Part 1 out of 6
Photograph, by Charlotte M Yonge, was prepared by Sandra Laythorpe.
A web page about Charlotte M Yonge may be found at
MY YOUNG ALCIDES
A FADED PHOTOGRAPH
Charlotte M Yonge
Ideas have a tyrannous power of insisting on being worked out, even
when one fears they may be leading in a track already worthily
But the Hercules myth did not seem to me to be like one of the fairy
tales that we have seen so gracefully and quaintly modernised; and at
the risk of seeming to travestie the Farnese statue in a shooting-
coat and wide-awake, I could not help going on, as the notion grew
deeper and more engrossing.
For, whether the origin of the myth be, or be not, founded on solar
phenomena, the yearning Greek mind formed on it an unconscious
allegory of the course of the Victor, of whom the Sun, rejoicing as a
giant to run his course, is another type, like Samson of old, since
the facts of nature and of history are Divine parables.
And as each one's conquest is, in the track of his Leader, the only
true Conqueror, so Hercules, in spite of all the grotesque adjuncts
that the lower inventions of the heathen hung round him, is a far
closer likeness of manhood--as, indeed, the proverbial use of some of
his tasks testifies--and of repentant man conquering himself. The
great crime, after which his life was a bondage of expiation; the
choice between Virtue and Vice; the slain passion; the hundred-headed
sin for ever cropping up again; the winning of the sacred emblem of
purity;--then the subduing of greed; the cleansing of long-neglected
uncleanness; the silencing of foul tongues; the remarkable contest
with the creature which had become a foe, because, after being
devoted for sacrifice, it was spared; the obtaining the girdle of
strength; the recovery of the spoil from the three-fold enemy; the
gaining of the fruit of life; immediately followed by the victory
over the hell-hound of death; and lastly, the attainment of
immortality--all seem no fortuitous imagination, but one of those
when "thoughts beyond their thoughts to those old bards were given."
I have not followed all these meanings, for this is not an allegory,
but a mere distant following rather of the spirit than the letter of
the old Greek tale of the Twelve Tasks. Neither have I adhered to
every incident of Hercules' life; and the most touching and beautiful
of all--the rescue of Alcestis, would hardly bear to come in merely
as an episode, in this weak and presumptuous endeavour to show that
the half-divine, patient conqueror is not merely a classic invention,
but that he and his labours belong in some form or other to all times
and all surroundings.
C. M. YONGE.
Nov. 8, 1875.
CHAPTER I. THE ARGHOUSE INHERITANCE
CHAPTER II. THE LION OF NEME HEATH
CHAPTER III. THE "DRAGON'S HEAD"
CHAPTER IV. THE WRATH OF DIANA
CHAPTER V. THE CAPTURE IN THE SNOW
CHAPTER VI. OGDEN'S BUILDINGS
CHAPTER VII. THE BIRDS OF ILL OMEN
CHAPTER VIII. BULLOCK'S CHASTISEMENT
CHAPTER IX. THE CHAMPION'S BELT
CHAPTER X. DERMOT'S MARK
CHAPTER XI. THE RED VALLEY CATTLE STEALERS
CHAPTER XII. THE GOLDEN FRUIT
CHAPTER XIII. THE BLOODHOUND
CHAPTER XIV. SUNSET GOLD AND PURPLE
CHAPTER XV. THE FATAL TOKEN
CHAPTER XVI. CONCLUSION
MY YOUNG ALCIDES
A FADED PHOTOGRAPH
CHAPTER I. THE ARGHOUSE INHERITANCE.
One of the children brought me a photograph album, long ago finished
and closed, and showed me a faded and blurred figure over which there
had been a little dispute. Was it Hercules with club and lion-skin,
or was it a gentleman I had known?
Ah me! how soon a man's place knoweth him no more! What fresh
recollections that majestic form awoke in me--the massive features,
with the steadfast eye, and low, square brow, curled over with short
rings of hair; the mouth, that, through the thick, short beard, still
invited trust and reliance, even while there was a look of fire and
determination that inspired dread.
The thing seemed to us hideous and absurd when it was taken by Miss
Horsman. I hated it, and hid it away as a caricature. But now those
pale, vanishing tints bring the very presence before me; and before
the remembrance can become equally obscure in my own mind, let me
record for others the years that I spent with my young Alcides as he
now stands before me in memory.
Our family history is a strange one. I, Lucy Alison, never even saw
my twin brothers--nor, indeed, knew of their existence--during my
childhood. I had one brother a year younger than myself, and as long
as he lived he was treated as the eldest son, and neither he nor I
ever dreamed that my father had had a first wife and two sons. He
was a feeble, broken man, who seemed to my young fancy so old that in
after times it was always a shock to me to read on his tablet, "Percy
Alison, aged fifty-seven;" and I was but seven years old when he died
under the final blow of the loss of my little brother Percy from
The dear old place--house with five gables on the garden front, black
timbered, and with white plaster between, and oh! such flowers in the
garden--was left to my mother for her life; and she was a great deal
younger than my father, so we went on living there, and it was only
when I was almost a woman that I came to the knowledge that the
property would never be mine, but would go in the male line to the
son of one of my disinherited convict brothers.
The story, as my mother knew it, was this: Their names were Ambrose
and Eustace: there was very little interval between their births, and
there had been some confusion between them during the first few hours
of their lives, so that the question of seniority was never entirely
clear, though Ambrose was so completely the leader and master that he
was always looked upon as the elder.
In their early youth they were led away by a man of Polish
extraction, though a British subject, one Count Prometesky, who had
thrown himself into every revolutionary movement on the Continent,
had fought under Kosciusko in Poland, joined the Carbonari in Italy,
and at last escaped, with health damaged by a wound, to teach
languages and military drawing in England, and, unhappily, to spread
his principles among his pupils, during the excitement connected with
the Reform Bill. Under his teaching my poor brothers became such
democrats that they actually married the two daughters of a man from
Cumberland named Lewthwayte, whom Lord Erymanth had turned out of one
of his farms for his insolence and radicalism; and not long after
they were engaged in the agricultural riots, drilling the peasants,
making inflammatory speeches, and doing all they could to bring on a
revolution. Dreadful harm was done on the Erymanth estate, and the
farm from which Lewthwayte had been expelled suffered especially, the
whole of the ricks and buildings being burnt down, though the family
of the occupant was saved, partly by Prometesky's exertions.
When the troops came, both he and my brothers were taken with arms in
their hands; they were tried by the special commission and sentenced
to death. Lewthwayte and his son were actually hung; but there was
great interest made for Ambrose and Eustace, and in consideration of
their early youth (they were not twenty-two) their sentence was
commuted to transportation for life, and so was Prometesky's, because
he was half a foreigner, and because he was proved to have saved
My father would not see them again, but he offered their wives a
passage out to join them, and wanted to have had their two babies
left with him, but the two young women refused to part with them; and
it was after that that he married again, meaning to cast them off for
ever, though, as long as their time of servitude lasted, he sent the
wives an allowance, and as soon as his sons could hold property, he
gave them a handsome sum with which to set themselves up in a large
farm in the Bush.
And when little Percy died, he wanted again to have his eldest
grandson sent home to him, and was very much wounded by the refusal
which came only just before his death. His will had left the estate
to the grandson, as the right heir. Everyone looked on it as a bad
prospect, but no one thought of the "convict boy" as in the immediate
future, as my mother was still quite a young woman.
But when I was just three-and-twenty, an attack of diphtheria broke
out; my mother and I both caught it; and, alas! I alone recovered.
The illness was very long with me, partly from my desolateness and
grief, for, tender as my kind old servants were, and good as were my
friends and neighbours, they could only make me feel what they were
Our old lawyer, Mr. Prosser, had written to my nephew, for we knew
that both the poor brothers were dead; but he assured me that I might
safely stay on at the old place, for it would be eight months before
his letter could be answered, and the heir could not come for a long
I was very glad to linger on, for I clung to the home, and looked at
every bush and flower, blossoming for the last time, almost as if I
were dying, and leaving them to a sort of fiend. My mother's old
friends, Lady Diana Tracy and Lord Erymanth, her brother, used to
bemoan with me the coming of this lad, born of a plebeian mother,
bred up in a penal colony, and, no doubt, uneducated except in its
coarsest vices. Lord Erymanth told at endless length all the advice
he had given my father in vain, and bewailed the sense of justice
that had bequeathed the property to such a male heir as could not
fail to be a scourge to the country. Everyone had some story to tell
of Ambrose's fiery speeches and insubordinate actions, viewing
Eustace as not so bad because his mere satellite--and what must not
their sons be?
The only person who had any feeling of pity or affection for them was
old Miss Woolmer. She was the daughter of a former clergyman of
Mycening, the little town which is almost at our park-gates. She was
always confined to the house by rheumatic-gout. She had grown up
with my brothers. I sometimes wondered if she had not had a little
tenderness for one of them, but I believe it was almost elder-
sisterly. She told me much in their excuse. My father had never
been the fond, indulgent father to them that I remembered him, but a
strict, stern authority when he was at home, and when he was absent
leaving them far too much to their own devices; while Prometesky was
a very attractive person, brilliant, accomplished, full of fire and
of faith in his theories of universal benevolence and emancipation.
She thought, if the times had not been such as to bring them into
action, Ambrose would have outgrown and modified all that was
dangerous in his theories, and that they would have remained mere
talk, the ebullition of his form of knight-errantry; for it was
generous indignation and ardour that chiefly led him astray, and
Eustace was always his double: but there were some incidents at the
time which roused him to fury. Lewthwayte was a Cumberland man, who
had inherited the stock and the last years of a lease of a farm on
Lord Erymanth's property; he had done a good deal for it, and
expended money on the understanding that he should have the lease
renewed, but he was a man of bold, independent northern tongue, and
gave great offence to his lordship, who was used to be listened to
with a sort of feudal deference. He was of the fierce old Norse
blood, and his daughters were tall, fair, magnificent young women,
not at all uneducated nor vulgar, and it was the finding that my
brothers were becoming intimate at his farm that made Lord Erymanth
refuse to renew the lease and turn the family out so harshly, and
with as little notice as possible.
