This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
Collection:
Tags:
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

They would make splendid ornaments–so distingue with such a story attached to them.”

I could only again tell myself that my first impression had been right, and that he must be underwitted to be so absolutely impervious to gratitude. How Harold must have bolstered him up to make him so tolerable as he had been.

He need not have feared. Alice’s improvement was but a last flash of the expiring flame. She grew worse the very day after Harold wrote to me, and did not live three weeks after he brought her into the town, though surrounded by such cares as she had never known before. She died, they said, more from being worn out than from the disease. She had done nothing her whole lifetime but toil for others; and if unselfishness and silent slavery can be religion in a woman, poor Alice had it. But!

Harold once asked her the saddest question that perhaps a son could ask: “Mother, why did you never teach me to say my prayers?”

She stared at him with her great, sunken, uncomplaining eyes, and said, “I hadn’t time;” and as he gave some involuntary groan, she said, “You see we never got religion, not Dorothy and me, while we were girls; and when our troubles came, I’m sure we’d no time for such things as that. When your father lay a-dying, he did say, ‘Alice, take care the boy gets to know his God better than we have done;’ but you were a great big boy by that time, and I thought I would take care you was taught by marrying a parson and a schoolmaster; but there, I ought to have remembered there was none so hard on us as the parsons!”

Nor would she see a clergyman. She had had enough of that sort, she said, with the only petulance she ever showed to Harold when he pressed it. She did not object to his reading to her some of those passages in the Bible and Prayer-Book which had become most dear to him, but she seemed rather to view it as one of the wonderful performances of her boy–a part of his having become “as good an English gentleman as ever his poor father was, and able to hold up his head with any of them.” She was too ill to be argued with; she said “she trusted in God,” whatever she meant by that; and so she died, holding Harold’s hand as long as her fingers could clasp, and gazing at him as long as her eyes could see.

He wrote to me all out of his overflowing heart, as he could never have spoken by word of mouth, on his voyage between New Zealand and Australia; and on his arrival there, finding our letters just before the mail went out, he added the characteristic line to the one he had written to Eustace, “All right, old chap, I wish you joy;” and to me he wrote, that since I asked what he wished, he thought I had better take a house by the year in, or near, Mycening, and see how things would turn out. He hoped I should keep Dora. We need not write again, for he should leave Sydney before our letters could arrive.

I found a little house called Mount Eaton, on the Neme Heath side of Mycening, with a green field between it and the town, and the heath stretching out beyond, where Harold might rush out and shake his mane instead of feeling cribbed and confined. It wanted a great deal of painting and papering, which I set in hand at once, but of course it was a more lingering business than I expected. All the furniture and books that had belonged to my own mother had been left to me, and it had been settled by the valuation, when I knew little about it, what these were; and all that remained was to face Eustace’s disgust at finding how many of “the best things” it comprised. Hippolyta showed to advantage there. I believe she was rather glad to get rid of them, and to have the opportunity of getting newer and more fashionable ones; but, at any rate, she did it with a good grace, and made me welcome not only to my own property, but to remain at Arghouse till my new abode should be habitable, which I hoped would be a day or two after the wedding.

The great grievance was, however, that I had put myself and Dora into mourning, feeling it very sad that this last of the four exiles should be the only one of whose death I even knew. Eustace thought the whole connection ought to be forgotten, and that, whatever I might choose to do, it was intolerable that his sister, the present Miss Alison of Arghouse, should put on mourning for the wife of a disgraced fellow, a runaway parson turned sharper!

I am afraid I was not as patient or tolerant as I ought to have been, and it ended in the time of reprieve being put an end to, and Dora being carried off by the Horsmans to her new schoolroom in London, her resistance, and the home-truths she told her brother, only making him the more inexorable. Poor little girl! I do not like to think of the day I put her into Hippolyta’s hands.

CHAPTER XIII. THE BLOODHOUND.

It was a broiling evening in early June, very beautiful, but so hot that I dreaded the fatigue and all the adjuncts of the morrow’s wedding, when I was to be a bridesmaid, and should see my poor little Dora again. I was alone, for Eustace was sleeping at Therford Vicarage, but I had not time for sentiment over the old home and old gardens. I was turning out the old Indian cabinets, which were none of mine, though they had always been called so, and putting into cotton wool and paper all my treasures there, ready for transport, when a shadow fell on me from the open window. I looked up, and there stood Harold!

Oh, how unlike it was from the way in which we had met three years before as bewildered strangers! I do not think that sister could ever have met brother with more entire feeling that home, and trust, and staff, and stay were come back to her, than when I found Harold’s arm round me, his head bending down to me. I was off my own mind!

When our greeting was over, Harold turned and said, “Here he is.”

I saw a fine-looking old man, with a certain majesty of air that one could not define. He was pale, wrinkled, and had deep furrows of suffering on cheek and brow, but his dark eyes, under a shaggy white penthouse, were full of keen fire and even ardour. His bald forehead was very fine, and his mouth–fully visible, for he was closely shaven–had an ineffable, melancholy sweetness about it, so that the wonderful power of leading all with whom he came in contact was no longer a mystery to me; for, fierce patriot and desperate republican as he might have been, nothing could destroy the inborn noble, and instinctively I bent to him with respect as I took his hand in welcome.

After the hasty inquiries, “Where’s Dora?” “Where’s Eustace?” “Where’s Dermot Tracy?” had been answered, and I had learnt that this last had gone on to London, where his family were, Harold hurried out to see about sending for the luggage, and Prometesky, turning to me, almost took my breath away by saying, “Madam, I revere you. You have done for the youth so dear to me what I could never have done, and have transformed him from a noble savage to that far higher being– the Christian hero.”

I did not take this magnificent compliment as if I had been of the courtly continental blood of him who made it: it made me hot and sheepish, yet even now I still feel warm at the heart when I remember it; for I know he really meant it, little as I deserved it, for the truth was what I faltered out: “It was all in him.”

“It was all in him. That is true; but it needed to be evoked, so as not to be any longer stifled and perverted by the vehemence of his physical nature. When he left me, after the great catastrophe which changed him from the mere exaggerated child, gratifying every passion with violence, I knew it depended on what hands he would fall into, whether the spiritual or the animal would have the mastery. Madam, it was into your hands that he fell, and I thank God for it, even more than for the deliverance that my dear pupil has gained for me.”

He had tears in his eyes as he took my hand and kissed it, and very much overpowered I was. I had somewhat dreaded finding him a free- thinker, but there was something in both speeches that consoled me, and he afterwards said to me: “Madam, in our youth intellectual Catholics are apt to reject what our reason will not accept. We love not authority. In age we gain sympathy with authority, and experience has taught us that there can be a Wisdom surpassing our own. We have proved for ourselves that love cannot live without faith.”

And Harold told me on the evening of their return, with much concern, that the old man had made up his mind that, so soon as his health should be sufficiently restored, he would make retreat among the monks of La Trappe experimentally, and should probably take the vows. “I don’t see that his pardon has done much good,” he said, and did not greatly accept my representation of the marvellous difference it must make to a Roman Catholic to be no longer isolated from the offices of religion. He had made up his mind to come into Sydney to die, but he was too poor to have lived anywhere but under the Boola Boola rock.

It was a very quietly glad evening, as we three sat round the open window, and asked and answered questions. Harold said he would come to the wedding with me the next day; he must see old Eu married; and, besides, he wanted to give up to him the three nuggets, which had been rather a serious charge. Harold, Prometesky, and Dermot had each carried one, in case of any disaster, that there might be three chances; but now they were all three laid in my lap–wonderful things, one a little larger than the others, but all curiously apple- like in form, such gifts as a bride has seldom had.

There was the account of the sale of Boola Boola to be rendered up too; and the place had risen so much in value that it had brought in far more than Harold had expected when leaving England, so that he and Eustace were much richer men than he had reckoned on being.

Mrs. Sam Alison had arrived safely, but rather surprised not to find people walking on their heads, as she had been told everything was upside down. Her son had so far recovered that he could undertake such employment in writing as it was possible to procure. The mother and son were very happy together, but Harold winced as if a sore were touched when he spoke of their meeting.

I was anxious that he should hear of nothing to vex him that night, for there was more than enough to annoy him another day, and I talked on eagerly about the arrangements for the wedding. Hippolyta had insisted on making it a mingled archery and hunt-wedding. She was to wear the famous belt. The bridegroom, her brothers, and most of the gentlemen were to be in their pink; we bridesmaids had scarlet ribbons, and the favours had miniature fox brushes fastened with arrows in the centre; even our lockets, with their elaborate cypher of E’s, A’s, and H’s, depended from the head of a fox.

Prometesky looked amazed, as well he might. “Your ladies are changed,” he said. “It would formerly scarcely have been thought feminine to show such ardour for the chase.”

“Perhaps it is not now,” I said.

“Or is it in honour of the lady’s name? Hippolyta should have a Midsummer wedding, and ‘love the musick of her hounds,'” continued the old gentleman, whom I found to have Shakespeare almost by heart, as one of the chief companions of his solitude.

As soon as Harold heard his boxes arriving, he went to work to disinter the wedding present he had provided–a pretty bracelet of New Zealand green jade set in gold. There was a little parcel for me, too, which he gave me, leading me aside. It was also a locket, and bore a cypher, but how unlike the other! It was a simple A; and within was a lock of silver hair. There was no need to tell me whose it was. “She said she wished she had anything to send you,” were Harold’s words, “and I cut off this bit of her hair;” and when I wondered over her having taken thought of me, he said, “She blessed you for your kindness to me. If I could only have brought her to you–“

I secured then, as the completion of his gift, one of his thick curls of yellow-brown hair. He showed me the chain he had brought for Dora, and gave me one glance at a clear, pure, crystal cross, from spar found in New Zealand, near the gold-fields. Would he ever be able to give it? I answered the question in his eyes by telling him a certain Etruscan flower-pot had stood in a certain window at Arked House all the winter, and was gone to London now.

Our home breakfast had to be very early, to give time for the drive to Therford, but Harold had been already into Mycening, had exchanged countless hearty greetings, roused up an unfortunate hair-cutter, to trim his locks, bought a hat, and with considerable difficulty found a pair of gloves that he could put on–not kid, but thick riding- gloves; white, at least–and so he hoped that they would pass in the crowd, and Eustace would not feel himself disgraced. He had not put on the red coat, but had tried to make himself look as satisfactory to Eustace as possible in black, and (from a rather comical sense of duty) he made me look him over to see if he were worthy of the occasion. He certainly was in splendid looks, his rich, profuse beard and hair were well arranged, and his fine bronzed face had not lost its grave expression when at rest, but had acquired a certain loftiness of countenance, which gave him more than ever the air, I was going to say, of a demigod; but he had now an expression no heathen Greek could give; it was more like that of the heads by Michael Angelo, where Christian yearning is added to classic might and beauty.

