, for it
was not much frequented.

Harold came to the brow of the cuttin^-, and
there beheld the funnel of a locomotive engine,
locomotive no more, but firmly embedded in the
snowdrift into which it had run, with a poor little
train of three or four carriages behind it, already
half buried. Not a person was to be seen, as
Harold scrambled and slid dovrn the descent and
lighted on the top of one of the carriages ; for, as
it proved, the engineer, stoker, and two or three
passengers had left the train an hour before, and
were struggling along the line to the nearest
station. Harold got down on the farther side,
which was free of snow, and looked into all the
carriages. No one was there, till in a first-class
one, he beheld an old gentleman, well wrapped up
indeed, but numb, stiff, and dazed with the sleep
out of which he was roused.

** Tickets, eh .? '' he said, and he dreamily held


one out to Harold and tried to get up, but he
stumbled, and hardly seemed to understand when
Harold told him it was not the station, but that
they had run into the snowdrift ; he only mut-
tered something about being met, staggered for-
ward, and fell into Harold's arms. There was a
carriage-bag on the seat, but Harold looked in
vain there for a flask. The poor old man was
hardly sensible. Ours was the nearest house, and
Harold saw that the only chance for the poor old
gentleman's life was to carry him home at once.
Even for him it was no small effort, for his bur-
then was a sturdy man with the solidity of years,
and nearly helpless, save that the warmth of
Harold's body did give him just life and instinct
to hold on, and let himself be bound to him
with the long plaid so as least to impede his
movements ; but only one possessed of Harold's
almost giant strength could have thus clambered
the cutting at the nearest point to Arghouse and
plodded through the snow. The only wonder is
that they were not both lost. Their track was
marked as long as that snow lasted by mighty

It was at about a quarter-past seven that
all the dogs barked, a fumbling was heard at
the door, and a muffled voice, "Let me in."

Then in stumbled a heap of snow, panting,
and amid Spitz's frantic barks, we saw it was
Harold, bent nearly double by the figure tied to
him. He sank on his knee, so as to place his
burthen on the great couch, gasping, "Untie
me," and as I undid the knot, he rose to his


feet, panting heavily, and, in spite of the cold,
bathed in perspiration.

" Get something hot for him directly," he
said, falling back into c.n arm-chair, while we
broke out in exclamations. " Who — where did
you find him } Some poor old beggar. Not
too near the fire — call Richardson — hot brandy-
and-water — bed. He's some poor old beggar,"
and such outcries for a moment or two, till
Harold, recovering himself in a second, explained,
** Snowed up in the train. Here, Lucy, Eustace,
rub his hands. Dora, ask Richardson for some-
thing hot. Are you better now, sir } " beginning
to pull off the boots that he might rub his feet;
but this measure roused the traveller, who resisted,
crying out, " Don^t, don't, my good man, I'll
reward you handsomely. I'm a justice of the

Thick and stifled as it was, the voice was
familiar. I looked again, and screamed out, " Lord
Erymanth, is it you t "

That roused him, and as I took hold of both
hands and bent over him, he looked up, dazzled
and muttering, " Lucy, Lucy Alison ! Arghouse !
How came I here.?" and then as the hot cordial
came at last, in the hand of Richardson, who
had once been in his service, he swallowed it,
and then leant back and gazed at me as I went
on rubbing his hands. *' Thank you, my dear.
Is it you .'' I thought I was snowed up, and I
have never signed that codicil about little Viola,
or I could die easily. It is not such a severe
mode, after all."


" But you're not dying, you're only dreaming.
You are at Arghouse. Harold here found you
and brought you to us."

And then we agreed that he had better be
put to bed at once in Eustace's room, as there
was already a fire there, and any other would
take long in being warmed.

Harold and Eustace got him upstairs between
them, and Richardson followed, while I looked
out with dismay at the drifting snow, and wondered
how to send either for a doctor or for Lady Diana
in case of need. He had been a childless widower
for many years, and had no one nearer belonging
to him. Dora expressed her amazement that I
did not go to help, but I knew this would have
shocked him dreadfully, and I only sent Colman
to see whether she could be of any use.

Harold came out first, and on his way to get
rid of his snow-soaked garments, paused to tell
me that the old gentleman had pretty well come
round, and was being fed with hot soup and wine,
while he seemed half asleep. " He is not frost-
bitten," added Harold ; " but if he is likely to
want the doctor, I'd better go on to Mycening
at once, before I change my things."

