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The village of St. Clement’s, a small fishing-place, was half-a-mile off, through lanes a foot deep in mud, and with a good old sleepy rector of the old school, not remarkable for his performances in Church. I was entering the little shop serving as the post-office, where I went every day in the unreasonable expectation of letters, when I heard a voice that made me start, “Did you say turn to the right?”

And there, among the piles of cheeses, stood a figure I knew full well, though it had grown very thin, and had a very red and mottled face at the top.

We held out our hands to one another in silence, and walked at once out of hearing. Dermot said he was well, and had been as kindly looked after as possible, and now he had been let out as safe company, but his family and friends would hardly believe it, so he had come down to see whether he could share our quarantine.

Happily a few cottages of the better sort had accommodation for lodgers, and one of them–for a consideration–accepted “the gentleman’s” bill of health. He walked on by my side, both of us feeling the blessing of having someone to speak to. He, poor fellow, had seen no being who had ever heard of Harold, except George Yolland, who came when he was too ill to talk, and we went on with the conversation that had been broken off weeks before, with such comfort as it could give us in such a loss as ours.

He walked all the way back with me, and I was frightened to see how tired he looked. I took him to Mrs. Long for the refreshment she loved to give, and begged for the pony for him to ride home on, and a boy to fetch it back.

It was wonderful how much more blue there was in the sea the next day, how the evergreens glistened, and how beautiful and picturesque the old house grew; and when I went out in the morning sunshine, for once, inclined to admit some beauty in the staggering black-legged and visaged lambs, and meditating a walk to the village, I saw Dermot coming across the yard, so wearily and breathlessly, that I could only say, “How could you?”

He looked up piteously. “You don’t forbid me?” he said.

I almost cried as I told him it was only his fatigue that I objected to; and indeed he was glad enough to take Dora’s now vacated place on the great sofa, while we talked of Viola. Writing to her had been, of course, impossible for him, and he had only had two short notes from her, so meaningless that I thought she wrote them fearing to disturb him while he was ill; but he muttered an ominous line from Locksley Hall, vituperated Piggy, and confessed that his ground for doing so was that his mother reported Viola as pleased with foreign life, and happy with her cousins. I said it was his mother’s way, and he replied, “Exactly so; and a girl may be worried into anything.” A slight dispute on that score cheered him a little, for he showed himself greatly depressed. He was going–as soon as he had gathered a little strength–back to the duties he had promised to fulfil on his own property, but he hated the thought, was down- hearted as to the chances of success, and distrustful of himself among discouragements, and the old associations he had made for himself. “It is a different thing without Alison to look to and keep one up,” he said.

“There are higher motives,” was my stupid speech.

“It is precious hard on a poor fellow to be left alone with his higher motives, as you call them, before he has well begun to act on his lower.”

And then, I don’t know how, he began talking drearily, almost as if I was not there, of his having once begun to fancy he could do something creditable enough to make me some day look on him as I used to do in the good old times. My heart gave a great bound, and remembering how Harold said I discouraged him, out came, “How do you know that I don’t?”

How he sprang up! And–no, I can’t tell what we said, only we found it was no new beginning, only taking up an old, old precious thread– something brought it all out. He had talked it all over with Harold when he came back from Florence, and had taken home a little hope which he said had helped him through the solitary hours of his recovery. So it was Harold who, after all, gave us to one another.

Outspoken Dora informed us, before the day was much older, that the Longs had asked whether that was her brother, or my young man. So we took them into our confidence, and even borrowed “the trap” for one of the roughest and the sweetest drives that ever we had, through those splashing lanes, dropping Dermot at his lodgings to write his letters, while the harvest moon made a path over the sea, no longer leaden, but full of silvery glittering light. There had something come back into the air which made us feel that life was worth living, after all!

Next morning the good people, who were much excited about our affairs, sent the pony for him, and he came in full force with that flattering Irish tongue of his, bent on persuading me that, old lovers as we were, with no more to find out about one another, there was nothing to wait for. ‘How could he go back by himself (what a brogue he put on! yet the tears were in his eyes) to his great desolate castle, with not a living man in it at all at all, barring the Banshee and a ghost or two; and as I had nothing to do, and nowhere to go, why not be married then and there without more ado? If I refused, he should think it was all my pride, and that I couldn’t take that “ornary object,” as he had overheard himself described that day. (As if I did not love him the better for that marred complexion!) His mother? His uncle? They had long ago repented of having come between us ten years ago, and were ready to go down on their knees to any dacent young woman who would take him, let alone a bit of an heiress, who, though not to compete with the sixty-thousand pounder, could provide something better than praties and buttermilk for herself at Killy Marey.’

I could not help thinking dear Harold might have remembered Killy Marey’s needs when he gave me that half of his means. And as to going back to Mount Eaton, ghosts of past times would meet me there, whose pain was then too recent to have turned into the treasure these recollections are to me.