The cruelty, as they thought it, was, Miss Woolmer said, most ill-
judged, and precipitated the very thing that was dreaded. The youths
rushed into the marriage with the daughters, and cast in their lot
with all that could overturn the existing order of things, but Miss
Woolmer did not believe they had had anything to do with the rick-
burning or machine-breaking. All that was taken out of their hands
by more brutal, ignorant demagogues. They were mere visionaries and
enthusiasts according to her, and she said the two wives were very
noble-looking, high-spirited young women. She had gone to see them
several times when their husbands were in prison, and had been much
struck with Alice, Ambrose's wife, who held up most bravely; though
Dorothy, poor thing, was prostrated, and indeed her child was born in
the height of the distress, when his father had just been tried for
his life, and sentenced to death.
It was their birth and education that caused them to be treated so
severely; besides, there was no doubt of their having harangued the
people, and stirred them up, and they were seen, as well as
Prometesky, at the fire at what had been Lewthwayte's farm; at least,
so it was declared by men who turned King's evidence, and the proof
to the contrary broke down, because it depended on the wives, whose
evidence was not admissible; indeed that--as the law then stood--was
not the question. Those who had raised the storm were responsible
for all that was done in it, and it was very barely that their lives
That was the comfort Miss Woolmer gave. No one else could see any at
all, except a few old women in the parish, who spoke tenderly of poor
Mr. Ambrose and Mr. Eustace; but then they had sons or brothers who
had been out with the rioters, and after these twenty-six years no
one remembered the outrages and terrors of the time with anything but
horror; and the coming of the wild lad from the Bush was looked on as
the end of all comfort.
I meant, as soon as I heard he was on the way, to leave Arghouse,
make visits among friends, and decide on my future home, for, alas!
there was no one who wanted me. I was quite alone in the world; my
mother's cousins were not near, and I hardly knew them; and my only
relations were the bushrangers, as Lady Diana Tracy called them.
She was sister to Lord Erymanth, and widow to an Irish gentleman, and
had settled in the next parish to us, with her children, on the death
of her husband.
Her little daughter, Viola, had been spending the day with me, and it
was a lovely spring evening, when we sat on the lawn, wondering
whether I should ever care for anything so much as for those long
shadows from the fir woods upon the sloping field, with the long
grass rippling in the wind, and the border of primroses round the
edge of the wood.
We heard wheels and thought it was the carriage come for Viola, much
too soon, when out ran one of the maids, crying, "Oh! Miss Alison, he
is come. There's ever so many of them!"
I believe we caught hold of one another in our fright, and were
almost surprised when, outstripping lame old Richardson, as he
announced "Mr. Alison!" there came only three persons. They were the
two tallest men I had ever seen, and a little girl of eight years
old. I found my hand in a very large one, and with the words "Are
you my aunt Lucy?" I was, as it were, gathered up and kissed. The
voice, somehow, carried a comfortable feeling in the kindness of its
power and depth; and though it was a mouth bristly with yellow
bristles, such as had never touched me before, the honest friendly
eyes gave me an indescribable feeling of belonging to somebody, and
of having ceased to be alone in the world.
"Here is Eustace," he said, "and little Dora," putting the child
forward as she backed against him, most unwilling to let me kiss her.
"And, I did not know I had another aunt."
"No," I said, starting between, for what would Lady Diana's feelings
have been if Viola had carried home an Australian kiss? "This is
Viola's carriage was now actually coming, and as I went into the
house with her, she held me, whispering to me to come home at once
with her, but I told her I could not leave them in that way, and they
were really my nephews.
"You are not afraid?" she said.
"What do you think he could do to me?" I asked, laughing.
"He is so big," said Viola. "I never saw any one so big, but I think
he is like Coeur de Lion. Ah!" We both shrieked, for a most uncanny
monster was rearing up in front of us, hopping about the hall, as far
as was allowed by the chain that fastened it to the leg of a table.
"Mr. Alison brought it, ma'am," said Richardson, in a tone of disgust
and horror. "Will you have the carriage out, Miss Alison, and go
down to the Wyvern? Shuh! you brute! He shan't hurt you, my dear
ladies. I'll stand between."
We had recovered our senses, however, enough to see that it was only
a harmless kangaroo; and Dora came running out, followed by Harold,
caressing the beast, calling it poor Nanny, and asking where he
should shut it up for the night
I suggested an outhouse, and we conducted the creature thither in
procession, hearing by the way that the kangaroo's mother had been
shot, and that the animal itself, then very young, and no bigger than
a cat, had taken Harold's open shirt front for her pouch and leaped
into his bosom, and that it had been brought up to its present
stature tame at Boola Boola. Viola went with us, fed the kangaroo,
and was so much interested and delighted, that she could hardly go
away, Eustace making her a most elaborate and rather absurd bow,
being evidently much impressed by the carriage and liveried servants
who were waiting for her.
"Like the Governor's lady!" he said. "And I know, for I've been to a
ball at Government House."
He plainly cared much more for appearances than did Harold. He was
not so tall, much slighter, with darker hair, rather too shiny, and a
neatly turned up moustache, a gorgeous tie and watch chain, a
brilliant breast pin, a more brilliant ring, and a general air that
made me conclude that he regarded himself as a Sydney beau. But
Harold, in his loose, rough grey suit, was very different. His
height was extraordinary, his breadth of chest and shoulder equally
gigantic, though well proportioned, and with a look of easy strength,
and, as Viola had said, his head was very much what one knows as the
Lion Heart's, not Marochetti's trim carpet knight, but Vertue's
rugged portrait from the monument at Fontevrand. There was the same
massive breadth of feature, large yet not heavy, being relieved by
the exceeding keenness and quickness of the light but very blue eyes,
which ssemed to see everywhere round in a moment, as men do in wild
countries. The short thick yellow curly beard and moustache veiled
the lower part of the face; but the general expression, when still,
was decidedly a sad one, though a word or a trick of Dora's would
call up a smile all over the browned cheeks and bright eyes. His
form and colouring must have come from the Cumberland statesman, but
people said his voice and expression had much of his father in them;
and no one could think him ungentlemanly, though he was not like any
English gentleman. He wore no gaieties like Eustace, the
handkerchief loosely knotted round his neck sailor fashion was plain
black, and he had a gold ring on his little finger.
Dora had the same yellow curly hair, in tight, frizzly rings all over
her head, like a boy's, a light complexion, and blue eyes, in a
round, pug-nosed face; and she hung so entirely on Harold that I
never doubted that she was his sister till, as we were sitting down
to eat, I said, "Can't you come a little way from your brother?"
Eustace gave his odd little giggle, and said, "There, Dora!"
"I'm not his sister--I'm his wife!"
"There!" and Eustace giggled again and ordered her away; but I saw
Harold's brow knit with pain, and as she began to reiterate her
assertion and resist Eustace, he gently sat her down on the chair
near at hand, and silently made her understand that she was to stay
there; but Eustace rather teasingly said:
"Aunt Lucy will teach you manners, Dora. She is my sister, and we
have brought her home to send her to school."
"I won't go to school," said Dora; "Harold would not."
"You won't get away like him," returned Eustace, in the same tone.
"Yes, I shall. I'll lick all the girls," she returned, clenching a
pair of red mottled fists that looked very capable.
"For shame, Dora!" said the low voice.
"Harold did," said she, looking up at me triumphantly; "he beat all
the boys, and had to come back again to Boola Boola."
I longed to understand more, but I was ashamed to betray my ignorance
of my near relations, for I did not even know whether their mothers
were alive; but I saw that if I only listened, Eustace would soon
tell everything. He had a runaway chin, and his mouth had a look at
times that made me doubt whether there were not some slight want in
his intellect, or at least weakness of character. However, I was
relieved from the fear of the vice with which the neighbourhood had
threatened us, for neither of them would touch wine or beer, but
begged for tea, and drank oceans of it.
We had not long finished, when Richardson brought me a note from Lady
Diana Tracy, saying she had sent the carriage for me that I might at
once take refuge from this unforeseen invasion.
I felt it out of all possibility that I should thus run away, and yet
I knew I owed an apology for Harold's finding me and the old servants
in possession, so I began to say that my old friend had sent the
carriage for me.--I had been taken by surprise, their journey (one of
the first across the Isthmus) had been so much quicker than I had
expected, or I should have left the house free for them.
"Why?" asked Harold. And when I answered that the place was his and
I had no business there, he did not seem to see it. "It is your
home," he said; "you have always lived here."
I began explaining that this was no reason at all; but he would not
hear of my going away, and declared that it was I who belonged to the
place, so that I confessed that I should be very thankful to stay a
"Not only a little while," he said; "it is your home as much as ever,
and the best thing in the world for us."
"Yes, yes," responded Eustace; "we kept on wondering what Aunt Lucy
would be like, and never thought she could be such a nice _young_
"Not realising that your aunt is younger than yourselves," I said.
"No," said Eustace, "the old folk never would talk of home--my father
did not like it, you see--and Aunt Alice had moved off to New
Zealand, so that we could not go and talk about it to her. Mr. Smith
has got a school in Auckland, you know."
I did not know, but I found that a year or two after the death of my
brother Ambrose, his widow had become the second wife of the master
of a boarding-school at Sydney, and that it was there that Harold, at
ten years old, had fought all the boys, including the step-children,
and had been so audacious and uncontrollable, that she had been
forced to return him to his uncle and aunt in the "Bush." Eustace
had been with the Smiths at Sydney until her move to Auckland, he had
even been presented, and had been to a ball at Government House, and
thus was viewed as the polished member of the family, though, if he
had come as master, I should never have been drawn, as I was by
Harold's free, kindly simplicity, into writing my thanks to Lady
Diana, and saying that I could not leave my nephews so abruptly,
especially as they had brought a little sister.