Prometesky preferred staying at home. He seemed suffering and weary, and said that perhaps he should wander about and renew his acquaintance with the country; and so Harold and I set off together on the drive, which, as I well knew, would be the most agreeable part of the day.

Very lovely it was as we passed in the morning freshness of the glowing summer day through lanes wreathed with dog-roses and white with May, looking over grass-fields with silvery ripples in the breeze into woods all golden and olive-green above with young foliage, and pink below with campion flowers, while the moorland beyond was in its glory of gorse near at hand, and purple hills closing the distance. I remember the drive especially, because Harold looked at the wealth of gay colouring so lovingly, comparing it with the frequently parched uniformity of the Bush, regretting somewhat the limited range, but owning there were better things than unbounded liberty.

When we reached Therford he would not go to the house with me, nor seek to see Eustace before the wedding, saying he should wait in the churchyard and join us afterwards. So in I went into the scene of waiting, interspersed with bustle, that always precedes a wedding, and was handed into the bed-room where the bridesmaids were secluded till the bride was ready, all save Pippa and the most favoured cousin, who were arraying her. There were a dozen, and all were Horsmans except Dora and me. The child made one great leap at me, and squeezed me, to such detriment of our flimsy draperies that she was instantly called to order. Her lip pouted, and her brow lowered; but I whispered two words in her ear, and with a glance in her eye, and an intent look on her face, she stood, a being strangely changed from the listless, sullen, defiant creature she had been a minute before.

Therford was one of those old places where the church is as near as possible to the manor house, standing on a little elevation above it, and with a long avenue of Lombardy poplars leading from the south porch, the family entrance, to the front door of the house, so this was that pretty thing, a walking, instead of a carriage, wedding. As one of the procession, I could not see, but the red and white must have made it very pretty, and the Northchester paper was quite poetical in its raptures.

All this was, however, forgotten in the terrible adventure that immediately followed. The general entrance was by the west door, and close to this I perceived Harold following his usual practice of getting into the rear and looking over people’s heads. When the service was over, and we waited for the signing of the registers, most of the spectators, and he among them, went out by this western door, and waited in the churchyard to see the procession come out.

Forth it came, headed by the bride and bridegroom, both looking their very handsomest, and we bridesmaids in six couples behind, when, just as we were clear of the porch, and school-children were strewing flowers before the pair, there was a strange shuddering cry, and the great bloodhound, Kirby, with broken chain and foaming jaws–all the dreadful tokens of madness about him–came rushing up the avenue with the speed of the wind, making full for his mistress, the bride. There was not a moment for her to do more than give a sort of shrieking, despairing command, “Down, Kirby!” when, just as the beast was springing on her, his throat was seized by the powerful hands that alone could have grappled with him, and the terrible head, foaming, and making horrid choking growls, was swung round from her, and the dog lifted by the back of the neck in the air, struggling and kicking violently.

Everyone had given back; Hippolyta had thrown herself on Eustace, who drew her back, crowding on us, into the porch; Harold, still holding the dog at arm’s length, made his voice heard in steady tones, “Will some one give me my other glove?”

One hand, that which grasped the dog, was gloved, but the free hand was bare, and it was Dora who first understood, saw the glove at his feet, sprang to his side, and held it up to him, while he worked his hand into it, and she pulled it on for him. Then he transferred his grasp from one hand to the other, and in that moment the powerful bloodhound made a desperate struggle, and managed to get one paw on the ground, and writhe itself round so as to fly at his face and make its teeth actually meet in his beard, a great mouthful of which it tore out, and we saw it champing the hairs, as he again swung it up, so that it could only make frantic contortions with its body and legs, while he held it at arm’s length with the iron strength of his wrists.

This had taken hardly three seconds, and in that time Jack Horsman and a keeper or two had been able to come up, but no one unarmed could give efficient aid, and Harold said, “I’ll take him to the yard.”

Mr. Horsman led the way, and as the keepers followed with several of the gentlemen, I was forced to let Harold vanish, carrying at arm’s length that immense dog, still making horrible rabid struggles.

I don’t clearly remember how we got back to the house. Somebody had fainted, I believe, and there was much confusion; but I know nothing but that there was the report of a pistol, and, almost immediately after, I saw Harold coming up to the hall door with Dora lying back in his arms. Then my eyes and ears grew clear, and I flew forward to ask the dreadful question. “No,” he said, “she is only a little upset.” Unperceived, that child had followed him down, holding the broken chain in which he might have tripped, and had stood by even while he set the poor beast on his feet, and held it for the merciful death shot. It seemed that her purpose had been to suck the wound if he had been bitten, and when once she heard Mr. Horsman exclaim, “All safe, thank God!” she clung to Harold with an inarticulate gasp, in one of those hysterical agonies by which her womanhood from time to time asserted itself. She could not breathe or speak, and he only begged for a place to lay her down. Old Marianne Horsman, the quiet one of the family, took us to her own den, and, with me, insisted on looking well at Harold’s hands and face. What might not that horrid leap have done? But we convinced ourselves that those fangs had only caught his beard, where there was a visible gap, but no sign of a wound; and those riding-gloves had entirely guarded his hands. How blessed the Providence, for ordinarily he never touched gloves, and common white kid ones would have availed little. There was scarce time to speak of it, for the child required all our care, and was only just becoming calmer, as Harold held her, when the bride and bridegroom came in, she, red and eager, he, white and shaken, to summon us to the breakfast. “Don’t go!” was her moan, half asleep.

Harold bade me go, and as the bride declared they could not sit down without him, he answered, “Not yet, thank you, I couldn’t.” And I remembered that his prompt deed of daring had been in defiance of a strong nervous antipathy. There was a spasmodic effort in the smile he attempted, a twitching in the muscles of his throat; he was as pale as his browned cheeks could become, and his hand was still so unsteady that he was forced to resign to me the spoonful of cordial to put into Dora’s mouth.

And at that moment Eustace turned and said, “Have you brought the nuggets?”

Without speaking Harold put his hand into his pocket, and laid them in Eustace’s hand.

“These? you said they were golden apples; I thought they would be bigger.”

“They are wonderful,” said Hippolyta; “no one ever had such a wedding-gift.”

“Not that–a debt,” said Harold, hoarsely; but Pippa Horsman came and summoned them, and I was obliged to follow, answering old Marianne’s entreaties to say what would be good for him by begging for strong coffee, which she promised and ordered, but in the skurry of the household, it never came.

The banquet, held in a tent, was meant to be a brilliantly merry one. The cake had a hunt in sugar all round it, and the appropriate motto, “Hip, hip, hurrah!” and people tried to be hilarious; but with that awful shock thrilling on everybody’s nerves we only succeeded in being noisy, though, as we were assured, there was no cause for alarm or grief. The dog had been tied up on suspicion, and had bitten nothing but one cat, which it had killed. Yet surely grave thankfulness would have been better for us all, as well as more comfortable than loud witticisms and excited laughter. I looked at the two or three clerical members of the clan and wondered at them.

When the moment for healths came, the bride called to her brother, the head of the house, by his pleasing name of Baby, and sent him to fetch Harold, whom he brought back with him. Dora was sound asleep, they said, and room was made for Harold in the bridal neighbourhood in time to hear the baronet, who had married a Horsman of the last generation, propose the health of the bride with all the conventional phrases, and of the bridegroom, as a gentleman who, from his first arrival, had made it his study to maintain the old character of the family, and to distinguish himself by intelligent care for the welfare of his tenants, &c., &c.

Hippolyta must have longed to make the speech in return. We could see her prompting her husband, and, by means of imitations of Lord Erymanth, he got through pretty well with his gracious acceptance of all the praises.

Baby Jack proposed the health of the bridesmaids, adding, more especially, that of the absent one, as a little heroine; and, after the response, came a ponderous speech by another kinsman, full of compliments to Harold’s courage in a fulsome style that made me flush with the vexation it must give him, and the annoyance it would be to reply. I had been watching him. As a pile of lumps of ice fortunately stood near him, he had, at every interval, been transferring one to his glass, filling it up with water, guarding it from the circling decanters, and taking such a draught at every toast that I knew his mouth was parched, and I dreaded that sheer worry would make him utter one of his “young barbarian” bluntnesses; but what he did was to stand up and say simply, “It is very kind of Colonel Horsman to speak in this way of my share in the great mercy and deliverance we have received to-day. It is a matter of the greatest thankfulness. Let me in return thank the friends here assembled for their welcome, and, above all, for their appreciation of my cousin, whose position now fulfils my great wish. Three years ago we were friendless strangers. Now he has made himself one with you, and I thank you heartily for it.”

I felt rather than heard Nessy Horsman muttering, “pretty well for the large young man;” and it seemed to occur to no one that friends, position, and all had been gained for Eustace by Harold himself. He was requesting permission to take Dora back with us, and it was granted with some demur, because she must be with Mrs. Randal Horsman on her return to town on the Monday; a day’s lessons could not be sacrificed, for she was very backward, and had no application; but Harold undertook that she should meet the lady at the station, and gained his point.

Clan Horsman knew too well what he had done to deny him anything he asked. A man who had not only taken a mad dog by the throat, but had brought home two hundred and twenty pounds worth of gold to lay on the table, deserved something at their hands, though ice was all he actually received; but Eustace, when he came to us while the bride was changing her dress, was in a fretful, fault-finding mood, partly it may be from the desire to assert himself, as usual, above his cousin.

He was dissatisfied with the price paid for Boola-Boola. Someone had told him it would realise four times as much, and when Harold would have explained that this was unreasonable, he was cut short with the declaration that the offer ought not to have been accepted without reference to the other party concerned.

Next he informed Harold, in an off-hand way, that some of the new improvements at Arghouse would not work, and that he had a new agent– -a _responsible_ agent–who was not to be interfered with.

There was a certain growl in Harold’s “very well,” but the climax was Eustace’s indignation when he heard of Prometesky’s arrival. He had worked himself, by way of doing the country squire completely, into a disgust of the old exile, far out-Heroding what he had heard from Lord Erymanth, and that “the old incendiary” should be in his house was a great offence.

“He shall not sleep there another night, neither will I,” said Harold, in a calm voice, but with such a gleam in his eyes as I had seen when he fell on Bullock.