There would be just time, Dermot declared, if he put up our banns the very next Sunday, to go through with it before the time Pippa had appointed for receiving Dora, and it would save all the trouble of hunting up a surrogate and startling him with his lovely face.

However, he did startle the poor old parish clergyman effectually by calling on him to publish the banns of marriage between Dermot Edward St. Glear Tracy and Lucy Percy Alison, both residing in this parish. He evidently thought we were in hiding from someone who knew of some just cause or impediment; but whereas we certainly did full justice to our ages twenty-eight and twenty-six, he could only try to examine us individually very politely, but betraying how uncomfortable he was.

It was most amusing to see how his face cleared up when, two days later, he met us on the beach with a dignified old white-haired gentleman, though Dermot declared that the imposing title mentioned on the introduction made him suspect us of having hired a benignant stage father for the occasion.

The dear old uncle Ery had actually come down to chaperone us, and really act as much as possible as a father to me; and as I had likewise sent for Colman and a white silk dress, the St. Clement’s minds were free to be pleasantly excited about us. Lord Erymanth had intended to have carried us off to be married from his castle, but we begged off, and when he saw Dermot, he allowed that it was not the time to make a public spectacle of what (Dermot was pleased to say) would have the pleasing pre-eminence of being “the ugliest of weddings,” both as to bridegroom and bridesmaid. For he and Dora used to make daily fun of their respective beauties, which were much on a par, since, though she had three weeks’ start of him, the complaint having been unmitigated in her, had left much more permanent-looking traces. Those two chose to keep each other up to the most mirthful nonsense-pitch, and yet I am sure none of us felt so light of spirit as we must have appeared, though, perhaps, the being on the edge of such a great shadow made the sunshine seem brighter.

We had considered of beginning with a flying visit to see how poor Viola really was, but the Italian letters prevented this. Lady Diana accepted me cordially and kindly as a daughter, and said all that was proper; but she actually forestalled us by desiring her son not to come out to her, for she thought it much better for Viola not to have painful recollections revived, and Viola herself wrote in a way that disappointed us–loving indeed, but with a strain of something between lightness and bitterness, and absolutely congratulating her brother that there was no one on my side to bring up bygones against him. One half of her letter was a mere guide-book to the Roman antiquities, and was broken off short for some carnival gaiety. Lord Erymanth clearly liked his letters as little as we did. In the abstract, in spite of the first cousinship, I am afraid he would rather have given Viola to Pigou St. Glear than to Harold Alison, but he had thought better of his niece than to think she could forget such a man so soon.

However, the day came. Dora slept with me, and that last night when I came to bed, I found the true self had made a reassertion in one of those frightful fits of dumb hysteria. Half the night Colman and I were attending to her, but still she never opened to me, more than by clinging frantically round my neck in the intervals. She fell asleep at last, and slept till we actually pulled her out of bed to be dressed for the wedding; but we agreed that we could not expose our uncle (who was to escort her to Northchester station) to being left alone with her in one of these attacks, and, as our programme had never been quite fixed, we altered it so far as to pass through Northchester and see her safe into Baby Horsman’s hands.

She was altogether herself by day, gave no sign of emotion, and was as merry as possible throughout the journey, calling out to Dermot airily from the platform that she should send him a present of sour krout from Baden. Poor child, it was five years before we saw her again!

We had scarcely had time to settle in at Killy Marey before Lady Diana implored us to meet her in London, without explaining what was the matter. When we came to Lord Erymanth’s house, we were met by Viola, very thin, but with a bright red colour on her usually pale cheeks, and a strange gleaming light in her eyes, making them larger than ever; and oh, how she did talk! Chatter, chatter, about all they had seen or done, and all the absurdities of the people they had met; mimicking them and making fun, and all the time her mother became paler and graver, looking as if she had grown ten years older. It went on so all dinner-time. She talked instead of eating, and all the evening those bright eyes of hers seemed to be keeping jealous watch that no one should exchange any words in private.

Nor could we till poor Lady Diana, with a fagged miserable face, came to my room at night, and I called Dermot in. And then she told us how the child had “seemed to bear everything most beautifully,” and had never given way. I believe it was from that grain of perversity in Viola’s high-spirited nature, as well as the having grown up without confidence towards her mother, which forbade her to mourn visibly among unsympathising watchers; and when her hope was gone led her in her dull despair to do as they pleased, try to distract her thoughts, let herself be hunted hither and thither, and laugh at and play with Pigou St. Glear quite enough to pass for an encouraging flirtation, and to lead all around her to think their engagement immediately coming on. The only thing she refused to do was to go to the Farnese Palace, where was the statue to which there had more than once been comparisons made. At last, one day, when they were going over the Vatican Galleries, everyone was startled by a strange peal of laughter, and before a frieze of the Labours of Hercules stood Pigou, looking pale and frightened, and trying to get Viola away, as she stood pointing to the carrying home of the Erymanthian boar, and laughing in this wild forced way. They got her away at last, but Piggy told his father that he would have no more to do with her, even if their uncle left her half his property, though he never would tell what she had said to him.