It was gratifying to see that Harold was uneasy till the note was
sent off and the carriage dismissed. "You are not going?" he said, as
persuasively as if he were speaking to Dora, and I strove to make a
wise and prudent answer, about remaining for the next few days, and
settling the rest when he had made his plans.
Then I proposed to take Dora up to bed, but though manifestly very
weary, the child refused, and when her brother tried to order her,
she ran between Harold's knees, and there tossed her head and glared
at me. He lifted her on his lap, and she drew his arm round her in
defence. Eustace said he spoilt her, but he still held her, and, as
she dropped asleep against his breast, Eustace related, almost in a
tone of complaint, that she had cared for no one else ever since the
time she had been lost in the Bush, and Harold had found her, after
three days, in the last stage of exhaustion, since which time she had
had neither eyes, ears, nor allegiance for any other creature, but
that she must be taught something, and made into a lady.
Harold gazed down on her with his strange, soft, melancholy smile,
somehow seeming to vex Eustace, who accused him of not caring how
rough and uncultivated she was, nor himself either.
"We leave the polish to you," said Harold.
"Why, yes," said Eustace, simpering, "my uncle Smith gave me the
first advantages in Sydney, and everyone knew my father was 'a
Harold bit the hair that hung over his lip, and I guessed, what I
afterwards found to be the truth, that his stepfather was no small
trial to him; being, in fact, an unprosperous tutor and hanger-on on
some nobleman's family, finally sent out by his patrons in despair,
to keep school in Sydney.
Poor Ambrose had died of lock-jaw from a cut from an axe very soon
after his emancipation, just as his energy was getting the farm into
order, and making things look well with the family, and, after a year
or two, Alice, deceived by the man's air and manners, and hoping to
secure education for her son, had married, and the effect had been
that, while Harold was provoked into fierce insubordination, Eustace
became imbued with a tuft-hunting spirit, a great contrast to what
might have been expected from his antecedents.
I cannot tell whether I found this out the first evening, or only
gradually discovered it, with much besides. I only remember that
when at last Harold carried Dora upstairs fast asleep, and my maid
Colman and I had undressed her and put her into a little bed in a
room opening out of mine, I went to rest, feeling rejoiced that the
suspense was over and I knew the worst. I felt rather as if I had a
magnificent wild beast in the house; and yet there was a wonderful
attraction, partly from the drawing of kindred blood, and partly from
the strength and sweetness of Harold's own face, and, aunt-like, I
could not help feeling proud, of having such a grand creature
belonging to me, though there might be a little dread of what he
would do next.
In the morning all seemed like a dream, for Dora had vanished,
leaving no trace but her black bag; but while I was dressing a
tremendous cackling among my bantams caused me to look out, when I
beheld them scurrying right and left at sight of the kangaroo leaping
after the three strangers, and my cat on the top of the garden wall
on tiptoe, with arched back, bristling tail, and glassy eyes, viewing
the beast as the vengeful apotheosis of all the rats and mice she had
slaughtered in her time.
>From the stairs I heard Dora scouting her brother's orders to tidy
herself for breakfast, adding that Harry never did, to which he
merely replied, "I shall now. Come."
There was a sound of hoisting, that gave me warning rather
fortunately, for he came striding upstairs with that great well-grown
girl of eight perched on his shoulder as if she had been a baby, and
would have run me down if I had not avoided into the nook on the
All that day and the next those three were out; I never saw them but
at meals, when they came in full of eager questions and comments on
their discoveries in farming and other matters. These were the early
bright days of spring, and they were out till after dark, only
returning to eat and go to bed. I found the fascination of Harold's
presence was on all the servants and dependents, except perhaps our
bailiff Bullock, who disliked him from the first. All the others
declared that they had no doubt about staying on, now that they saw
what the young squire really was. It made a great impression on them
that, when in some farmyard arrangements there was a moment's danger
of a faggot pile falling, he put his shoulder against it and propped
the whole weight without effort. His manhood, strength, and
knowledge of work delighted them, and they declared already that he
would be a good friend to the poor.
I confess that here lay what alarmed me. He was always given to few
words, but I could see that he was shocked at the contrast between
our poor and the Australian settlers, where food and space were
plenty and the wages high. I was somewhat hurt at his way of viewing
what had always seemed to me perfection, at least all that could be
reasonably expected for the poor--our pet school, our old women, our
civil dependents in tidy cottages, our picturesque lodges; and I did
not half like his trenchant questions, which seemed to imply censure
on all that I had hitherto thought unquestionable, and perhaps I told
him somewhat impatiently that, when he had been a little longer here,
he would understand our ways and fall naturally into them.
"That's just what I don't want," he said.
"Not want?" I exclaimed.
"Yes; I want to see clearly before I get used to things."
And as, perhaps, I seemed to wonder at this way of beginning, he
opened a little, and said, "It is my father. He told me that if ever
I came here I was to mind and do his work."
"What kind of work?" I asked, anxiously.
"Doing what he meant to have done," returned Harold, "for the poor.
He said I should find out about it."
"You must have been too young to understand much of what he meant
then," I said. "Did he not regret anything?"
"Yes, he said he had begun at the wrong end, when they were not ripe
for it, and that the failure had ruined him for trying again."
"Then he did see things differently at last?" I said, hoping to find
that the sentiments I had always heard condemned had not been
"Oh yes!" cried Eustace. "They were just brutes, you know, that
nobody could do any good to, and were only bent on destroying, and
had no gratitude nor sense; and that was the ruin of him and of my
"They were ignorant, and easily maddened," said Harold, gravely.
"He did not know how little they could be controlled. I must find
out the true state of things. Prometesky said I must read it up."
"Prometesky!" I cried in despair. "Oh, Harold, you have not been
influenced by that old firebrand?"
"He taught me almost all I know," was the answer, still much to my
dismay; but I showed Harold to the library, and directed him to some
old books of my father's, which I fancied might enlighten him on the
subjects on which he needed information, though I feared they might
be rather out of date; and whenever he was not out of doors, he was
reading them, sometimes running his fingers through his yellow hair,
or pulling his beard, and growling to himself when he was puzzled or
met with what he did not like. Eustace's favourite study, meanwhile,
was "Burke's Peerage," and his questions nearly drove me wild by
their absurdity; and Dora rolled on the floor with my Spitz dog, for
she loathed the doll I gave her, and made me more afraid of her than
of either of the others.
Harold was all might and gentleness; Eustace viewed me as a glass of
fashion and directory of English life and manners; but I saw they
both looked to me not only to make their home, but to tame their
little wild cat of a child; and that was enough to make her hate and
distrust me. Moreover, she had a gleam of jealousy not far from
fierce in her wild blue eyes if she saw Harold turn affectionately to
me, and she always protested sullenly against the "next week," when I
was to begin her education.
She could only read words of four letters, and could not, or would
not, work a stitch. Harold had done all her mending. On the second
day I passed by the open door of his room, and saw him at work on a
great rectangular rent in her frock. I could not help stopping to
suggest that Colman or I might save him that trouble, whereupon Dora
slammed the door in my face.
Harold opened it again at once, saying, "You ought to beg Aunt Lucy's
pardon;" and when no apology could be extracted from her, and with
thanks he handed over the little dress to me, she gave a shriek of
anger (she hardly ever shed tears) and snatched it from me again.
"Well, well," said Harold, patting her curly head; "I'll finish this
time, but not again, Dora. Next time, Aunt Lucy will be so good as
to see to it. After old Betty's eyes grew bad we had to do our own
I confess it was a wonderful performance--quite as neat as Colman
could have made it; and I suspect that Harold did not refrain from
producing needle and thread from his fat miscellaneous pocket-book,
and repairing her many disasters before they reached the domestic
eye; for there was a chronic feud between Dora and Colman, and the
attempts of the latter to make the child more like a young lady were
passionately repelled, though she would better endure those of a
rough little under-housemaid, whose civilisation was, I suppose, not
quite so far removed from her own.
On Sunday, she and Harold disappeared as soon as breakfast was over,
and only Eustace remained, spruce beyond all imagination, and giving
himself childlike credit for not being with them; but when at church
I can't say much for his behaviour. He stared unblushingly,
whispered remarks and inquiries, could not find the places in his
book, and appeared incapable of kneeling. Our little church at
Arghouse was then a chapelry, with merely Sunday morning service by a
curate from Mycening, and the congregation a village one, to the
disgust of Eustace, who had expected to review his neighbours, and
thought his get-up thrown away.
"No one at all to see," he observed with discontent over our
luncheon, Harold and Dora having returned from roaming over Kalydon
"I go to afternoon service at Mycening, Harold," I said. "Will not
you come with me?"
"There will be somebody there?" asked Eustace; to which I replied in
the affirmative, but with some protest against his view of the
object, and inviting the others again, but Dora defiantly answered
that Harold was going to swing her on the ash tree.
"You ought to appear at church, Harry," said Eustace. "It is
expected of an English squire. You see everybody, and everybody sees
"Well, then, go," said Harold.
"And won't you?" I entreated.
"I've promised to swing Dora," he answered, strolling out of the
room, much to my concern; and though Eustace did accompany me, it was
so evidently for the sake of staring that there was little comfort in
that; and it was only by very severe looks that I could keep him from
asking everyone's name. I hoped to make every one understand that he
was not the squire, but no one came across us as we went out of
church, and I had to reply to his torrent of inquiries all the way
It was a wet evening, and we all stayed in the house. Harold brought
in one of his political economy studies from the library, and I tried
to wile Dora to look at the pictures in a curious big old Dutch
Scripture history, the Sunday delight of our youth.
Eustace came too, as if he wanted the amusement and yet was ashamed
to take it, when he exclaimed, "I say, Harry; isn't this the book
father used to tell us about--that they used to look over?"