It had at least the effect of reducing Eustace to his old habit of subordination, and he fell into an agony of “No, I did not mean that, and–” stammering out something in excuse about not liking the servants and all to think he was harbouring a returned convict.

I had taken care of that. I knew how “that that there Fotsky” was the ogre of the riots, and I had guarded against his identification by speaking of our guest as the foreign gentleman who had come home with Mr. Harold, and causing him to be called Count Stanislas; and, on hearing this, Eustace became so urgent in his entreaties, that Harold, though much hurt, relented so far as to promise at any rate to remain till Monday, so that Dora should not detect the offence.

We saw the happy pair off, among the old shoes, to spend some months abroad, while the old house was revivified for them, and then we had our own drive home, which was chiefly occupied with Dora, who, sitting on Harold’s knee, seemed to expect her full rescue from all grievances, and was terribly disappointed to find that he had no power to remove her from her durance in the London school-room, where she was plainly the dunce and the black sheep, a misery to herself and all concerned, hating everyone and disliked by all. To the little maiden of the Bush, only half tamed as yet, the London school- room and walks in the park were penance in themselves, and the company of three steady prim girls, in the idealess state produced by confinement to a school-room, and nothing but childish books, was as distasteful to her as she was shocking to them, and her life was one warfare with them and with their Fraulein. The only person she seemed able to endure was Nessy Horsman, who was allowed to haunt his cousin Randal’s house, and who delighted in shocking the decorous monotony of the trio of sisters, finding the vehement little Australian far more entertaining, while, whether he teased or stimulated her, she found him the least uncongenial being she met in Paddington. But what struck me most was the manner in which Harold spoke to her, not merely spoiling her, and giving her her own way, as if he were only a bigger child, but saying “It will all get better, Dora, if you only try to do your best.”

“I haven’t got any best to do.”

“Everybody has.”

“But I don’t want it to be better. I want to be with you and Lucy.”

Then came some reasoning about impossibilities, too low for me to hear in the noise of the wheels, but ending with “It is only another thing to conquer. You can conquer anything if you only try, and pray to God to help you.”

“I haven’t said my prayers since I went away. They ordered me, and said I was wicked; but you don’t, Harold, do you?” she cried triumphantly, little expecting the groan she met in answer, “Yes, indeed I do, Dora. I only wish I had done so sooner.”

“I thought it was no use,” she said, crying at his tone. “It was so unkind to take me away from Lucy,” and whereas she hardly ever shed tears and was now far from restored after the fright, when she once began we could hardly stop her weeping, and were thankful when she was soothed into another sleep, which we durst not peril by a word.

It deepened and lasted so that Harold carried her upstairs still asleep, and laid her on her own little bed. Then he came out with me into my dear old sitting-room, where, without another word, he knelt in the old place and said, “_That_ psalm, please Lucy.”

“I think we ought to give thanks in church,” I said, presently.

“Whatever is right,” he said fervently.

“It was the greatest escape you ever had,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, shuddering; “at least it seemed so. I really thought the dog had bitten me when he flew in my face. It felt just like it, and I was very near giving up. I don’t mean letting him go, but not heeding whether he touched me or not. It kept on haunting me till I was alone with Dora, and could examine at the looking-glass.”

Of course I was not content till I had likewise again convinced myself by searching into the beard, and then I added, “Ah! this is worse than the lion, though then you were really hurt.”

“Yes, but there one knew the worst. Besides,” he said, again overcoming a shudder, “I know my feeling about dogs is a weakness owing to my sin. ‘Deliver me from the power of the dog,’ to me expresses all the power of evil.”

Then he sat down and took a pen to write to Mr. Crosse. “Harold Alison wishes to give thanks to Almighty God for a great mercy.”

And after that he never alluded to the advenure again. I told the story to Prometesky in his absence, and we never mentioned it more.

Indeed the next thing Harold said, as he addressed his envelope, was, “It is a pity to lose this room.”

“There is one that I can fit up like it,” I said. “All the things here are mine.” And then I was glad to divert his attention by proposing to go and inspect Mount Eaton, as soon as he had had some much-needed food, since Prometesky was out, and we at once plunged into the “flitting” affairs, glad in them to stifle some of the pain that Eustace had given, but on which we neither of us would dwell.

Was Harold changed, or had he only gone on growing in the course he had begun? He was as simple and unconsciously powerful as ever, but there was something there was not before, reminding me of the dawning of Undine’s soul.

He was called off in the middle of our consultation as to the house, which was our common property, by a message that Mr. Crabbe would be glad of a few minutes with him.

“Was there any fresh annoyance about the Hydriots?” I asked, when he came back.

“Oh, no! The rascal is come over to my side. What do you think he wanted to say? That he had been to look at my grandfather’s will, and he thinks you could drive a coach and horses through it; and he proposes to me to upset it, and come in as heir-at-law! The scoundrel!”

“After all,” I said, after a pause, “it would be very good for poor Arghouse if you thought it right.”

“_I_ should not be very good for Arghouse if I did such a thing as that,” returned Harold. “No, poor old Eu, I’m not going to disturb him because he has got out of my hands, and I think she will take care of the people. I daresay I bullied him more than was bearable.”

Would Harold have so forgiven even Eustace’s ingratitude three years ago?

CHAPTER XIV. SUNSET GOLD AND PURPLE.

We had a happy time after that; our Sunday was a very glad and peaceful one, with our thanksgiving in the morning, and Dora’s pleasure in the dear old children’s service in the afternoon. Poor child, she liked everything that she had only submitted to when she was with us, and Harold took her away on the Monday in a more resigned frame of mind, with a kind of promise that she would be good if the Horsmans would let her.

Then came the removal, and I must say there was some compensation for the pain of leaving my old home in that sense of snugness and liberty in our new plenishing, rather like the playing at doll’s houses. We had stable room for Harold’s horse and my pony–the kangaroo, alas! had pined and died the winter that Harold was away; the garden was practicable, and the rooms were capable of being made home-like and pleasant.

The Tracys were out of reach for the present. Dermot was gone to Ireland, and Lady Diana and her daughter were making a long round of visits among friends, so that there was nothing for it but waiting, and as it was hopeful waiting, enlivened by Viola’s letters to me, Harold endured it very happily, having indeed much to think about.

There was Prometesky’s health. It was ascertained that he must undergo an operation, and when we found that all the requisite skill could be had near at hand, I overruled the scruples about alarming or distressing me. I knew that it would be better for him to be watched by George Yolland, and for Harold to be at home, and I had come to love the old man very heartily.

One day of expectation, in which he was the most calm and resolute of us, one anxious day when they sent me to Miss Woolmer, until Harold came, thankful and hopeful to fetch me, a few more of nursing accepted with touching gratitude, and he was soon downstairs again, a hale old man, though nearly seventy, but more than ever bent on his retreat to La Trappe. It distressed us much. He seemed so much to enjoy intelligent talk with Miss Woolmer and the Yollands; he so delighted in books, and took such fresh interest in all, whether mechanical or moral, that was doing at the Hydriots–of which, by- the-by, as first inventor, the company had contrived, at Harold’s suggestion, to make him a shareholder to an extent that would cover all his modest needs, I could not think how he would bear the change.

“My dear young lady,” he said to me, when I tried to persuade him out of writing the first letter, “you forget how much I have of sin upon me. Can years of negation of faith, or the ruin of four young lives, and I know not of how many more, be repented of at ease in your pleasant town, amid the amiable cares you young people are good enough to lavish on the old man?”

I made some foolish answer about his having meant all for good and noble purposes, but he shook his head.

“Error, my dear madam, error excusable, perhaps, in one whose country has been destroyed. I see, now that I have returned, after years alone with my God, that the work I tried to precipitate was one of patience. The fire from heaven must first illuminate the soul, then the spirit, and then the bonds will be loosed of themselves; otherwise we do but pluck them asunder to set maniacs free to rush into the gulf. And as to my influence on my two pupils, your brothers, I see now that what began in filial rebellion and disobedience could never end well. I bless God that I have been permitted to see, in the next generation, the true hero and reformer I ought to have made of my Ambrose. Ah! Ambrose, Ambrose! noble young spirit, would that any tears and penance of mine would expiate the shipwreck to which I led thee!” and he burst into tears.

He had, of course, seen the Roman Catholic priest several times before encountering the danger of the operation, and was a thoroughly devout penitent, but of his old Liberalism he retained the intense benevolence that made the improvements at the potteries a great delight to him, likewise the historical breadth of understanding that prevented his thinking us all un-Catholic and unsafe.

It was a great blessing that Harold was not held back but rather aided and stimulated by the example of the man to whom he most looked up; but with his characteristic silence, it was long before I found that, having felt, beside his mother’s death-bed, how far his spiritual wants had outgrown me, he had carried them to Ben Yolland, though the old morning habit remained unbroken, and he always came to the little room I had made like my old one.

Ben Yolland had become more entirely chaplain to the Hydriots. Those two brothers lived together in a curious way at what we all still called the “Dragon’s Head,” each with his own sitting-room and one in common, one fitted as a clergyman’s study, the other more like a surgery; for though George had given up his public practice since he had been manager of the works, he still attended all the workpeople and their families, only making them pay for their medicines “when it was good for them.”

Thus the care of the soul and bodies of the Hydriots was divided between the two, and they seemed to work in concert, although George showed no symptom of change of opinions, never saying anything openly to discredit his brother’s principles, nay, viewing them as wholesome restraints for those who were not too scientific to accept them, and even going to church when he had nothing else to do, but by preference looking up his patients on a Sunday. He viewed everything, from religion to vice, as the outcome of certain states of brain, nerves, and health; and so far from being influenced by the example of Prometesky, regarded him as a proof of his own theory, and talked of the Slavonic temperament returning to its normal forms as the vigour of life departed.

Nevertheless, he did not seem to do harm to the workpeople. Drunkenness was at least somewhat restrained, though far from conquered, and the general spirit of the people was wonderful, compared with those of other factories. Plans were under discussion for a mission chapel, and the people themselves were thoroughly anxious for it.

Lord Erymanth returning, kindly came to call on me in my new house, and as I was out of the drawing-room at the time, he had ten minutes’ conversation with the gentleman whom he found reading at the window, and was so much pleased with him that when making the tour of our small domain, he said, “You did not introduce me, Lucy. Is that an Australian acquaintance of Harold Alison’s? I did not expect such high cultivation.”

“An Australian acquaintance, yes,” said I, “and also a Polish count.”

“Prometesky!”

“Prometesky,” said I, to whom the name had begun to sound historical. “I did not know you did not recognise him.”