But I knew Lord Erymanth to be a hale,
strong man of his years, little given to doctors,
and as I heard he had said "No, no," when
Eustace proposed to send for one, I was glad
to negative the proposal from a man already
wet through and tired — "well, just a little."

Our patient dropped asleep almost as soon
as he had had his meal, in the very middle of a


ceremonious speech of thanks, which sent Eustace
down to dinner more than ever sure that there
was nothing hke the aristocracy, who all under-
stood one another; and we left Richardson to
watch over him, and sleep in the dressing-room
in case of such a catastrophe as a rheumatic
waking in the night.

We were standing about the fire in the hall,
our usual morning waiting-place before breakfast,
and had just received Richardson's report that
his lordship had had a good night, seem^ none
the worse, and would presently appear, but that
he desired we would not wait breakfast, when
there was a hasty ring at the door, and no
sooner was it opened than Dermot Tracy, bat-
tered and worn, in a sou'-wester sprinkled with
snow and with boots up to his thighs, burst into
the hall.

"Alison, you there ? All right, I want you,"
shaking hands in an agitated way all round,
and speaking very fast with much emotion. " I
want you to come and search for my poor uncle.
He was certainly in the train from Mycening that
ran into a drift. Men went to get help ; couldn't
eet back for three hours. He wasn't there —
never arrived at home. My mother is in a
dreadful state. Hogg is setting all the men to
dig at the Erymanth end. I've got a lot to begin
in the Kalydon cutting ; but you'll come, Alison,
you'll be worth a dozen of them. He might be
alive still, you see."

" Thank you, Dermot, I am happy to say
that such is the case/' said a voice from the oak


staircase, and down it was slowly proceeding
Lord Erymanth, as trim, and portly, and well
brushed-up as if he had arrived behind his two
long-tailed bays.

Dermot, with his eyes full of tears, which he
was squeezing and winking away, and his rapid,
broken voice, had seen and heard nothing in our
faces or exclamations to prepare him. He started
violently and sprang forward, meeting Lord Ery-
manth at the foot of the stairs, and wringing
both his hands — nay, I almost thought he would
have kissed him, as he broke out into some in-
coherent cry of scarcely-believing jo}^, which per-
haps surprised and touched the old man. " There,
there, Dermot, my boy, your solicitude is — is
honourable to you ; but restrain — restrain it, my
dear boy — we are not alone." And he advanced,
a little rheumatically, to us, holding out his hand
with morning greetings.

" I must send to my mother. Joe is here
with the sleigh," said Dermot. " Uncle, how did
you come here } " he added, as reflection only
made his amazement profounder.

*' It is true, as you said just now, that Mr.
Harold Alison is equal to a dozen men. I owe
my preservation, under Providence, to him," said
Lord Erymanth, who, though not a small man,
had to look far up as Harold stood towering above
us all. ''My most earnest acknowledgments are
due to him," he added, solemnly holding out
his hand.

" I might have expected that ! " ejaculated
Dermot, while Harold took the offered hand


with a smile, and a mutter in his beard of ''I
am very glad."

"I'll just send a hne to satisfy my mother,"
said Dermot, taking a pen from the inkstand on
the hall-table. "Joe's here with the sleigh, and
we must telegraph to George St. Glear."

Lord Er>^manth repeated the name in some
amazement, for he was not particularly fond of
his heir.

" Hogg telegraphed to him this morning," and
as the uncle observed, " Somewhat premature,"
he went on: "Poor Hogg was beside himself;
he came to Arked at ten o'clock last night to
look for you, and, luckily, I was there, so we've
been hallooing half the night along the hne, and
then getting men together in readiness for the
search as soon as it was light. I must be off to
stop them at once. I came in to get the Alisons'
l^elp — never dreamt of such a thing as finding
you here. And, after all, I don't understand —
how did you come ? "

" I cannot give you a detailed account,'^ said
his lordship. " Air. Harold Alison roused me
from a drowsiness which might soon, very pro-
bably, have been fatal, and brought me here. I
have no very distinct recollection of the mode,
and I fear I must have been a somewhat helpless
and encumbering burthen."