Harold came, and stood towering above us with his hands in his
pockets; but when we came to the Temptation of Eve, Dora broke out
into an exclamation that excited my curiosity too much not to be
pursued, though it was hardly edifying.
"Was that such a snake as Harold killed?"
"I have killed a good many snakes," he answered.
"Yes, but I meant the ones you killed when you were a little tiny
"I don't remember," he said, as if to stop the subject, hating, as he
always did, to talk about himself.
"No, I know you don't," said Dora; "but it is quite true, isn't it,
"Hardly true that Harold ever was a little tiny boy," I could not
"No, he never was _little_," said Eustace. "But it is quite true
about the snakes. I seem to remember it now, and I've often heard my
mother and my Aunt Alice tell of it. It was at the first place where
we were in New South Wales. I came running out screaming, I believe-
-I was old enough to know the danger--and when they went in there was
Harry sitting on the floor, holding a snake tight by the neck and
enjoying its contortions like a new toy."
"Of course," said Harold, "if it were poisonous, which I doubt, the
danger would have been when I let go. My mother quietly bade me hold
him tight, which I suppose I had just sense enough to do, and in
another moment she had snatched up the bill-hook they had been
cutting wood with, and had his head off. She had the pluck."
I could but gasp with horror, and ask how old he was. About two!
That was clear to their minds from the place where it happened which
Harold could not recollect, though Eustace could.
"But, Harold, you surely are the eldest," I said.
"Oh no; I am six months the eldest," said Eustace, proud of his
We were to hear more of that by-and-by.
Monday afternoon brought Mr. Prosser, who was closeted with Harold,
while Eustace and I devoted our faculties to pacifying Dora under her
exclusion, and preventing her from climbing up to the window-sill to
gaze into the library from without. She scorned submission to either
of us, so Eustace kept guard by lying on the grass below, and I
coaxed her by gathering primroses, sowing seeds, and using all
inducements I could think of, but my resources were nearly exhausted
when Harold's head appeared at the window, and he called, "Eustace!
We came at once, Dora before us.
"Come in," said Harold, admitting us at the glass door. "It is all a
mistake. I am not the man. It is Eustace. Eu, I wish you joy, old
Mr. Prosser was at the table with a great will lying spread out on
it. "I am afraid Mr. Alison is right, Miss Alison," he said. "The
property is bequeathed to the eldest of the late Mr. Alison's
grandsons born here, not specifying by which father. If I had copied
the terms of the will I might have prevented disappointment, but I
had no conception of what he tells me."
"But Ambrose was Harold's father," I exclaimed in bewilderment, "and
he was the eldest."
"The seniority was not considered as certain," said Mr. Prosser, "and
therefore the late Mr. Alison left the property to the eldest child
born at home. 'Let us at least have an English-born heir,' I
remember he said to me."
"And that is just what I am not," said Harold.
"I cannot understand! I have heard Miss Woolmer talk of poor
Ambrose's beautiful child, several months older than Eustace's, and
his name was Harold."
"Yes," said Harold, "but that one died on the voyage out, an hour or
two before I was born. He was Harold Stanislas. I have no second
"And I always was the eldest," reiterated Eustace, hardly yet
understanding what it involved.
All the needful documents had been preserved and brought home. There
was the extract from the captain's log recording the burial at sea of
Harold Stanislas Alison, aged fifteen months, and the certificate of
baptism by a colonial clergyman of Harold, son of Ambrose and Alice
Alison, while Eustace was entered in the Northchester register,
having been born in lodgings, as Mr. Prosser well recollected, while
his poor young father lay under sentence of death.
It burst on him at last. "Do you mean that I have got it, and not
"That's about it," said Harold. "Never mind, Eu, it will all come to
the same thing in the end."
"You have none of it!"
"Not an acre. It all goes together; but don't look at me in that
way. There's Boola Boola, you know."
"You're not going back there to leave me?" exclaimed Eustace, with a
real sound of dismay, laying hold of his arm.
"Not just yet, at any rate," said Harold.
"No, no; nor at all," reiterated Eustace, and then, satisfied by the
absence of contradiction, which did, in fact, mean a good deal from
the silent Harold, he began to discover his own accession of dignity.
"Then it all belongs to me. I am master. I am squire--Eustace
Alison, Esquire, of Arghouse. How well it sounds. Doesn't it,
Harry, doesn't it, Lucy? Uncle Smith always said I was the one cut
out for high life. Besides, I've been presented, and have been to a
ball at Government House."
I saw that Mr. Prosser was a little overcome with amusement, and I
wanted to make my retreat and carry off Dora, but she had perched on
her favourite post--Harold's knee--and I was also needed to witness
Eustace's signatures, as well as on some matters connected with my
own property. So I stayed, and saw that he did indeed seem lost
without his cousin's help. Neither knew anything about business of
this kind, but Harold readily understood what made Eustace so
confused, that he was quite helpless without Harold's explanations,
and rather rough directions what he was to do. How like themselves
their writing was! Eustace's neat and clerkly, but weak and
illegible; and Harold's as distinct, and almost as large, as a
schoolboy's copy, but with square-turned joints and strength of limb
unlike any boy's writing.
The dressing-bell broke up the council, and Harold snatched up his
hat to rush out and stretch his legs, but I could not help detaining
him to say:
"Oh, Harry, I am so sorry!"
"Why?" he said.
"What does it leave you, Harry?"
"Half the capital stock farm, twelve thousand sheep, and a tidy sum
in the Sydney bank," said Harold readily.
"Then I am afraid we shall lose you."
"That depends. I shall set Eustace in the way of doing what our
fathers meant; and there's Prometesky--I shall not go till I have
done his business."
I hardly knew what this meant, and could not keep Harold, whose long
legs were eager for a rush in the fresh air; and the next person I
met was Eustace.
"Aunt Lucy," he said, "that old fellow says you are going away. You
I answered, truly enough, that I had not thought what to do, and he
persisted that I had promised to stay.
"But that was with Harry," I said.
"I don't see why you should not stay as much with me," he said.
"I'm your nephew all the same, and Dora is your niece; and she must
be made a proper sister for me, who have been, &c."
I don't know that this form of invitation was exactly the thing that
would have kept me; but I had a general feeling that to leave these
young men and my old home would be utter banishment, that there was
nothing I so cared for as seeing how they got on, and that it was
worth anything to me to be wanted anywhere and by anyone; so I gave
Eustace to understand that I meant to stay. I rather wished Harold
to have pressed me; but I believe the dear good fellow honestly
thought everyone must prefer Eustace to himself; and it was good to
see the pat he gave his cousin's shoulder when that young gentleman,
nothing loath, exultingly settled down in the master's place.
Before long I found out what Harold meant about Prometesky's
business; for we had scarcely begun dinner before he began to consult
Mr. Prosser about the ways and means of obtaining a pardon for
Prometesky. This considerably startled Mr. Prosser. Some cabinets,
he said, were very lenient to past political offences, but Prometesky
seemed to him to have exceeded all bounds of mercy.
"You never knew the true facts, then?" said Harold.
"I know the facts that satisfied the jury."
"You never saw my father's statement?"
No, Mr. Prosser had been elsewhere, and had not been employed in my
brother's trial; he had only inherited the connection with our family
affairs when the matter had passed into comparative oblivion.
My brothers had never ceased to affirm that he had only started for
the farm that had been Lewthwayte's on hearing that an attack was to
be made on it, in hopes of preventing it, and that the witness, borne
against him on the trial by a fellow who had turned king's evidence,
had been false; but they had been unheeded, or rather Prometesky was
regarded as the most truly mischievous of all, as perhaps he really
had been, since he had certainly drawn them into the affair, and his
life had barely been saved in consideration of his having rescued a
child from the fire at great personal peril.
Ambrose had written again and again about him to my father, but as
soon as the name occurred the letter had been torn up. On their
liberation from actual servitude they had sent up their statement to
the Government of New South Wales; but in the meantime Prometesky had
fared much worse than they had. They had been placed in hands where
their education, superiority, and good conduct had gained them trust
and respect, and they had quickly obtained a remission of the severer
part of their sentence and become their own masters; indeed, if
Ambrose had lived, he would soon have risen to eminence in the
colony. But Prometesky had fallen to the lot of a harsh, rude
master, who hated him as a foreigner, and treated him in a manner
that roused the proud spirit of the noble. The master had sworn that
the convict had threatened his life, and years of working in chains
on the roads had been the consequence.
It was no time for entertaining a petition on his account, and before
the expiration of this additional sentence Ambrose was dead.
By that time Eustace, now a rich and prosperous man, would gladly
have taken his old tutor to his home, but Prometesky was still too
proud, and all that he would do was to build a little hut under a
rock on the Boola Boola grounds, where he lived upon the proceeds of
such joiner's and watchmaker's work as was needed by the settlers on
a large area, when things were much rougher than even when my nephews
came home. No one cared for education enough to make his gifts
available in that direction, except as concerned Harold, who had, in
fact, learnt of him almost all he knew in an irregular, voluntary
sort of fashion, and who loved him heartily.
His health was failing now, and to bring him home was one of Harold's
prime objects, since London advice might yet restore him. Harold had
made one attempt in his cause at Sydney, sending in a copy of his
father's dying statement, also signed by his uncle; but though he was
told that it had been received, he had no encouragement to hope it
would be forwarded, and had been told that to apply direct to the
Secretary of State, backed by persons from our own neighbourhood,
would be the best chance, and on this he consulted Mr. Prosser, but
without meeting much sympathy. Mr. Prosser said many people's minds
had changed with regard to English or Irish demagogues, and that the
Alison Brothers themselves might very probably have been pardoned,
but everyone was tired of Poles, and popular tradition viewed
Prometesky as the ogre of the past. Mr. Prosser did not seem as if
he would even very willingly assist in the drawing up in due form a
petition in the Pole's favour, and declared that without some
influential person to introduce it, it would be perfectly useless.