I was afraid my old friend would be angry with me, but he stood still and said, “I never saw him except at his trial. I can understand now the fascination he was said to have possessed. I could not conscientiously assist your nephew in his recall, but I highly honour the generous perseverance with which he has effected it; and I am happy to acknowledge that the subject is worthy of his enthusiasm. Animosity may be laid aside now, and you may tell Mr. Harold Alison that I heartily congratulate him.”

“And he–Count Stanislas we call him–sees now that he was mistaken,” I said.

“Does he? That is the best of the higher stamp of men, my dear. They know when they are wrong, and own it. In fact, that’s the greatest difference between men. The feeble and self-opinionated never acknowledge an error, but the truly sincere can confess and retrieve their hallucinations and prejudices. Well, I am glad to have seen Prometesky, and to be disabused of aome ideas respecting him.”

Count Stanislas, on the other hand, received me with, “So that is Erymanth! The tyrant, against whom we raged, proves a charitable, benevolent, prosy old gentleman. How many illusions a few decades dispel, and how much hatred one wastes!”

Lord Erymanth had told me that his sister would soon be at home, and in September I was surprised by a call from Dermot. “Yes, I’m at Arked,” he said, “Killy Marey is full of Dublin workmen. My uncle has undertaken to make it habitable for me, like an old brick, and, in the meantime, there’s not a room fit to smoke or sleep in, so I’m come home like a dutiful son.”

“Then your mother is come?”

“Oh yes; she is come for six weeks, and then she and the St. Glears are to join company and winter at Rome.”

“At Rome?”

“Prevention, you see,” said Dermot, with a twinkle in his eye, as if he were not very uneasy. “The question is whether it is in time. She will have Piggy’s attentions at Christmas. He is to come out for the vacation.”

Then he further told me that his mother had brought home with her a Mrs. Sandford with a daughter, heiress to L60,000, and to a newly- bought estate in Surrey, and newly-built house “of the most desirable description,” he added, shrugging his shoulders.

“And what sort of a young lady is she?”

“Oh, very desirable, too, I suppose.”

“But what is she like?”

“Like? Oh, like other people,” and he whistled a little, seeming relieved when “Count Stanislas” came in, and soon after going to hunt up Harry at the Hydriot works.

It made me uncomfortable; it was so evidently another attempt on his mother’s part to secure a rich home for him in England, and his tone did not at all reassure me that, with his easy temper, he would not drift into the arrangement without his heart in it. “Why should I be so vexed about it? It might be very good for him,” said I to myself.

No, his heart was not in it, for he came back with Harold, and lingered over our fire beyond all reasonable time, talking amusing random stuff, till he had left himself only ten minutes to ride home in to dinner.

The next day Harold and I rode over to Arked together. Dermot was the first person we saw, disporting himself with a pug-dog at the door. “The fates have sped you well,” said he, as he helped me down from my pony. “My mother has taken Mrs. Sandford in state to call on Mrs. Vernon, having arranged that Viola and I should conduct the sixty-thousand pounder to admire the tints in the beech woods. The young ladies are putting on their hats. Will it be too far for you, Lucy, to go with us?”

Wherewith he fraternally shouted for “Vi,” who appeared all in a rosy glow, and took me upstairs to equip me for walking, extracting from me in the meantime the main features of the story of the bloodhound, and trembling while she gave exulting little nods.

Then she called for Nina (were they so intimate already?) and found that young lady in a point device walking dress, nursing the pug and talking to Dermot, and so we set forth for the beech-woods, very soon breaking our five into three and two. Certainly Lady Diana ought to have viewed Dermot’s attentions to the sixty-thousand pounder as exemplary, for he engrossed her and me so entirely with the description of Harold’s victory over a buck-jumper at Boola Boola, that it was full a quarter of an hour before she looked round to exclaim, “What is become of Viola?” And then we would not let her wait, and in truth we never came again upon Viola and Harold till we overtook them at the foot of the last hill, and they never could satisfy Miss Sandford where they had been, nor what they had seen, nor how they had missed us; and Dermot invented for the nonce a legend about a fairy in the hill, who made people gyrate round it in utter oblivion of all things; thus successfully diverting the attention of Miss Sandford, who took it all seriously. Yes, she certainly was a stupid girl.

Every moment that lengthened the veritable enchantment of that autumn afternoon was precious beyond what we knew, and we kept Miss Sandford prowling about the garden on all sorts of pretexts, till the poor girl was tired out, as well she might be, for we had kept her on her feet for three hours and a half, and she made her escape at last to join Viola.

I always think of Harold and Viola, as I saw them at that moment, on the top of the western slope of the lawn, so that there was a great ruddy gold sky behind them, against which their silhouettes stood out in a sort of rich dark purple shade.

“Oh, they are looking at such a sunset!” cried Miss Sandford, climbing up the hill.

“Query!” murmured Dermot, for the faces were in profile, not turning towards the sun in the sky, but to the sunbeams in one another’s eyes–sunbeams that were still there when we joined them, and, in my recollection, seem to blend with the glorious haze of light that was pouring down in a flood over the purple moorland horizon, and the wood, field, and lake below. I was forced to say something about going home, and Viola took me up to her room, where we had one of those embraces that can never be forgotten. The chief thing that the dear girl said to me was, “Oh, Lucy. How he has suffered! How shall I ever make it up to him?”

Poor dear Viola, little did she think that she was to cause the very sharpest of his sufferings.

Nay, as little did he, when we rode home together with the still brilliant sky before us. I never see a lane ending in golden light, melting into blue, and dark pine trees framing as it were the brightness, with every little branch defined against it, without thinking of that silence of intense, almost awe-struck joy in which Harold went home by my side, only at long intervals uttering some brief phrase, such as “This is blessedness,” or “Thank God, who gives women such hearts.”

He had told her all, and it had but added a reverent, enthusiastic pity and fervour to that admiring love which had been growing up so long, and to which he had set the spark.

His old friend was admitted to share their joy, and was as happy as we were, perhaps doubly so, since he had beheld with despair Harold’s early infatuation and its results, which had made him fear, during those three wretched years, that all the lad’s great and noble gifts would be lost in the coarse excesses of his wild life, with barbarous prosperity without, and a miserable, hardening home. That he should have been delivered from it, still capable of refinement, still young and fresh enough for a new beginning, had been a cause of great joy, and now that all should be repaired by a true and worthy love, had seemed beyond hope. We built our castles over the fire that evening, Harold had already marked out with his eye the tract of Neme Heath which he would reclaim; and the little he had already set me on doing among the women and children at the potteries, had filled us with schemes as to what Viola was to carry out.

Some misgivings there were even then. Lady Diana was not to be expected to like Harold’s L1,200 a year as well as Piggy’s heirship to the Erymanth coronet, or any of the other chances that might befall an attractive girl of twenty.

For coldness and difficulties we were prepared, but not for the unqualified refusal with which she met Harold the next morning, grounding all on the vague term, “circumstances,” preventing his even seeing Viola, and cutting short the interview in the manner of a grande dame whose family had received an insult.

Dermot, however, not only raging, but raving, on his side, assured him of the staunchness of his sister, and her resolve to hold by him through everything; and further, in sundry arguments with his mother, got to the bottom of the “circumstances.” She had put away from herself the objection to the convict birth and breeding, by being willing to accept Eustace, to whom exactly the same objections applied; and when she called Eustace a man of more education and manners, her son laughed in her face at the comparison of “that idiot” with a man like Harold.

Then came the “past life,” a much more tangible objection, but Dermot was ready there, declaring that whatever Harold had done, considering his surroundings, was much less heinous than his own transgressions, after such a bringing up as his, and would his mother say that nobody ought to marry him? Besides, to whom had she given Di? They were not arguments that Lady Diana accepted, but she weakened her own cause by trying to reinforce it with all the Stympson farrago, the exaggeration of which Dermot, after his own meeting with Henry Alison, and with Prometesky to corroborate him, was fully prepared to explode, to the satisfaction even of Lord Eryinanth.

Harold himself was deeply sensible of the stain and burthen of his actual guilt, more so, indeed, than he had ever been before, both from the religious influences to which he had submitted himself, and from the sense of that sweet innocence of his Viola’s; but his feeling had come to be that if his Heavenly Father loved and forgave him, so, in a lesser way, Viola forgave him because she loved him. He did not wonder at nor complain of Lady Diana’s not thinking him worthy of her good and lovely child. He would be thankful to submit to any probation, five, seven, ten years without any engagement, if he might hope at last. Even Lord Erymanth, when he saw how his darling’s soul was set on it, thought that thus much might be granted.

But Lady Diana had still another entrenchment which she had concealed, as it were, to the last, not wishing to shock and pain us all, she said. Though she said she had reason to complain of not having been told from the first that Harold had once been insane, nothing could induce her to sanction her daughter’s marriage with a man whose mind had been disordered; nay, who had done mortal injury in his frenzy. It was a monstrous idea!

Dermot’s reply to this was, that nobody, then, ought to marry who had had a delirious fever; and he brought Prometesky over to Arked to testify to her how far the attack had been from anything approaching to constitutional insanity. The terrible fall, of which Harold’s head still bore the mark, the shock, the burning sun, were a combination of causes that only made it wonderful that he should have recovered the ensuing brain fever, and the blow to his rival had been fatal by the mere accident of his strength. A more ordinary man would have done no serious harm by such a stroke, given when not accountable. Lady Diana answered stiffly that this might be quite true, but that there had been another cause for the temporary derangement which had not been mentioned, and that it was notorious that Mr. Alison, in consequence, had been forced to avoid all liquors, and she appealed to Dermot as to the effects of a very small quantity on his friend’s brain.

Poor Dermot! it was bitter enough for him to have that orgie at Foling brought forward against his friend. Nor could any representation appease Lady Diana.

I thought her very cruel and unreasonable then, and I am afraid I believe that if Harold had had ten, or even five thousand a year, these objections would never have been heard of; but after years and experience have cooled my mind, it seems to me that on several grounds she was justified in her reluctance, and that, as Viola was so young, and Harold’s repentance had been comparatively recent, she might fairly have insisted on waiting long enough to see whether he were indeed to be depended upon, or if Viola’s affection were strong enough to endure such risk as there might be.

For Dermot, resolute to defend his friend, and declaring that his sister’s heart should not be broken, was the prime mover in Harold going up to consult the most eminent men of the day on mental disease, Prometesky going with him as having been his only attendant during his illness, to give an account of the symptoms, and Dermot, who so comported himself in his excitement as to seem far more like the lover whose hopes might have depended on the verdict on his doubtful sanity, than did the grave, quiet, self-contained man, who answered all questions so steadily.