Dora put in her oar. " Harry can carry any-
thing," she said ; " he brought you in so nicely
on his back — ^just as I used to ride."
"On his back ! ''
"Yes,'' said Dora, who was fond of I\Ir. Tracy,


and glad to impart her information, " on his
back, with his boots sticking out on each side, so
funnily ! "

Lord Erymanth endeavoured to swallow the
information suavely by the help of a classical
precedent, and said, with a gracious smile, " Then
I perceive we must have played the part of ^neas

and Anchises '' But before he had got so

far, the idea had been quite too much for Dermot,
who cried out, " Pick-a-back ! With his boots
sticking out on both sides ! Thank you, Dora.
Oh ! my uncle, pick-a-back ! " and went off in an
increasing, uncontrollable roar of laughter, while
Harold, with a great tug to his moustache, ob-
served apologetically to Lord Erymanth, " It was
the only way I could do it," which speech had
the effect of so prolonging poor Dermot's mirth,
that all the good effect of the feeling he had
previously displayed for his uncle was lost, and
Lord Erymanth observed, in his most dry and
solemn manner, " There are some people who
can see nothing but food for senseless ridicule in
the dangers of their friends."

" My dear Lord Erymanth," I said, almost
wild, " do just consider Dermot has been up all
night, and has had nothing to eat, and is immensely
relieved to find you all safe. He can't be expected
to quite know what he is about when he is so
shaken. Come to breakfast, and we shall all be

"That might be a very sufficient excuse for
you or for Viola, my dear Lucy," returned Lord
Erymanth, taking, however, the arm I offered.


" Young ladies may be very amiably hysterical,
but a young man, in my day, who had not
trifled away his manhness, would be ashamed of
such an excuse/'

There was a certain truth in what he said.
Dermot was not then so strong, nor had he the
self-command he would have had, if his life had
been m.ore regular ; but he must always have had
a much more sensitive and emotional nature than
his uncle could ever understand. The reproach,
however, sobered him in a moment, and he fol-
lowed us gravely into the dining-room, without
uttering a word for the next quarter of an hour ;
neither did Harold, who was genuinely vexed at
having made the old man feel himself ridiculous,
and was sorry for the displeasure with his friend.
Nobody did say much except Eustace, who was
delighted at having to play host to such distin-
guished guests, and Lord Erymanth himself, who
was so gracious and sententious as quite to restore
Dermot^s usual self by the time breakfast was
over, and he saw his serv^ant bringing back his
sleigh, in which he offered to convey his uncle
either home or to Arked. But it was still fit-
fully snowing, and Lord Erymanth was evidently
not without touches of rheumatism, which made
him lend a willing ear to our entreaties to him
not to expose him.self Harold then undertook
to go in search of his portmanteau either to the
scene of the catastrophe or the Hall.

" My dear sir, I could not think of exposing
you to a repetition of such inclement weather as
you have already encountered. I am well supplied



here, my young friend — I think I may use the
term, considering tliat two generations ago, at
least, a mutual friendship existed between the
houses, which, however obscured for a time — ■
hum — hum — hum — may be said still to exist
towards my dear friend's very amiable young
daughter ; and although I may have regretted as
hasty and premature a decision that, as her oldest
and most experienced — I may say paternal —
friend, I ventured to question — you will excuse
my plain speaking ; I am always accustomed to
utter my sentiments freely — yet on better acquaint-
ance — brought about as it was in a manner which,
however peculiar, and, I may say, unpleasant —
cannot do otherwise than command my perpetual
gratitude — I am induced to revoke a verdict,
uttered, perhaps, rather with a view to the ante-
cedents than to the individuals, and to express
a hope that the ancient family ties may again
assert themselves, and that I may again address
as such Mr. Alison of Arghouse/''

That speech absolutely cleared the field of
Harold and Dermot both. One strode, the other
backed, to the door, Dermot hastily said, ''Good-
bye then, uncle, I shall look you up to-morrow,
but I must go and stop George St. Glear," and
Harold made no further ceremony, but departed
under his cover.

Probably, Richardson had spoken a word or
two in our favour to his former master, for, when
Lord Erymanth was relieved from his nephew's
trying presence, he was most gracious, and hi.s
harangues, much as they had once fretted me,


had now a familiar sound, as proving that we
were no longer " at the back of the north wind,"
while Eustace listened with rapt attention, both
to the long words and to anything coming from
one whose name was enrolled in his favourite
volume ; who likewise discovered in him like-
nesses to generations past of Alisons, and seemed
ready to admit him to all the privileges for which
he had been six months pining.

At the first opportunity, Lord Erymanth
began to me, " My dear Lucy, it is a confession
that to some natures may seem humiliating, but
I have so sedulously cultivated candour for my
whole term of existence, that I hope I may
flatter myself that I am not a novice in the great
art of retracting a conclusion arrived at under
promises which, though probable, have proved to
be illusory. I therefore freely confess that I have
allowed probability to weigh too much with me

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMy young Alcides : a faded photograph → online text (page 8 of 24)