Eustace turned round with, "There, you see, Harold, nothing can be
"I do not see that," said Harold, in his quiet way.
"You do not mean to do anything?"
"Yes, I do."
"But what--what? What can you do?"
"I do not yet know."
"You see it is of no use. We shall only get into a scrape with all
the gentlemen of the county."
"Never mind now, Eustace," said Harold, briefly. But I knew the
expression of his face by this time quite well enough to be certain
that nothing would make him abandon the cause of his father's old
friend; and that his silence was full of the strongest determination.
I think it fascinated me, and though in my cooler senses I reverted
to my old notion of Prometesky as a dangerous firebrand, I could not
help feeling for and with the youth whose soul was set on delivering
his friend from exile.
My turn came the next morning, before Mr. Prosser went away. He had
much to say against my making Arghouse my home, telling me that I had
a full independence and could live where I pleased; but that I knew
already, and had decided on the amount I ought to pay towards the
Then he wanted me to understand how the young men were looked upon,
and the dread all the neighbourhood had of them. I said I had shared
this dread, but on better acquaintance I found it quite undeserved,
and this being the case it was incumbent on their only relation to
stand by them, and not shun them as if they had brought the leprosy.
This he allowed, calling it a generous feeling, if they were worthy
of it. But what greatly amazed me was his rejoicing that Eustace had
proved to be the heir, since nothing was known against him, and when
the other young man was gone there was hope that any little distrusts
might be allayed, and that he might ultimately take his place in the
The other young man! Why should there be any distrust of Harold? I
grew hot and indignant, and insisted on knowing what was meant; but
Mr. Prosser declared that he knew nothing, only there were vague
reports which made him rejoice that Mr. Harold Alison was not called
to be the manager of the property, and would make him question
whether a young lady would find it expedient to be long an inmate of
the same house.
What reports could he mean? No--I could get no more out of him; he
was too cautious to commit himself, and seemed to be satisfied by
observing that if I changed my mind, I could at any time leave my
"Her nephews," I heard him mutter to himgelf; "yes, her nephews.
No one has any right to object, and she can but judge for herself--
there's no harm done."
I shall always believe, however, that he set on my friends to
remonstrate, for letters began coming in, in all the senses of the
imperative mood, commanding and entreating me to leave Arghouse.
There was one such as only Lord Erymanth could write. He was an old
man, and never could make short work of anything. They say that his
chief political value was to be set on when anyone was wanted to
speak against time. I know he was very dreadful at all the platforms
in the county; but he was very good and conscientious, and everyone
looked up to him as a sort of father of the country.
But oh! that letter! Such a battery of heavy arguments against my
unprecedented step in taking up my residence with these unfortunate
young men, who, though they had not themselves openly transgressed
the law of the land, yet were the offspring of unhallowed unions with
the children of a felon. I cannot go through it all, but it hinted
that besides their origin, there was some terrible stain on Harold,
and that society could not admit them; so that if I persisted in
casting in my lot with them, I should share the ban. Indeed, he
would have thought my own good sense and love of decorum would have
taught me that the abode of two such youths would be no fit place for
the daughter of such respected parents, and there was a good deal
more that I could not understand about interceding with his sister,
and her overlooking my offence in consideration of my inexperience
On my first impulse I wrote to thank my old friend, but to say I
could see no harm in an aunt's being with her nephews, and that I was
sure he had only to know them to lay aside all doubts of their being
thorough gentlemen and associates for anybody. My little niece
required my care, and I should stay and give it to her till some
other arrangement was made. If Lady Diana were displeased with me,
I was very sorry, but I could see no reason for it.
When I looked over the old Earl's letter, before closing mine, some
expressions wound out of the mist that made me uncomfortable,
especially when I recollected that though it was a week since their
arrival, no one had attempted to call but Mr. Crosse, the vicar of
Mycening, a very "good man in the pulpit," as the servants said, and
active in the parish, but underbred and no companion.
Our neighbourhood was what is called very clannish. There were two
families, the Horsmans and the Stympsons, who seemed to make up all
the society. The sons either had the good livings, or had retired
from their professions into cottages round and about, and the first
question after any party was, how many of each. The outsiders, not
decidedly of inferior rank, were almost driven into making a little
clique--if so it might be called--of their own, and hanging together
the more closely. Lord Erymanth of course predominated; but he was
a widower of many years' standing, and his heir lived in a distant
county. His sister, Lady Diana, had been married to an Irish Mr.
Tracy, who had been murdered after a few years by his tenants, upon
which she had come with her three children to live at Arked House.
I never could guess how she came to marry an Irish landlord, and I
always thought she must have exasperated his people. She was viewed
as the perfection of a Lady Bountiful and pattern of excellence; but,
I confess, that I always thought of her when I heard of the devout
and honourable women who were stirred up against St. Paul. She was
a person who was admired more than she was liked, and who was greatly
praised and honoured, but somehow did not proportionably endear
herself on closer acquaintance, doing a great deal of good, but all
to large masses rather than individuals. However, all the
neighbourhood had a pride in her, and it was a distinction to be
considered a fit companion for Diana and Viola Tracy. I never cared
for Di, who was her mother over again, and used to set us to rights
with all her might; but she had married early, a very rich man--and
Viola and I had always been exceedingly fond of one another, so that
I could not bear to be cut off from her, however I might be disposed
to defy her mother.
The upshot of my perplexities was that I set off to Mycening to lay
them before Miss Woolmer, another of the few belonging to neither
clan, to know what all this meant, as well as to be interested in my
Mycening is one of the prettiest country towns I know, at least it
was twenty years ago. There is a very wide street, unpaved, but with
a broad smooth gravelled way, slightly sloping down towards the
little clean stone-edged gutters that border the carriage road along
the centre, which is planted on each side with limes cut into arches.
The houses are of all sorts, some old timbered gable-ended ones with
projecting upper stories, like our own, others of the handsome old
Queen Anne type with big sash windows, and others quite modern. Some
have their gardens in front, some stand flush with the road, and the
better sort are mixed with the shops and cottages.
Miss Woolmer lived in a tiny low one, close to the road, where, from
her upstairs floor, she saw all that came and went, and, intellectual
woman as she certainly was, she thoroughly enjoyed watching her
neighbours, as by judiciously-arranged looking-glasses, she could do
all up and down the street. I believe she had been a pretty woman,
though on a small scale, and now she had bright eyes, and a very
sweet bright look, though in complexion she had faded into the worn
pallor that belongs to permanent ill health. She dressed nicely, and
if she had been well, might, at her age, scarcely above forty, have
been as much a young lady as Philippa Horsman; but I fancy the great
crush of her life had taken away her girlhood and left her no spring
of constitution to resist illness, so that she had sunk into a
regular crippled invalid before I could remember, though her mind was
full of activity.
"You are come to tell me about them, my dear," was her greeting.
"I've seen them. No, I don't mean that they have been to see me.
You'll bring them some day, won't you? I'm sure Ambrose's boy would
come to see a sick woman. I watched one of them yesterday pick up
old Molly's oranges for her in the street, when her basket got upset
by a cart, and he then paid her for them, and gave them among the
children round. It did my heart good, I'd not seen such a sight
since the boys were sent away."
"Harold would do anything kind," I said, "or to see an old friend of
his father. The worst of it is that there seem to be so few who wish
to see him, or can even forgive me for staying with him."
I showed her Lord Erymanth's letter, and told her of the others,
asking her what it meant. "Oh, as to Lady Diana," she said, "there
is no doubt about that. She was greatly offended at your having sent
away her carriage and not having taken her advice, and she goes about
saying she is disappointed in you."
For my mother's sake, and my little Viola, and Auld Lang Syne
besides, I was much hurt, and defended myself in a tone of pique
which made Miss Woolmer smile and say she was far from blaming me,
but that she thought I ought to count the cost of my remaining at
Arghouse. And then she told me that the whole county was up in arms
against the new comers, not only from old association of their name
with revolutionary notions, but because the old Miss Stympsons, of
Lake Side, who had connections in New South Wales, had set it abroad
that the poor boys were ruffians, companions of the double-dyed
villain Prometesky, and that Harold in especial was a marked man, who
had caused the death of his own wife in a frenzy of intoxication.
At this I fairly laughed. Harold, at his age, who never touched
liquor, and had lived a sort of hermit life in the Bush, to be
saddled with a wife only to have destroyed her! The story
contradicted itself by its own absurdity; and those two Miss
Stympsons were well-known scandal-mongers. Miss Woolmer never
believed a story of theirs without sifting, but she had been in a
manner commissioned to let me know that society was determined not to
accept Eustace and Harold Alison, and was irate at my doing so.
Mothers declared that they should be very sorry to give poor Lucy
Alison up, but that they could not have their children brought into
contact with young men little better than convicts, and whom they
would, besides, call my cousins, instead of my nephews. "I began to
suspect it," I said, "when nobody left cards but Mr. Lawless and
"And that is the society they are to be left to?"
"But I shall not leave them," I cried. "Why should I, to please Miss
Stympson and Lord Erymanth? I shall stand by my own brothers' sons
against all the world."
"And if they be worthy, Lucy, your doing so is the best chance of
their weathering the storm. See! is not that one of them? The
grand-looking giant one, who moves like a king of men. He is
Ambrose's son, is he not? What a pity he is not the squire!"
Harold was, in effect, issuing from the toy-shop, carrying an immense
kite on his arm, like a shield, while Dora frisked round in
admiration, and a train of humbler admirers flocked in the rear.
I hurried down into the street to tell Harold of my old friend's wish
to see them, and he followed me at once, with that manner which was
not courtesy, because, without being polished, it was so much more.
Dora was much displeased, being ardent on the kite's tail, and
followed with sullen looks, while Harold had to stoop low to get into
the room, and brushed the low ceiling with his curly hair as he stood
upright, Miss Woolmer gazing up to the very top of him. I think she
was rather disappointed that he had not taken more after his father;
and she told him that he was like his uncle Lewthwayte, looking
keenly to see whether he shrunk from the comparison to a man who had
died a felon's death; but he merely answered, "So I have been told."