The sentence was so far satisfactory that the doctor confirmed Prometesky’s original view, that concussion of the brain, aggravated by circumstances, had produced the attack, and that there was no reasonable ground for apprehension of its recurrence, certainly not of its being hereditary. But he evidently did not like the confession of the strange horror of dogs, which Harold thought it right to mention as having been brought on by the circumstances of his accident, and he would not venture to say that any “exciting cause” might not more easily affect the brain than if nothing had ever been amiss. Yet when Dermot tarried, explaining that he was the brother of a young lady deeply concerned, the doctor assured him that whereas no living man could be insured from insanity, he should consider the gentleman he had just seen to be as secure as any one else, since there was no fear of any hereditary taint, and his having so entirely outgrown and cast off all traces of the malady was a sign of his splendid health and vigour of constitution.

But Lady Diana was still not satisfied. She still absolutely refused all consent, and was no more moved at the end of three weeks than before. Dear Harold said he did not wonder, and that if he had seen himself in this true light, he would have loved Viola at a distance without disquieting her peace, but since he had spoken and knew she loved him, he could not but persevere for her sake. We could see he said it with a steady countenance, but a burning heart. Neither he nor I was allowed to see Viola, but there was Dermot as constant reporter, and, to my surprise, Viola was not the submissive daughter I had expected. Lady Diana had never had any real ascendancy over her children’s wills or principles. Even Viola’s obedience had been that of duty, not of the heart, and she had from the first declared that mamma might forbid her to marry Harold, or to correspond with him, and she should consider herself bound to obey; but that she had given him her promise, and that she could not and would not take it back again. She would wait on for ever, if otherwise it could not be, but he had her troth plight, and she _would_ be faithful to it. She would not give up her crystal cross, and she sent Harold her love every day by her brother, often in her mother’s very hearing, saying she was too proud of him to be ashamed. She had resolved on her own line of passive obedience, but of never renouncing her engagement, and her brother upheld her in it; while her uncle let himself be coaxed out of his displeasure, and committed himself to that compromise plan of waiting which his sister viewed as fatal, since Viola would only lose all her bloom, and perhaps her health. Nothing, she said, was so much to be deplored for a girl as a long engagement. The accepting a reformed rake had been always against her principles, and she did not need even the dreadful possibility of derangement, or the frightful story of his first marriage, to make her inexorable. Viola, we were told, had made up her mind that it was a case for perseverance, and all this time kept up dauntlessly, not failing in spirits nor activity, but telling her brother she had always known she should have to go through something, but Harold’s love was worth it, and she meant to be brave; how should she not be when she knew Harold cared for her; and as to what seemed to be objections in the eyes of others, did they not make her long the more to compensate him?

“She has to make all her love to me, poor little woman, and very pretty love it is,” said Dermot.

Whether Harold made as much love in return to their ready medium I cannot tell, for their conferences were almost always out of doors or at the office, and Harold was more reserved than ever. He was not carrying matters with the same high hand as his little love, for, as he always said, he knew he had brought it all on himself.

He never complained of Lady Diana, but rather defended her to her son for not thinking him fit for her daughter, only adhering to his original standpoint, that where there was so much love, surely some hope might be granted, since he would thankfully submit to any probation.

We all expected that this would be the upshot of our suspense, and that patience and constancy would prevail; and by the help of immense walks and rides, and a good deal of interest in some new buildings at the potteries, and schemes for the workmen, Harold kept himself very equable and fairly cheerful, though his eyes were weary and anxious, and when he was sitting still, musing, there was something in his pose which reminded me more than ever of Michel Angelo’s figures, above all, the grand one on the Medicean monument. He consorted much more now with Mr. Yolland, the curate, and was making arrangements by which the school chapel might expand into a Mission Church, but still I did not know that he was finding the best aid through this time in the devotions and heart-searchings to which the young clergyman had led him, and which were the real cause of the calm and dignified humility with which he waited.

At last Lady Diana, finding herself powerless with her daughter, sent a letter to Harold, beginning: “I appeal to your generosity.” A very cruel letter in some ways it was, representing that he had acquiesced in her judgment, that there were certain unfortunate passages in his past life which made it her painful duty to prevent her child from following the dictates of an inexperienced heart. Then she put it to him whether it were not a most unfortunate position for a young girl to be involved in an engagement which could never be fulfilled, and which was contrary to the commands of her only remaining parent, and she showed how family peace, confidence, and maternal and filial affection must suffer if the daughter should hold fast persistently to the promise by which she held herself bound. In fact, it was an urgent entreaty, for Viola’s own sake, that he would release her from her promise. Dermot was shooting at Erymanth, and neither he nor I knew of this letter till Harold had acted. He rode at once to Arked, saw Lady Diana, and declared himself convinced that the engagement, having no chance of sanction, ought to be given up. Rather than keep Viola in the wearing state of resistance and disobedience her mother described, he would resign all hopes of her.

Lady Diana went to her daughter with the tidings, that Mr. Alison saw the hopelessness of his suit, and released her from her promise.

“You have made him do so, mamma,” cried Viola. “If he releases me I do not release myself.”

Finally, Lady Diana, astonished to find Harold so reasonable and amenable, perceived that the only means of dealing with her daughter was to let them meet again. Of course no one fully knows what passed then. Harold told me, the only time he spoke of it, that “he had just taken out his own heart and crushed it!” but Viola dwelt on each phrase, and, long after, used to go over all with me. He had fully made up his mind that to let Viola hold to her troth would neither be right nor good for her, and he used his power of will and influence to make her resign it. There was no concealment nor denial of their mutual love. It was Viola’s comfort to remember that. “But,” said Harold, “your mother has only too good reasons for withholding you from me, and there is nothing for it but to submit, and give one another up.”

“But we do not leave off loving one another,” said poor Viola.

“We cannot do what we cannot.”

“And when we are old–“

“That would be a mental reservation,” said Harold. “There must be no mutual understanding of coming together again. I promised your mother. Because I am a guilty man, I am not to break up your life.”

He made her at last resign her will into his, she only feeling that his judgment could not be other than decisive, and that she could not resist him, even for his own sake. He took her for a moment into his arms, and exchanged one long burning kiss, then, while she was almost faint and quite passive with emotion, he laid her on the sofa, and called her mother. “Lady Diana,” he said, “we give up all claim to one another’s promise, in obedience to you. Do we not, Viola?”

“Yes,” she faintly said.

He gave her brow one more kiss, and was gone.

He took his horse home, and sent in a pencil note to me: “All over; don’t wait, for me.–H. A.”

I was dreadfully afraid he would go off to Australia, or do something desperate, but Count Stanislas reassured me that this would be unlike Harold’s present self, since his strength had come to be used, not in passion, but in patience. We dined as best we could without him, waited all the evening, and sat up till eleven, when we heard him at the door. I went out and took down the chain to let him in. It was a wet misty night, and he was soaked through. I begged him to come in and warm himself, and have something hot, but he shook his head, as if he could not speak, took his candle, and went upstairs.

I made the tea, for which I had kept the kettle boiling all this time, and Prometesky took his great cup in to him, presently returning to say, “He is calm. He has done wisely, he has exhausted himself so that he will sleep. He says he will see me at once to my retreat in Normandy. I think it will be best for him.”

Count Stanislas was, in fact, on the eve of departure, and in a couple of days more Harold went away with him, having only broached the matter to me to make me understand that the break had been his, not Viola’s; and that I must say no more about it.

Dermot had come over and raged against his mother, and even against Harold, declaring that if the two had “stood out” they would have prevailed, but that he did not wonder Harold was tired of it.

Harold’s look made him repent of that bit of passion, but he was contemptuous of the “for her sake,” which was all Harold uttered as further defence. “What! tell him it was for her sake when she was creeping about the house like a ghost, looking as if she had just come out of a great illness?”

Dermot meant to escort his mother and sister to Florence, chiefly in order to be a comfort to the latter, but he meant to return to Ireland as soon as they had joined the St. Glears. “Taking you by the way,” he said, “before going to my private La Trappe.”

Prometesky took leave of me, not quite as if we were never to meet again, for his experimental retreat was to be over at Christmas, and he would then be able to receive letters. He promised me that, if I then wrote to him that, Harold stood in need of him for a time, he would return to us instead of commencing the novitiate which would lead to his becoming dead to the outer world.

Harold was gone only ten days, and came back late on a Friday evening. He tried to tell me about what he had done and seen, but broke off and said, “Well, I am very stupid; I went to all the places they told me to see at Rouen and everywhere else, but I can’t recollect anything about them.”

So I let him gaze into the fire in peace, and all Saturday he was at the potteries or at the office, very busy about all his plans and also taking in hand the charge for George Yolland, for both brothers were going on Monday to take a fortnight’s holiday among their relations. He only came in to dinner, and after it told me very kindly that he must leave me alone again, for he wanted to see Ben Yolland. A good person for him to wish to see, “but was all this restlessness?” thought this foolish Lucy.

When he came in, only just at bed-time, there was something more of rest, and less of weary sadness about his eyes than I had seen since the troubles began, and as we wished one another good night he said, “Lucy, God forgives while He punishes. He is better to us than man. Yolland says I may be with you at church early to-morrow.”

Then my cheeks flushed hot with joy, and I said how thankful I was that all this had not distracted his thoughts from the subject. “When I wanted help more than ever?” he said.

So in some ways that was to me at least a gladsome Sunday, though not half so much at the time as it has become in remembrance, and I could not guess how much of conscious peace or joy Harold felt, as, for the first and only time, he and I knelt together on the chancel step.

He said nothing, but he had quite recovered his usual countenance and manner, only looking more kind and majestic than ever, as I, his fond aunt, thought, when we went among the children after the school service, to give them the little dainties they had missed in his absence; and he smiled when they came round him with their odd little bits of chatter.

We sat over the fire in the evening, and talked a little of surface things, but that died away, and after a quarter of an hour or so, he looked up at me and said, “And what next?”

“What are we to do, do you mean?” I said, for I had been thinking how all his schemes of life had given way. We spoke of it together. “Old Eu did not want him,” as he said, and though there was much for him to do at the Hydriot works and the Mission Chapel, the Reading Room, the Association for Savings, and all the rest which needed his eye, yet for Viola’s peace he thought he ought not to stay, and the same cause hindered the schemes he had once shared with Dermot; he had cut himself loose from Australia, and there seemed nothing before him. “There were the City Missions,” he said, wearily, for he did not love the City, and yet he felt more than ever the force of his dying father’s commission to carry out his longings for the true good of the people.

I said we could make a London home and see Dora sometimes, trying to make him understand that he might reckon on me as his sister friend, but the answer was, “I don’t count on that.”

“You don’t want to cast me off?”

“No, indeed, but there is another to be thought of.”

Then he told me how, over my letters to him in New South Wales, there had come out Dermot’s account of the early liking that everyone nipped, till my good-girlish submission wounded and affronted him, and he forgot or disliked me for years; how old feelings had revived, when we came in contact once more; but how he was withheld from their manifestation, by the miserable state of his affairs, as well as by my own coldness and indifference.

I made some sound which made Harold say, “You told me to keep him away.”

“I knew I ought,” I remember saying faintly.

“Oh–h–!” a prolonged sound, that began a little triumphantly, but ended in a sigh, and then he earnestly said, “You do not think you ought to discourage him now? Your mother did not forbid it for ever.”

“Oh no, no; it never came to that.”

“And you know what he is now?”

“I know he is changed,” was all I could say.

“And you will help him forward a little when he comes back. You and he will be happy.”

There might be a great surging wave of joy in my heart, but it would not let me say anything but, “And leave you alone, Harold?”

“I must learn to be alone,” he said. “I can stay here this winter, and see to the things in hand, and then I suppose something will turn up.”

“As a call?” I said.

“Yes,” he answered. “I told God to-day that I had nothing to do but His service, and I suppose He will find it for me.”

There was something in the steadfast, yet wistful look of his eyes, that made me take down the legend of St. Christopher and read it aloud. Reading generally sent him into a doze, but even that would be a respite to the heartache he so patiently bore, and I took the chance, but he sat with his chin on his hand and his eyes fixed attentively on mine all the time, then held out his hand for the book, and pondered, as was his thorough way in such matters. At last he said, “Well, I’ll wait by the stream. Some day He will send me some one to carry over.”

We little thought what stream was very near!

CHAPTER XV. THE FATAL TOKEN.

Tuesday morning brought a strange little untidy packet, tied with blue ribbon, understamped, and directed to Harold Alison, Esquire, in the worst form of poor Dora’s always bad handwriting. Within was a single knitted muffatee, and a long lock of the stiffly curling yellow hair peculiar to Dora’s head. In blotted, sloping roundhand was written:–

“My Dear Harry,–

“Good-bye, I do fele so very ill, I can’t do any more. Don’t forget I allwaies was your wiffe.

“I am your affex., D. A.”

We looked at each other in wonder and dismay, sure that the child must be very ill, and indignant that we had not been told. Harold talked of going up to town to find out; I was rather for going, or sending, to Therford for tidings, and all the time, alas! alas! he was smoothing and caressing the yellow tress between his fingers, pitying the child and fancying she was being moped to death in the school-room.

We determined on riding to Therford, and Harold had hastened to the office to despatch some business first, when Mr. Horsman himself came in–on his way to the Petty Sessions–to explain matters.

Mrs. Randall Horsman had arrived with her children at Therford the day before, flying from the infection of smallpox, for which the doctor had declared Dora to be sickening. The whole family had been spending the autumn months at the seaside. Nessy Horsman had been with them and had taken Dora about with him much more than had been approved. In one of these expeditions he had taken her into the shop of a village ratcatcher, where, it had since been ascertained, two children were ill of smallpox. She had been ailing ever since the party had returned to London; the doctor had been called in on Monday, and had not only pronounced the dreadful name of the disease, but, seeking in vain for the marks of vaccination on her arms, he greatly apprehended that she would have it in full and unmitigated virulence.

Mrs. Randall Horsman had herself and her children vaccinated without loss of time and fled to the country. Her husband would spend all day in his chambers, and only sleep at home on the ground-floor with every precaution, and Dora had been left in the charge of a young under-house-maid, whose marked face proved her safety, until the doctor could send in a regular nurse. It was this wretched little stupid maid who was ignorant enough to assist the poor child in sending off her unhappy packet, all unknowing of the seeds of destruction it conveyed.

I had had a slight attack of undoubted smallpox when a young child, and I immediately resolved on going to nurse my poor Dora, secure that she would now be left to me, and unable to bear the thought of her being among strangers. I went at once to the office to tell Harry, and Baby Jack walked with me as far as our roads lay together, asking me on the way if it were true that Harold Alison was engaged to Miss Tracy, and on my denial, saying that Mrs. Randall had come down full of the report; that Nessy had heard of it, and, on Sunday afternoon, had teased Dora about it to such a degree that she had leaped up from the sofa and actually boxed his ears, after which she had gone into such a paroxysm of tears and sobs that she had been sent to bed, and in the morning the family mind began to perceive she was really ill. The poor child’s passionate jealousy had no doubt prompted her letter, as well as her desire to take leave of the object of her love; and knowing her strange character as I did, I was sure the idea was adding tenfold to the misery of the dreadful illness that was coming on her.

I had to pursue Harold to the potteries, where one of the workmen directed me to him, as he was helping to put in order some machine for hoisting that was out of gear. “Bless you, ma’am,” said the man, “he is as strong as any four of we.”

When I found him, his consternation was great, and he quite agreed with me that I had better go up that very afternoon and take charge of Dora, since Baby Jack answered for it that Randall Horsman would be most grateful and thankful.

Harold found out the hours for the trains, and did everything to expedite me. He made it certain that poor little Dora had not been vaccinated. When she was born, no doctor lived within sixty miles of Boola Boola, and nobody had ever thought of such a thing.

“And you, Harry?” I asked, with a sudden thrill of alarm.

“Do you expect me to remember?” he asked with a smile.

I begged him to look for the moons upon his arm, and at any rate to undergo the operation again, since, even if it had been done in his infancy, the effect might have worn out, and it was only too probable that in the case of a child born on board a sailing vessel, without a doctor, it had been forgotten. He gave in to my solicitude so far as to say that he would see about it, but reminded me that it was not he who was going into the infection. Yes, I said, but there was that lock of hair and the worsted cuff. Such things did carry contagion, and he ought to burn them at once.

“Poor Dora!” he said, rather indignantly.

Oh that I had seen them burnt! Oh that I had taken him to Dr. Kingston’s for vaccination before I went away, instead of contenting myself with the unmeaning, half-incredulous promise to “see about it!” by which, of course, he meant to mention it when George Yolland came home. Yet it might have made no difference, for he had been fondling and smoothing that fatal curl all the time we were talking over the letter.

He came to the station with me, gave me the kindest messages for Dora, arranged for my telegraphing reports of her every day–took care of me as men will do when they seem to think their womankind incapable without them, making all the more of me because I did not venture to take Colman, whom I sent to visit her home. He insisted on Mr. Ben Yolland, who had been detained a day behind his brother, going in a first-class carriage with me. I leant out at the window for the parting kiss, and the last sight I had of my dear Harold, as the train steamed out of the station, was bearing on his shoulder a fat child–a potter’s–who had just arrived by the train, and had been screaming to his mother to carry him, regardless of the younger baby and baskets in her arms. It might well make my last sight of him remind me of St. Christopher.

That journey with the curate was comfortable in itself, and a great comfort to me afterwards. We could not but rejoice together over that Sunday, and Ben Yolland showed himself deeply struck with the simplicity and depth that had been revealed to him, the reality of whatever Harold said, and his manner of taking his dire disappointment as the just and natural outcome of his former life. Many men would have been soured and driven back to evil by such a rejection. Harold had made it the occasion of his most difficult victory and sharpest struggle; yet all the time he was unconscious how great a victory it was. And so thorough was the penitence, so great the need of refreshment after the keen struggle for self- mastery, and so needful the pledge of pardon, that though he had never been confirmed, there was no doubt as to making him welcome at once to the Heavenly Feast. Well that it was so!

The “What next” concerned Mr. Yolland as much as it did me. He could not bear to think of relinquishing one who–all unknown to himself– did more to guide and win the hearts of those Hydriots than teaching or sermons could ever do, and yet no one could advise Harold to remain after this winter. In the reprieve, however, we both rejoiced, and Ben then added, “For my brother’s sake, especially.”

“Do you think the example tells on him?” I ventured on asking.

“I can hardly say it does,” was the answer. “George used to point to Harold Alison as a specimen of a vigorous physical development so perfectly balanced as to be in a manner self-adjusting, without need of what he called imaginative influences. I always thought he was a little staggered that evening that he had to summon you, Miss Alison, to his help; but he had some theory of sentiment to account for it, and managed, as people do, to put it aside. Lately, however, he has been looking on, he says, with curiosity–I believe with something more. You see he reveres Alison for what he is, not for what he knows.”

“Of course not; your brother must know far more than Harold.”

“But the strength of character and will impresses him. The bending of such a nature to faith, the acceptance of things spiritual, by one _real_, unimaginative and unsophisticated, and, above all, the _self_ conquest, just where a great Greek hero would have failed, have certainly told on George, so that I see more hope than I have ever done before.”

So careful of me was Mr. Yolland, that he only parted with me at Randall Horsman’s door, where I was gladly welcomed by the master of the house, and found my poor little niece a grievous spectacle, and so miserable with the horrible illness, that she only showed her pleasure in my coming by fretting whenever anyone else touched her.

She had it badly in the natural form, but never was in immediate danger, and began in due time to recover. I had ceased my daily telegrams, and had not been alarmed by some days’ intermission of Harold’s letters, for I knew that Dermot was at Arked alone, and that by this time the Yollands would be returned and my nephew would have less time to spend on me.

One dismal wintry afternoon, however, when I was sitting in the dark, telling Dora stories, a card was brought up to me by the little housemaid. The gentleman begged to see me. “Mr. Tracy” was on the card, and the very sight startled me with the certainty that something was amiss.

I left the girl in charge and hurried down to the room, where Dermot was leaning over the mantel-shelf, with his head against his arms, in a sorrowful attitude, as if he could not bear to turn round and face me, I flew up to him, crying out that I knew he was come to fetch me to Harold; Dora was so much better that I could leave her.

He turned up to me a white haggard face, and eyes with dismay, pity, and grief in them, such as even now it wrings my heart to recall, and hoarsely said in a sunken voice, “No, Lucy, I am not come to fetch you!” and he took my hand and grasped it convulsively.

“But he has caught it?” Dermot bent his head. “I must go to him, even if he bids me not. I know he wants me.”

“No!” again said Dermot, as if his tongue refused to move. “Oh, Lucy, Lucy, I cannot tell you!”

And he burst into a flood of tears, shaking, choking, even rending him.