Then she asked for his mother, and he briefly replied that she was
well and in New Zealand. There was an attempt at noticing Dora, to
which she responded like the wild opossum that she was, and her
fidgeting carried the day. Harold only made answer to one or two
more observations, and then could not but take leave, promising on
the entreaty of the old lady, to come and see her again. I outstayed
them, being curious to hear her opinion.
"A superb being," she said, with a long breath; "there's the easy
strength of a Greek demi-god in every tread."
"He seems to me more like Thor in Nifelheim," I said, "being, no
doubt, half a Viking to begin with."
"They are all the same, as people tell us now," she said, smiling.
"Any way, he looks as if he was a waif from the heroic age. But, my
dear, did not I hear him call you Lucy?"
"They generally do."
"I would not let them. Cling to your auntship; it explains your
being with them. A grand creature! I feel like the people who had
had a visit from the gods of old."
"And you understand how impossible it would be to run away," I said.
She smiled, but added, "Lucy, my dear, that looked very like a
I could not think it possible. Why, he was scarcely five-and-twenty!
And yet the suggestion haunted me, whenever my eyes fell on his
countenance in repose, and noted the habitual sadness of expression
which certainly did not match with the fine open face that seemed
fitted to express the joy of strength. It came on me too when, at
the lodge, a child who had been left alone too long and had fallen
into an unmitigated agony of screaming, Harry had actually, instead
of fleeing from the sound, gone in, taken the screamer in his arms,
and so hushed and pacified it, that on the mother's return she found
it at perfect rest.
"One would think the gentleman was a father himself, ma'am," she had
said to me; and thereupon Harold had coloured, and turned hastily
aside, so that the woman fancied she had offended him and apologised,
so that he had been forced to look back again and say, "Never mind,"
and "No harm done," with a half laugh, which, as it now struck me,
had a ring of pain in it, and was not merely the laugh of a shy young
man under an impossible imputation. True, I knew he was not a
religious man, but to believe actual ill of him seemed to me
He had set himself to survey the Arghouse estate, so as to see how
those dying wishes of his father could best be carried out, and he
was making himself thoroughly acquainted with every man, woman,
child, and building, to the intense jealousy of Bullock, who had been
agent all through my mother's time, and had it all his own way. He
could not think why "Mr. Harold" should be always hovering about the
farms and cottages, sometimes using his own ready colonial hand to
repair deficiencies, and sometimes his purse, and making the people
take fancies into their heads that were never there before, and which
would make Mr. Alison lose hundreds a year if they were attended to.
And as Mr. Alison always did attend to his cousin, and gave orders
accordingly, the much-aggrieved Bullock had no choice but in delaying
their execution and demonstrating their impracticability, whereas, of
course, Harold did not believe in impossibilities.
It was quite true, as he had once said, that though he could not
bring about improvements as readily as if he had been landlord, yet
he could get at the people much better, and learn their own point of
view of what was good for them. They were beginning to idolise him;
for, indeed, there was a fascination about him which no one could
resist. I sometimes wondered what it was, considering that he was so
slow of speech, and had so little sunshine of mirth about him.
I never did enforce my title of Aunt, in spite of Miss Woolmer's
advice. It sounded too ridiculous, and would have hindered the
sisterly feeling that held us together.
Eustace was restless and vexed at not being called upon, and anxious
to show himself on any occasion, and I was almost equally anxious to
keep him back, out of reach of mortification. Both he and Harold
went to London on business, leaving Dora with me. The charge was
less severe than I expected. My first attempts at teaching her had
been frustrated by her scorn of me, and by Harold's baffling
indulgence; but one day, when they had been visiting one of the
farms, the children had been made to exhibit their acquirements,
which were quite sufficient to manifest Dora's ignorance. Eustace
had long declared that if she would not learn of me she must either
have a governess or go to school, and I knew she was fit for neither.
Harold, I believe, now enforced the threat, and when he went away,
left her a black silk necktie to be hemmed for him, and a toy book
with flaming illustrations, with an assurance that on her reading it
to him on his return, depended his giving her a toy steam-engine.
Dora knew that Harold kept his word, even with her. I think she had
a great mind to get no one's assistance but the kitchenmaid's, but
this friendship was abruptly terminated by Dora's arraying the
kangaroo in Sarah's best bonnet and cloak, and launching it upon a
stolen interview between her and her sweetheart. The screams brought
all the house together, and, as the hero was an undesirable party who
had been forbidden the house, Sarah viewed it as treachery on Miss
Dora's part, and sulked enough to alienate her.
Dora could make out more to herself in a book than she could read
aloud, and one day I saw her spelling over the table of degrees of
marriage in a great folio Prayer-Book, which she had taken down in
quest of pictures. Some time later in the day, she said, "Lucy, are
you Harry's father's sister?" and when I said yes, she added, with a
look of discovery, "A man cannot marry his father's sister."
It was no time to protest against the marriage of first cousins. I
was glad enough that from that time the strange child laid aside her
jealousy of me; and that thenceforth her resistance was simply the
repugnance of a wild creature to be taught and tamed. Ultimately she
let me into the recesses of that passionate heart, and, as I think,
loved me better than anybody else, except Harold; but even so, at an
infinite distance from that which seemed the chief part of her whole
CHAPTER II. THE LION OF NEME HEATH.
The work was done. The sixteen pages of large-type story book were
stumbled through; and there was a triumphant exhibition when the
cousins came home--Eustace delighted; Harold, half-stifled by London,
insisting on walking home from the station to stretch his legs, and
going all the way round over Kalydon Moor for a whiff of air!
If we had not had a few moors and heaths where he could breathe,
I don't know whether he could have stayed in England; and as for
London, the din, the dinginess, the squalor of houses and people,
sat like a weight on his heart.
"They told me a great deal had been done for England. It is just
nothing," he said, and hardly anything else that whole evening; while
Eustace, accoutred point-device by a London tailor, poured forth
volumes of what he had seen and done. Mr. Prosser made up a dinner
party for them, and had taken them to an evening party or two--at
least, Eustace; for after the first Harold had declined, and had
spent his time in wandering about London by gas-light, and standing
on the bridges, or trying how far it was on each side to green
fields, and how much misery lay between.
Eustace had evidently been made much of, and had enjoyed himself
greatly. It grieved me that his first entrance into society should
be under no better auspices than those of the family solicitor; but
he did not yet perceive this, and was much elated. "I flatter myself
it was rather a success," was the phrase he had brought home, apropos
to everything he had worn or done, from his tie to his shoe-buckles.
He told me the price of everything, all the discussions with his
tradesmen, and all the gazes fixed on him, with such simplicity that
I could not help caring, and there sat Harold in his corner,
apparently asleep, but his eye now and then showing that he was
"Lucy," he said, as we bade one another good-night, "is nothing being
"About what?" I asked.
"For all that wretchedness."
"Oh yes, there are all sorts of attempts," and I told him of model
cottages, ragged schools, and the like, and promised to find him the
accounts; but he gave one of his low growls, as if this were but a
mockery of the direful need.
He had got his statement of Prometesky's case properly drawn up, and
had sent up a copy, but in vain; and had again been told that some
influential person must push it to give it any chance. Mr. Prosser's
acquaintance lay in no such line; or, at least, were most unlikely to
promote the pardon of an old incendiary.
"What will you do?" I asked. "Must you give it up?"
"Never! I will make a way at last."
Meantime, he was necessary to Eustace in accomplishing all the
details of taking possession. Horses were wanted by both, used to
riding as they had always been, and there was an old-fashioned fair
on Neme Heath, just beyond Mycening, rather famous for its good show
of horses, where there was a chance of finding even so rare an
article as a hunter up to Harold's weight, also a pony for Dora.
An excellent show of wild beasts was also there. Harold had been on
the heath when it was being arranged in the earliest morning hours,
and had fraternised with the keepers, and came home loquacious far
more than usual on the wonders he had seen. I remember that, instead
of being disappointed in the size of the lions and tigers, he dwelt
with special admiration on their supple and terrible strength of
spine and paw.
He wanted to take Dora at once to the menagerie, but I represented
the inexpedience of their taking her about with them to the horse-
fair afterwards, and made Eustace perceive that it would not do for
Miss Alison; and as Harold backed my authority, she did not look like
thunder for more than ten minutes when she found we were to drive to
Neme Heath, and that she was to go home with me after seeing the
animals. Eustace was uncertain about his dignity, and hesitated
about not caring and not intending, and not liking me to go alone,
but made up his mind that since he had to be at the fair, he would
So we had out the barouche, and Eustace held the reins with infinite
elation, while Harold endured the interior to reconcile Dora to it,
and was as much diverted as she was at the humours of the scene,
exclaiming at every stall of gilt gingerbread, every see-saw, and
merry-go-round, that lined the suburbs of Mycening, and I strongly
suspect meditating a private expedition to partake of their delights.
Harold was thoroughly the great child nature meant him for, while
poor Eustace sat aloft enfolded in his dignity, not daring to look
right or left, or utter a word of surprise, lest he should compromise
himself in the eyes of the coachman by his side.
The fair was upon the heath, out to which the new part of the town
was stretching itself, and long streets of white booths extended
themselves in their regular order. We drove on noiselessly over the
much-trodden turf, until we were checked by the backward rush of a
frightened crowd, and breathless voices called out to Eustace, "Stop,
sir; turn, for Heaven's sake. The lion! He's loose!"
Turning was impossible, for the crowd was rushing back on us,
blocking us up; and Eustace dropped the reins, turning round with a
cry of "Harry! Harry! I see him. Take us away!"