I stood, feeling as if turned to stone, and presently the words came out in a sob, “Oh, Lucy, he is dead!” and, sinking on the nearest seat, his tempest of grief was for the moment more frightful than the tidings, which I could not take in, so impossible did the sudden quenching of that glorious vitality seem. I began in some foolish way to try to console him, as if it were a mere fancy. I brought him a glass of water from the sideboard, and implored him to compose himself, and tell me what made him say such terrible things, but he wrung my hand and leant his head against me, as he groaned, “I tell you, it is true. We buried him this morning. The noblest, dearest friend that ever–“

“And you never told me! You never fetched me; I might have saved him,” was my cry; then, “Oh! why did you not?”

Then he told me that there had been no time, and how useless my presence would have been. We sat on the sofa, and he gasped out something of the sad story, though not by any means all that I afterwards learnt from himself and from the Yollands, but enough to make me feel the reality of the terrible loss. And I will tell the whole here.

Left to himself, the dear fellow had no doubt forgotten all about vaccination, or any peril to himself, for he never mentioned it to Dermot, who only thought him anxious about Dora. On the Saturday they were to have had a day’s shooting, and then to have dined at Erymanth, but Harold sent over in the morning to say he had a headache and could not come, so Dermot went alone. When the Yollands came home at nine at night a message was given that Mr. Alison would like to see Mr. George as soon as he came in; but as the train had been an hour late, and the message had not been delivered immediately on their coming in, George thought it could not concern that night, so he waited till morning; but he was awaked in the winter twilight by Harold at his door, saying, “Doctor, I’m not quite right. I wish you would come up presently and see after me.”

He was gone again, while he was being called to wait; and, dressing as fast as possible, George Yolland went out after him into the dark, cold, frosty, foggy morning, and overtook him, leaning on the gate of a field, shivering, panting, and so dizzy, that it was with difficulty he was helped to the house. He made known that he had felt very unwell all the day before, and had had a miserable night, in which all the warnings about infection had returned on him. The desire to keep clear of all whom he might endanger, as well as a fevered–perhaps already half-delirious–longing for cool air, had sent him forth himself to summon George Yolland. And already strong shivering fits and increased distress showed what fatal mischief that cold walk had done. All he cared now to say was that he trusted to his doctor to keep everybody out of the house; that I was not to be called away from Dora, and that it was all his own fault.

One person could not be kept away, and that was Dermot Tracy. He came over to spend the Sunday with his friend, and finding the door closed, and Richardson giving warning of smallpox, only made him the more eagerly run upstairs. George could by that time ill dispense with a strong man’s help, and after vaccinating him, admitted him to the room, where the checking of the eruption had already produced terrible fever and violent raving.

It was a very remarkable delirium, as the three faithful watchers described it. The mind and senses seemed astray, only not the will. It was as if all the vices of his past life came in turn to assail him, and he was writhing and struggling under their attacks, yet not surrendering himself. When–the Sunday duties over–Ben Yolland came in, he found him apparently acting over some of the wild scenes of his early youth, with shreds of the dreadful mirth, and evil words of profane revelry; and yet, as if they struck his ears, he would catch himself up and strike his fist on his mouth, and when Ben entered, he stretched out his arms and said, “Don’t let me.” Prayer soothed him for a short interval, but just as they hoped that sleep might come, the fierce struggle with oppression brought back the old habits of violent language, and then the distressed endeavour to check himself, and the clutch at the clergyman’s aid. Ben Yolland saw, standing in the room, a great rough wooden cross which Harold had made for some decorating plan of mine. He held it over him, put it into his hand, and bade him repeat after him, “Christ has conquered. By Thy Cross and Passion; by Thy precious Death and Burial, good Lord deliver us.”

So it went on hour after hour, evening closing into night, the long, long night brightening at last into day, and still the fever raged, and the fits of delirious agony came on, as though every fiend that had ever tempted him were assailing him now. Yet still he had the power to grasp the Cross when it was held to him, and speak the words, “Christ has conquered,” and his ears were open to the prayer, “By Thy Cross and Passion, by Thine Agony and Bloody Sweat, good Lord deliver us!”–the prayer that Ben prayed like Moses at Rephidim. Time came and went, the Northchester physician came and said he might be saved, if the eruption could only be brought out, but he feared that it had been thrown inwards, so that nothing would avail; but of all this Harold knew nothing, he was only in that seething brain, whose former injury now added to the danger, living over again all his former life, as those who knew it could trace in the choked and broken words. Yet, as the doctors averred, that the conscience and the will should not be mastered by the delirium was most unusual, and proved the extraordinary force of his character and resolution, even though the conflict was evidently a great addition to his sufferings.

Worst of all was the deadly strife, when with darkness came the old horror of being pursued by hell hounds, driven on by Meg and the rival he had killed–nay, once it was even by his little children. Then he turned even from the Cross in agony. “I cannot! See there! They will not let me!” and he would have thrown himself from his bed, taking the hands that held him for the dogs’ fangs. And yet even then a command rather than a prayer from the priest reached his ears. He wrestled, with choking, stifling breath, as though with a weight on his chest, grappling with his hands as if the dog were at his throat; but at last he uttered those words once more, “Christ has conquered;” then with a gasp, as from a freed breast, for his strength was going fast, fell back in a kind of swoon. Yes, he was delivered from the power of the dog, for after that, when he woke, it was in a different mood. He knew Ben, but he thought he had little Ambrose sitting on his pillow; held his arm as if his baby were in it, and talked to them smiling and tenderly, as if glad they had come to him, and he were enjoying their caresses, their brightness, and beauty. Nor did the peace pass away. He was so quiet that all hoped except George Yolland, who knew the mischief had become irreparable; and though he never was actually sensible, the borderland was haunted no more with images of evil or of terror, but with the fair visions fit for “him that overcometh.” Once they thought he fancied he was showing his children to Viola or to me. Once, when Dermot’s face came before him, he recurred to some of the words used in the struggle about Viola.

“I don’t deserve her. Good things are not for me. All will be made pure there.”

They thought then that he was himself, and knew he was dying, but the next moment some words, evidently addressed to his child, showed them he was not in our world; and after that all the murmurs were about what had last taken up his mind–the Bread of Heaven, the Fruit of Everlasting Life.

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” That was what Mr. Yolland ventured now to say over him, and it woke the last respondent glance of his eyes. He had tasted of that Feast of Life on the Sunday he was alone, and Ben Yolland would even then have given it to him, but before it could be arranged, he could no longer swallow, and the affection of the brain was fast blocking up the senses, so that blindness and deafness came on, and passed into that insensibility in which the last struggles of life are, as they tell us, rather agonising to the beholder than to the sufferer. It was at sundown at last that the mightiest and gentlest spirit I ever knew was set free.

Those three durst not wait to mourn. Their first duty was to hasten the burial, so as to prevent the spread of contagion, and they went at once their different ways to make the preparations. No form of conventional respect could be used, but it was the three who so deeply loved him who laid him in the rough-made coffin, hastily put together the same evening, with the cross that had served him in his conflict on his breast, and three camellia buds from Viola’s tree. Dermot had thought of her and ridden over to fetch them. There had been no disfigurement. If there had been he might have lived, but still it was a comfort to know that the dear face was last seen in more than its own calm majesty, as of one who lay asleep after a mighty conquest. Over the coffin they placed the lion’s skin. It had been left in the room during his illness, and must have been condemned, and it made his fit pall when they took it to be buried with him. It was before daybreak that, with good old Richardson’s help, they carried him down to a large cart belonging to the potteries, drawn by the two big horses he used to pet, and driven by George Yolland himself. They took him to our own family burial-place in Arghouse churchyard, where the grave had been dug at night. They meant no one to be there, but behold! there was a multitude of heads gathered round, two or three hundred at least, and when the faithful four seemed to need aid in carrying that great weight the few steps from the gate, there was a rush forward, in spite of the peril, and disappointment when no help was accepted.

Ben Yolland read the service over the grave, and therewith there was the low voice of many, many weepers, as they closed it in, and left him there among his forefathers, under his lion’s skin; and even at that moment a great, golden, glorious sun broke out above the horizon, and bathed them all over with light, while going forth as a giant to run his course, conquering the night mists.

Then they turned back to the town, and Dermot came by the next train to town to tell me. But of all this I at first gathered but little, for his words were broken and his voice faint and choked, not only with grief, but with utter exhaustion; and I was so slow to realise all, that I hardly knew more than the absolute fact, before a message came hurriedly down that Dora was worse, and I must come instantly. Dermot, who had talked himself into a kind of dull composure, stood up and said he would come again on the morrow, when he was a little rested, for, indeed, he had not lain down since Saturday, and was quite worn out.

I went up, with heart quailing at the thought of letting that passionately loving creature guess what had befallen her, and yet how could I command myself with her? But that perplexity was spared me. The tidings had, through the Horsman family, reached the house, and, in my absence, that same foolish housemaid had actually told Dora of them point-blank. She said nothing, but presently the girl found her with her teeth locked and eyes fixed in what looked like a convulsion, but was in reality such suppressed hysteria as she had had before.

She soon came out of that attack, but was exceedingly ill all that night and the next day, her recovery being altogether thrown back by feverishness and loss of appetite; but, strange child that she was, she never named Harold, nor let me speak of him. I think she instinctively shrank from her own emotion, and had a kind of dread and jealous horror of seeing anyone else grieve for him.

Dermot did not come the next day, but a note was brought me, left, the servant said, by the gentleman in a cab. It told me that he felt so ill that he thought it wisest to go at once to the smallpox hospital, and find out whether it were the disease, or only vaccination and fatigue. It was a brave unselfish resolve, full of the spirit he had imbibed, and it was wise, for the illness was upon him already, the more severe from his exhausted state and the shock he had undergone. Mr. Randall Horsman, who was very kind, managed that I should hear of him, and I knew he was going on fairly well, and not in any special danger.

But oh! that time seems to me the most wretched that ever I passed, up in those great London attic nurseries, where Dora and I were prisoners–all winter fogginess, with the gas from below sending up its light on the ceiling, and Dora never letting me sit still to grieve. She could not bear the association or memory, I believe, and with the imperious power of recovery used to keep me reading Mayne Reid’s storybooks to her incessantly, or else playing at backgammon. I hate the sound of dice to this hour, and when I heard that unhappy French criminals, the night before their execution, are apt to send for Fenimore Cooper’s novels, it seemed to reveal Dora’s state of mind.

After two or three days, George Yolland came up to see me. He had been to see Dermot, and gave me comfort as to his condition and the care taken of him; but the chief cause of the visit was that they wanted my authority for the needful destruction of whatever had been in that room, and could not be passed through fire. Mr. Yolland had brought me my Harold’s big, well-worn pocket-book, which he said must undergo the same doom, for though I was contagion proof, yet harm might be laid up for others, and only what was absolutely necessary must be saved.

First of all, indeed, lay in their crumpled paper poor Dora’s fatal gifts, treasured, no doubt, as probably her last; and there, in a deep leathern pocket, was another little parcel with Viola’s crystal cross, which her mother had made her return. She might have that now, it would bear disinfecting; but the Irish heath-bells that told of autumn days at Killey Marey must go, and that brief note to me that had been treasured up–yes, and the quaint old housewife, with D. L. (his aunt’s maiden initials), whence his needles and thread used to come for his mending work. An old, worn pencil-case kept for his mother’s sake–for Alice was on the seal–was the only thing I could rescue; but next there came an envelope with “My will” scrawled on it. Mr. Yolland thought I ought to open it, to see who had authority to act, and it proved that we alone had, for he was made executor, with L1,000. A favourite rifle was bequeathed to Eustace, an annuity of L50 to Smith, and all the rest of the property was to be shared between Dora and me. It was in the fewest words, not at all in form, but all right, and fully witnessed. It was in the dear handwriting, and was dated on the sad lonely Saturday when he felt himself sickening. The other things were accounts and all my letters, most of which could follow the fate of all that he had touched in those last days. However, the visit was a comfort to me. George Yolland answered my questions, and told me much more than poor Dermot could do in his stupefaction from grief, fatigue, and illness, even if I then could have understood.

He told me of the grief shown by all Mycening and Arghouse, and of the sobbing and weeping of mothers and children, who went in a broken pilgrimage on Sunday afternoon to the grave at Arghouse, of the throngs at the church and the hush, like a sob held back, when the text was given out: “Thanks be to Him who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Yet on the Saturday evening there was something more noted still. The men stood about when they had come up for their wages to the office, where, but a week before, Harold had paid them, with a sore struggle to see and to count aright, as some even then had observed; and at last their spokesman had explained their great desire to do something themselves in memory of “the best friend they ever had,” as they truly called him. Some of them had seen memorial-windows, and they wanted Mr. Yolland to take from each a small weekly subscription throughout the winter, to adorn the new chapel with windows. “With the history of Samson a killin’ of the lion,” called out a gruff voice. It was the voice of the father of the boy whom Harold had rescued on Neme Heath.

“So,” said George Yolland, as he told me, “the poor fellows’ hearty way was almost more than one could bear, but I knew Alison would have me try to turn it to some sort of good to themselves; so I stood up and said I’d take it on one condition only. They knew very well what vexed Mr. Alison most in themselves, and the example he had set–how he had striven to make them give up making beasts of themselves. Wouldn’t they think with me it was insulting him to let a drunkard have a hand in doing a thing to his memory? So I would manage their collection on condition they agreed that whoever took more than his decent pint a day–or whatever else sober men among them chose to fix it at–should have his money returned on the spot. Poor fellows, they cheered and said I was in the right, but whether they will keep to it is another thing.”

They did keep to it. All that winter, while the chapel was building, there were only five cases in which the money had to be returned, and two of those took the pledge, pleaded hard, and were restored. Indeed, I believe it was only the habitually sober who ventured on the tolerated pint. Of course there were some who never came into the thing at all, and continued in their usual course; but these were the dregs, sure to be found everywhere, and the main body of the Hydriot potters kept their word so staunchly, that the demon of intoxication among them was slain by those Samson windows, as Harold had never slain it during his life.

Beautiful bright windows they are, glowing with Samson in his typical might, slaying his lion, out of the strong finding sweetness, drinking water after the fight, bearing away the gates, and slaying his foes in his death. But Samson is not there alone. As the more thoughtful remarked, Samson was scarce a worthy likeness for one who had had grace to triumph. No, Samson, whose life always seems like a great type in shattered fragments, must be set in juxtaposition with the great Antitype. His conflict with Satan, His Last Supper, His pointing out the Water of Life, His Death and His victory over death, shine forth, giving their own lesson of Who hath won the victory.

We ventured to add two little windows with St. George and St. Christopher, to show how Christ’s soldiers may follow in the conquest, treading down the dragon, and bending to the yoke of the Little Child who leads them out of many waters.

That winter of temperance proved the fulcrum that had been wanting to the lever of improvement. Schools of art, concerts, lectures, choir preparation, recreation, occupation, and interests of all sorts were vigorously devised by the two Yollands; and, moreover, the “New Dragon’s Head” and the “Genuine Dragon’s Head,” with sundry of their congeners, died a natural death by inanition; so that when the winter was over, habits had been formed, and a standard of respectability set up, which has never entirely fallen, and a spirit which has withstood the temptation of strikes. Of course, the world has much to do with the tone of many. What amount of true and real religion there may be, can only be tested by trial, and there are many who do not show any signs of being influenced by anything more than public opinion, some who fall below that; but, as everyone knows, the Hydriot works have come to be not only noted for the beauty and excellence of their execution, and the orderliness, intelligence, and sobriety of their artisans, but for their large congregations, ample offertories, and numerous communicants.

Of course all this would never have kept up but for the Yollands. The Hydriots are wife, children, everything to him who is now called Vicar of St. Christopher’s, Mycening. He has refused better preferment, for he has grown noted now, since the work that Harold had begun is still the task he feels his charge.

And whatever is good is led by the manager of the works, whose influence over the workmen’s minds has never failed. Even when he talked to me on that day, I thought there was a change in his tone. He had never sneered (at least in my hearing) nor questioned other men’s faith, but when he told me of Harold his manner had something of awe, as well as of sorrow and admiration, and I could not but think that a sense had dawned out that the spiritual was a reality, and an absolute power over the material.

The great simple nature that had gradually and truly undergone that influence had been watched and studied by him, and had had its effect. The supernatural had made itself felt, and thenceforth he made it his study, in a quiet, unobtrusive manner, scarcely known even to his brother, but gradually resulting in heart-whole acceptance of faith, and therewith in full devotion of heart and soul.

Did Harold rejoice in that victory, which to him would have been one of the dearest of all?

CHAPTER XVI. CONCLUSION.

I must finish my story, though it seems hardly worth telling, since my nephew, my tower of strength and trust, had suddenly sunk away from me in the prime of his manhood.

The light seemed gone out of the whole world, and my heart felt dull and dead, as if I could never heed or care for anything again. Even Dermot’s illness did not seem capable of stirring me to active anxiety in this crushed, stupid state, with no one to speak to of what lay heavy on my heart, no one even to write to; for who would venture to read my letters? nay, I had not energy even to write to poor Miss Woolmer. We got into a way of going on day after day with Dora’s little meals, the backgammon, and the Mayne Reid, till sometimes it felt as if it had always been thus with us from all time, and always would be; and at others it would seem as if it were a dream, and that if I could but wake, I should be making tea for Harold in our cheerful little drawing-room at Mount Eaton. At last I had almost a morbid dread of breaking up this monotonous life, and having to think what to do or where to go. The Randall Horsmans must long for our departure, and my own house was in a state of purification, and uninhabitable.

The doctor said that Dora must be moved as soon as it could be managed, for in that London attic she could have no impulse towards recovery; and while it still seemed a fearful risk, he sent us off to St. Clement’s, a little village on the south coast, where he knew of rooms in a great old manor-house which had sunk to farmer’s use, and had a master and mistress proof against infection.

When I brought my tired, worn-out, fretting charge in through the great draughty porch, and was led up the old shallow oak stairs to a big panelled room, clean and scantily furnished, where the rats ran about behind the wainscot, and a rain-laden branch of monthly rose went tap, tap against the window, and a dog howled all night long, I thought we had come to a miserable place at the end of the earth. I thought so still the next morning, when the mist lay in white rolls and curls round the house; and the sea, when we had a peep of it, was as lead-coloured as the sky, while the kind pity of the good wife for Dora’s weak limbs and disfigured face irritated me so that I could hardly be civil.

Dora mended from that day, devoted herself to the hideous little lambs that were brought in to be nursed by the fire; ate and drank like a little cormorant, and soon began to rush about after Mr. and Mrs. Long, whether in house or farm-yard, like a thing in its native element, while they were enchanted with her colonial farm experience, and could not make enough of “Little Missy.”

I had a respite from Mayne Reid, and could wander as far as I pleased alone on the shingle, or sit and think as I had so often longed to do; but the thoughts only resulted in a sense of dreariness and of almost indifference as to my fate, since the one person in all the world who had needed me was gone, and I had heard nothing whatever of Dermot Tracy. He might be gone out to his mother and sister, or back to Ireland. Our paths would never come together again, for he thought I did not care for him. Nay, was I even sure of his recovery? His constitution had been much tried! He was in a strange place, among mere professional nurses! Who could tell how it had been with him?

Everything went from me that had loved me. Even Dora was to leave me as soon as people ceased to be afraid of her.

Letters had found out the married pair on their return from the cataracts of the Nile. Eustace had immediately been vaccinated fourteen times, but he was shocked and appalled, and the spirit of his letter was–

O while my brother with me stayed, Would I had loved him more,

and I forgave him much.

Hippolyta likewise wrote with feeling, but it rather stung me to be thanked for my care of “her poor little sister,” as if Dora were not my child before she was hers. As soon as it was considered safe, Dora was to be returned to Horsman keeping, and as the Randall party declined to receive her again, Philippa would convey her to a school at Baden-Baden.

And Dora declared she was glad! There was none of the angry resistance with which she had left me in the spring; when I had done nothing for her compared with what I had gone through for her now; but I believe I was dull company, and showed myself displeased at her hardness and wild outbreaks of spirits, and that the poor child longed to escape from all that reminded her of the unbearable sorrow at the bottom of her heart. But it was a grievance to a grievance- making temper, such as I feel mine was.

The most wholesome thing I received was a letter from Prometesky, to whom I had written the tidings that Harold would never need his comfort more. The old man was where the personal loss was not felt, and he knew more deeply than anyone the pain which that strong fervent heart suffered in its self-conquests, so that he did not grieve for Harold himself; but he gave me that sympathy of entire appreciation of my loss which is far better than compassion. For himself, he said his last link with the world was gone, he found the peace, and the expression of penitence, his soul required, in the course he was about to embrace, and I might look on this as a voice from the grave. I should never hear of him more, but I should know that, as long as life was left him, it would be spent in prayers for those whose souls he had wrecked in his overboiling youth. He ended with thanks to all of us, who he said had sent him to his retreat with more kindly and charitable recollections than he should otherwise have carried thither. I never did hear of him again; Dermot went to the convent some years later, and tried to ascertain if he lived, but the monks do not know each others’ names, and it failed.