Harold sprang on the back seat as the coachman jumped down to run to
the horses' heads. He saw over the people's heads, and after that
glance made one bound out of the carriage. I saw then what I shall
never forget, across the wide open space round which the principal
shows were arranged, and which was now entirely bare of people. On
the other side, between the shafts of a waggon, too low for him to
creep under, lay the great yellow lion, waving the tufted end of his
tail as a cat does, when otherwise still, showing the glassy glare of
his eyes now and then, growling with a horrible display of fangs, and
holding between those huge paws a senseless boy as a sort of hostage.
>From all the lanes between the booths the people were looking in
terror, ready for a rush on the beast's least movement, shrieking
calls to someone to save the boy, fetch a gun, bring the keeper, &c.
That moment, with the great thick carriage-rug on his arm, Harold
darted forward, knocking down a gun which some foolish person had
brought from a shooting-gallery, and shouting, "Don't! It will only
make him kill the boy!" he gathered himself up for a rush; while I
believe we all called to him to stop: I am sure of Eustace's "Harry!
don't! What shall I do?"
Before the words were spoken, Harold had darted to the side of the
terrible creature, and, with a bound, vaulted across its neck as it
lay, dealing it a tremendous blow over the nose with that sledge-
hammer fist, and throwing the rug over its head. Horrible roaring
growls, like snarling thunder, were heard for a second or two, and
one man dashed out of the frightened throng, rifle in hand, just in
time to receive the child, whom Harold flung to him, snatched from
the lion's grasp; and again we saw a wrestling, struggling, heaving
mass, Harry still uppermost, pinning the beast down with his weight
and the mighty strength against which it struggled furiously. Having
got free of the boy, his one ally was again aiming his rifle at the
lion's ear, when two keepers, with nets and an iron bar, came on the
scene, one shouting not to shoot, and the other holding up the bar
and using some word of command, at which the lion cowered and
crouched. The people broke into a loud cheer after their breathless
silence, and it roused the already half-subdued lion. There was
another fierce and desperate struggle, lasting only a moment, and
ended by the report of the rifle.
In fact, the whole passed almost like a flash of lightning from the
moment of our first halt, till the crowd closed in, so that I could
only see one bare yellow head, towering above the hats, and finally
cleaving a way towards us, closely followed by Dermot Tracy, carrying
the rifle and almost beside himself with enthusiasm and excitement.
"Lucy--is it you? What, he is your cousin? I never saw anything
like it! He mastered it alone, quite alone!"
And then we heard Harry bidding those around not touch him, and Dora
screamed with dismay, and I saw he had wrapped both hands in his
handkerchief. To my frightened question, whether he was hurt, he
answered, "Only my hands, but I fancy the brute has done for some of
my fingers. If those fellows could but have held their tongues!"
He climbed into the carriage to rid himself of the crowd, who were
offering all sorts of aid, commiseration, and advice, and Dermot
begged to come too, "in case he should be faint," which made Harry
smile, though he was in much pain, frowning and biting his lip while
the coachman took the reins, and turned us round amid the deafening
cheers of the people, for Eustace was quite unnerved, and Dora broke
into sobs as she saw the blood soaking through the handkerchiefs--all
that we could contribute. He called her a little goose, and said it
was nothing; but the great drops stood on his brow, he panted and
moved restlessly, as if sitting still were unbearable, and he could
hardly help stamping out the bottom of the carriage. He shouted to
Eustace to let him walk, but Dermot showed him how he would thus have
the crowd about him in a moment. It was the last struggle that had
done the mischief, when the lion, startled by the shout of the crowd,
had turned on him again, and there had been a most narrow escape of a
dying bite, such as would probably have crushed his hand itself
beyond all remedy; and, as it was, one could not but fear he was
dreadfully hurt, when the pain came in accesses of violence several
times in the short distance to Dr. Kingston's door.
No, Dr. Kingston was not at home; nor would be in for some time; but
while we were thinking what to do, a young man came hastily up,
saying "I am Dr. Kingston's partner; can I do anything?"
Harold sprang out on this, forbidding Eustace to follow him, but
permitting Dermot; and Mrs. Kingston, an old acquaintance of mine,
came and invited us all to her drawing-room, lamenting greatly her
husband's absence, and hoping that Mr. Yolland, his new partner,
would be able to supply his place. The young man had very high
testimonials and an excellent education. She was evidently exercised
between her own distrust of the assistant and fear of disparaging
him. Seeing how much shaken we were, she sent for wine, and I was
surprised to see Eustace take some almost furtively, but his little
sister, though still sobbing, glared out from behind the knuckles she
was rubbing into her eyes, and exclaimed, "Eustace, I shall tell
"Hold your tongue," said Eustace, petulantly; "Harry has nothing to
do with it."
Mrs. Kingston looked amazed. I set to work to talk them both down,
and must have given a very wild, nervous account of the disaster.
At last Dermot opened the door for Harry, who came in, looking very
pale, with one hand entirely covered and in a sling, the other bound
up all but the thumb and forefinger. To our anxious inquiries, he
replied that the pain was much better now, and he should soon be all
right; and then, on being further pressed, admitted that the little
finger had been so much crushed that it had been taken off from the
first joint, the other three fingers had been broken and were in
splints, and the right hand was only torn and scratched. Mrs.
Kingston exclaimed at this that Mr. Yolland should have waited for
the doctor to venture on such an operation, but both Dermot and
Harold assured her that he could not have waited, and also that it
could not have been more skilfully done, both of which assurances she
must have heard with doubts as to the competence of the judges, and
she much regretted that she could not promise a visit from her doctor
that evening, as he was likely to be detained all night.
Dermot came downstairs with us, and we found Mr. Yolland waiting at
the door to extract a final promise that Harold would go to bed at
once on coming home. It seemed that he had laughed at the
recommendation, so that the young surgeon felt bound to enforce it
before all of us, adding that it was a kind of hurt that no one could
safely neglect. There was something in his frank, brusque manner
that pleased Harold, and he promised with half a smile, thanking the
doctor hastily as he did so, while Dermot Tracy whispered to me,
"Good luck getting him; twice as ready as the old one;" and then
vehemently shaking all our hands, to make up for Harold's not being
fit to touch, he promised to come and see him on the morrow. The
moment we were all in the carriage--Eustace still too much shaken to
drive home--his first question was, who _that_ was?
"Mr. Tracy," I answered; and Eustace added, "I thought you called him
"Dermot--Dermot Tracy. I have known him all our lives."
"I saw he was a gentleman by his boots," quoth Eustace with
deliberation, holding out his own foot as a standard. "I saw they
were London made."
"How fortunate that you had not on your Sydney ones," I could not
help saying in mischief.
"I took care of that," was the complacent answer. "I told Richardson
to take them all away."
I don't think Harold saw the fun. They had neither of them any
humour; even Harold was much too simple and serious.
Eustace next treated us to a piece of his well-conned manual, and
demonstrated that Dermot St. Glear Tracy, Esquire, of Killy Marey,
County Cavan, Ireland, was grandson to an English peer, great
grandson to an Irish peer, and nephew to the existing Edward St.
Glear, 6th Earl of Erymanth. "And a very fashionable young man," he
went on, "distinguished in the sporting world."
"An excellent good fellow, with plenty of pluck," said Harold warmly.
"Is he not brother to the pretty little girl who was with you when we
I answered as briefly as I could; I did not want to talk of the
Tracys. My heart was very sore about them, and I was almost relieved
when Dora broke in with a grave accusing tone: "Harry, Eustace drank
a glass of wine, and I said I would tell you!"
"Eustace has no reason to prevent him," was Harold's quiet answer.
"And, really, I think, in my position, it is ridiculous, you see,"
Eustace began stammering, but was wearily cut short by Harold with,
"As you please."
Eustace could never be silent long, and broke forth again: "Harold,
By way of answer Harold, with his available thumb and finger, showed
the ring for a moment from his waistcoat pocket. Instantly Dora
sprang at it, snatched it from his finger before he was aware, and
with all her might flung it into the river, for we were crossing the
There was strength in that thumb and finger to give her a sharp
fierce shake, and the low voice that said "Dora" was like the lion's
"It's Meg's ring, and I hate her!" she cried.
"For shame, Dorothy."
The child burst into a flood of tears and sobbed piteously, but it
was some minutes before he would relent and look towards her.
Eustace scolded her for making such a noise, and vexing Harold when
he was hurt, but that only made her cry the more. I told her to say
she was sorry, and perhaps Harold would forgive her; but she shook
her head violently at this.
Harold relented, unable to bear the sight of distress. "Don't tease
her," he said, shortly, to us both. "Hush, Dora; there's an end of
This seemed to be an amnesty, for she leant against his knee again.
"Dora, how could you?" I said, when we were out of the carriage, and
the two young men had gone upstairs together.
"It was Meg's ring, and I hate her," answered Dora, with the fierce
wild gleam in her eyes.
"You should not hate anyone," was, of course, my answer.
"But she's dead!" said Dora, triumphantly as a little tigress.
"So much the worse it is to hate her. Who was she?"
"His wife," said Dora.
I durst not ask the child any more questions.
"Eustace, who is Meg?"
I could not but ask that question as we sat tete-a-tete after dinner,
Dora having gone to carry Harold some fruit, and being sure to stay
with him as long as he permitted.
Eustace looked round with a startled, cautious eye, as if afraid of
being overheard, and said, as Dora had done, "His wife."
"Oh, no--thank goodness."
"At his age!"
"He was but twenty when he married her. A bad business! I knew it
could not be otherwise. She was a storekeeper's daughter."
Then I learnt, in Eustace's incoherent style, the sad story I
understood better afterwards.
This miserable marriage had been the outcome of the desolate state of
the family after the loss of all the higher spirits of the elder
generation. For the first few years after my brothers had won their
liberation, and could hold property, they had been very happy, and
the foundations of their prosperity at Boola Boola had been laid.
Had Ambrose lived he would, no doubt, have become a leading man in
the colony, where he had heartily embraced his lot and shaped his
Poor Eustace was, however, meant by nature for a quiet, refined
English gentleman, living in his affections. He would never have
transgressed ordinary bounds save for his brother's overmastering
influence. He drooped from the time of Ambrose's untimely death,
suffered much from the loss of several children, and gradually became
a prey to heart complaint. But his wife was full of sense and
energy, and Ambrose's plans were efficiently carried on, so that all
went well till Alice's marriage; and, a year or two later on,
Dorothy's death, in giving birth to her little girl, no woman was
left at the farm but a rough though kind-hearted old convict, who did
her best for the motherless child.
Harold, then sixteen, and master of his father's half of the
property, was already its chief manager. He was, of course, utterly
unrestrained, doing all kinds of daring and desperate things in the
exuberance of his growing strength, and, though kind to his feeble
uncle, under no authority, and a thorough young barbarian of the
woods; the foremost of all the young men in every kind of exploit, as
marksman, rider, hunter, and what-not, and wanting also to be
foremost in the good graces of Meg Cree, the handsome daughter of the
keeper of the wayside store on the road to Sydney, where young stock-
farmers were wont to meet, with the price of their wool fresh in
their hands. It was the rendezvous for all that was collectively
done in the district; and many were the orgies and revelries in which
Harold had shared when a mere boy in all but strength and stature,
and ungovernable in proportion to the growing forces within him.
Of course she accepted him, with his grand physical advantages and
his good property. There was rivalry enough to excite him, her
beauty was sufficient to fire his boyish fancy; and opposition only
maddened his headstrong will. A loud, boisterous, self-willed boy,
with already strength, courage, and power beyond those of most grown
men; his inclination light and unformed, as the attachments of his
age usually are, was so backed that he succeeded where failure would
have been a blessing.
My poor brother Eustace! what must not Harold's marriage have been to
him! Into the common home, hitherto peaceful if mournful, was
brought this coarse, violent, uneducated woman, jealous of him and
his family, unmeasured in rudeness, contemning all the refinements to
which he clung, and which even then were second nature to the youths,
boasting over him for being a convict, whereas her father was a free
settler, and furious at any act of kindness or respect to him from
She must have had a sort of animal jealousy, for the birth of her
first child rendered her so savagely intolerant of poor Dora's
fondness for Harold, that the offer of a clergyman's wife to take
charge of the little girl was thankfully accepted by her father,
though it separated him from his darling by more than fifty miles.
The woman's plan seemed to be to persecute the two Eustaces out of
her house, since she could not persuade Harold that it was not as
much theirs as his own. They clung on, as weak men do, for want of
energy to make a change, and Eustace said his father would never
complain; but Harold never guessed how much she made him suffer.
Home had become a wretched place to all, and Harold was more
alienated from it, making long expeditions, staying out as long and
as late as he could whenever business or pleasure called him away,
and becoming, alas, more headlong and reckless in the pursuit of
amusement. There were fierce hot words when he came home, and though
a tender respect for his uncle was the one thing in which he never
failed, the whole grand creature was being wrecked and ruined by the
wild courses to which home misery was driving him.
After about three years of this kind of life, Meg, much against his
will, went to her father's station for the birth of her second child;
lingered in the congenial atmosphere there far longer than was
necessary after her recovery, and roused Harold's jealousy to a
violent pitch by her demeanour towards a fellow of her own rank, whom
she probably would have married but for Harold's unfortunate
advantages, and whom she now most perilously preferred.
The jollification after the poor child's long-deferred christening
ended in furious language on both sides, Meg insisting that she would
not go home while "the old man" remained at Boola Boola, Harold
swearing that she should come at once, and finally forcing her into
his buggy, silencing by sheer terror her parents' endeavours to keep
them at least till morning, rather than drive in his half-intoxicated
condition across the uncleared country in the moonlight.
In the early morning Harold stood at their door dazed and bleeding,
with his eldest child crushed and moaning in his arms. Almost
without a word he gave it to the grandmother, and then guided the men
at hand, striding on silently before them, to the precipitous bank of
a deep gulley some twelve miles off. In the bottom lay the carriage
broken to pieces, and beside it, where Harold had dragged them out,
Meg and her baby both quite dead--where he had driven headlong down
in the darkness.
The sun was burning hot when they brought her back in the cart,
Harold walking behind with the little one in his arms, and when he
had laid it down at home, the elder one waited till he took it. It
was a fine boy of two years old, the thing he loved best in the
world; but with a broken spine there was no hope for it, and for a
whole day and night he held it, pacing the room, and calling it,
speaking to and noticing no one else, and touching no food, only
slaking his thirst with the liquor that stood at hand, until the poor
little thing died in convulsions.
Unhappily, he had scarcely laid it down beside its mother and
brother, when he saw his rival in the outer room of the store, and
with one deadly imprecation, and a face which Eustace could not think
of without horror, challenged him to fight, and in a second or two
had struck him down, with a fractured skull. But the deed was done
in undoubted brain fever. That was quite established, and for ten
days after he was desperately ill and in the wildest delirium,
probably from some injury to the head in the fall, aggravated by all
Neiher magistrate nor doctor was called in, but Prometesky came to
their help, and when he grew calmer, brought him home, where his
strength rallied, but his mind was for some time astray. For weeks
he alternated between moods of speechless apathy and hours of frenzy,
which, from his great strength, must have been fatal to someone if he
had not always known his gentle, feeble old uncle, and obeyed his
entreaties, even when Prometesky lost power with him.
In this remote part of the country no one interfered; the Crees,
whose presence maddened him, were afraid to approach, and only
Prometesky sustained the hopes of the two Eustaces by his conviction
that this was not permanent insanity, but a passing effect of the
injury; and they weathered that dreadful time till the frantic fits
ceased, and there was only the dull, silent, stoniness of look and
manner, lasting on after his health had entirely returned, and he had
begun mechanically to attend to the farm and stock, and give orders
to the men.
The final cure was the message that Dora was lost in the Bush.
Harold had the keen sagacity of a black fellow, and he followed up
the track with his unwearied strength until, on the third day, he
found her, revived her with the food he had brought with him, and
carried her home. There was only just nourishment enough to support
her, and he took none himself, so that when he laid her down beside
her father, he was so spent that, after a mouthful or two, he slept
for twenty hours without moving, as he had never rested since the
accident; and when he woke, and Dora ran up and stroked his face, it
was the first time he had been seen to smile. Ever since he had been
himself again, though changed from the boy of exuberant spirits, and
the youth of ungovernable inclinations, into a grave, silent man,
happier apparently in Dora's vehement affection than in anything
else, and, at any rate, solaced, and soothed by the child's fondness
and dependence upon him. This was two years ago, and no token of
mental malady had since shown itself.
My poor brother Eustace! My heart yearned to have been able to
comfort him. His tender nature had been all along the victim of
others, and he was entirely shattered by these last miseries; an old
man when little more than forty, and with heart disease so much
accelerated by distress and agitation, that he did not live a month
after Dora's adventure; but at least he had the comfort of seeing
Harold's restoration, and being able to commit the other two to his
charge, being no doubt aware that his son was at the best a poor weak
being, and that Harold's nature would rise under responsibility which
would call out its generosity.
Harold had never touched liquor since the day of his child's death,
nor spoken of it; but when his dying uncle begged him to watch over
his young cousins, he took up the Bible that lay on the bed, and,
unsolicited, took a solemn oath to taste nothing of the kind for the
rest of his life.
Afterwards the three had lived on together at Boola Boola. Then had
come the tidings of the inheritance supposed to be Harold's, and with
the relief of one glad to make a new beginning, to have a work to do,
and leave old things behind, he had taken both the others with him.
So it was true! My noble-looking Harold had those dark lines in his
spectrum. Wild ungovernable strength had whirled him in mere boyhood
at the beck of his passions, and when most men are entering freshly
upon life, he was already saddened and sobered by sin and suffering.
The stories whispered of him were more than true. I remember I cried
over them as I sat alone that evening. Eustace had not told all with
the extenuations that I discovered gradually, some even then by
cross-questioning, and much by the tuition of that sisterly affection
that had gone out from me to Harold, and fastened on him as the one
who, to me, represented family ties.
I never thought of breaking with him. No, if I had been told he
might be insane that very night, it would have bound me to him the
more. And when I went to bid him "Good-night" and take away Dora,
and saw the massive features in their stillness light up into a good-
natured smile of thanks at my inquiries, I could believe it all the
less. He was lying cornerwise across the bed, with a stool beyond
for his feet to rest on, and laughed a little as he said he always
had to contrive thus, he never found a bed long enough; and our
merriment over this seemed to render what Eustace had told me even
more incongruous in one so scrupulously gentle.
That gentleness was perhaps reactionary in one who had had such
lessons in keeping back his strength. He had evidently come forth a
changed man. But that vow of his--was it the binding of a worse lion
than that he had fought with to-day? Yet could such things be done
in the might of a merely human will? And what token was there of the
higher aid being invoked? My poor Harold! I could only pray for
him! Alas! did he pray for himself?
I was waked in early morning by Dora's vociferous despair at the
disappearance of her big patient, and then Eustace's peremptory
fretful tone was heard silencing her by explaining that Harold's
hurts had become so painful that he had walked off to Mycening to
have the bandages loosened.
Indeed, when we met at breakfast, Eustace seemed to think himself
injured by the interruption of his slumbers by Harold's coming to him
for assistance in putting on his clothes, and 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 words and affectation and
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 interrupted quest of
horses at the fair. This, however, was forbidden, with a hint about
even the strongest constitution not being able to defy tetanus. This
made us all look grave, and submission being promised, the young
doctor took his leave, saying he would come in the evening and dress
the hands again for the night.
"Why _did_ you go to that fellow?" asked Eustace. "It is the old
doctor who attends _gentlemen_; he is only the partner."
"He is good enough for me," said Harold. "I was right glad to meet
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 almost 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
Have I not said that ours was a black oak-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.
"Splendid 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 menagerie 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, he 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.