Since that time she had gone on in this excited state, apparently scarcely eating or sleeping, talking incessantly, not irrationally, but altogether at random, mockingly and in contradiction to everyone; caring chiefly to do the very thing her mother did not wish, never resting, and apparently with untiring vigour, though her cheeks and hands were burning, and she was wasting away from day to day.

Lady Diana really thought her mind was going, and by this time would have given all she had in the world to have been able to call Harold back to her. Diana Enderby tried reproofs for her flightiness, but only made her worse; with Dermot she would only make ridiculous nonsense, and utter those heartrending laughs; and when I tried to soothe her, and speak low and quietly, she started away from me, showed me her foreign purchases, or sang snatches of comic songs.

Dermot went at last to consult the same doctor to whom, half a year before, he had taken Harold; and it was contrived that he should see and hear her at a dinner-party without her knowledge. He consoled us very much by saying that her mind was not touched, and that it was a fever on the nerves, produced by the never having succumbed to the unhappiness and the shock which, when he heard in what manner she had lost Harold, he considered quite adequate to produce such effects. Indeed, he had been so much struck with Harold himself, that he was quite startled to hear of his death, and seemed to think an excess of grief only his due. He bade us take her to her home, give her no external excitement, and leave her as much as possible to go her own way, and let her feel herself unwatched, and, if we could, find her some new yet calming, engrossing occupation.

We took the advice, and poor Lady Diana besought us to remain with her for the present; nor, indeed, could we have left her. Our chief care was to hinder her oppressing her daughter with her anxiety; for we found that Viola was so jealous of being watched that she would hardly have tolerated us, but that I had real business in packing up my properties at Mount Eaton. For the first week she took up her old occupations in the same violent and fitful way, never sitting long to anything, but rushing out to dash round the garden, and taking long walks in all weathers, rejecting companionship.

>From various causes, chiefly Lady Diana’s wretchedness and anxiety, Dermot and I had to wait a week before we could have the pony-chaise and go together to Harold’s grave. The great, massive, Irish granite cross was not ready then, and there was only the long, very long, green mound, at my mother’s feet. There lay two wreaths on it. One was a poor thorn garland–for his own Hydriot children had, we heard, never left it untended all the winter–the other was of a great white-flowered rhododendron that was peculiar to the Arked garden.

Was it disloyal to Harry that we thought more of Viola than we did of him that first time we stood by his grave? It was an immense walk from Arked to Arghouse Church, over four miles even by the shortest way, which lay through rough cart-tracks which we had avoided in coming, but now felt we had better take.

Nearly half way home, under a great, old pollard ash, we saw a little brown figure. It was Viola, crouched together with her head on her knees, sitting on the bank. She started up and tried to say something petulantly joking about our always dogging her, but she broke down in a flood of tears to which sheer weariness conduced. She was tired out at last, footsore, and hardly able to move a limb, when Dermot almost lifted her into the carriage, the dreadful, hard self-control all over now, when, in those long lanes, with the Maybushes meeting overhead, she leant against me and sobbed with long-pent anguish, while her brother walked at the pony’s head.

She had quite broken down now, and her natural self was come back to us. When we came home, I got her up to her own room and Dermot went to his mother. She had a long, quiet sleep, lying on her bed, and when she woke it was growing dark on the May evening. She looked at me a little while without speaking, and her eyes were soft again.

“Lucy,” she said, “I think I have been very naughty, but they made me so.”

I said, as I kissed her, that I thought “they” had done so.

“_He_ would not have let anybody make him so,” she said. “I was the bad one. I was almost unfaithful. I told him so to-day.”

“Not unfaithful, dearest, only harassed and miserable beyond all bearing.”

“Nothing is beyond bearing. I said so to myself over and over again. That was why I would let no one see that I minded.”

“You tried to bear it proudly, all by yourself,” I said; “that was what made it so dreadful.”

“He said it was God’s will,” said poor Viola, “but I knew it was mamma’s. I did what he told me, Lucy; I did not get so wrong as long as he lived, but after that I did not care what became of me, and yet I did love him as much as ever.”

She seemed to look on me as his representative, and was now ready to take any persuasion of mine as coming from him. She admitted her mother, was gentle and natural with her, ate and drank at her bidding, and went to bed pale and worn down, but not ill. She never gave in or professed indisposition, but for more than ten days she “went softly,” was very tired, and equal to nothing but lying on the sofa and sitting in the garden; and it was in those days that sometimes with her brother, sometimes with me, she went over all that we could tell her, or she tell us, of him who had been so dear to us all. The first time she was alone with Dermot, she kissed every remaining mark she could find in his face, and said she had ached to do it every time she saw him. All those wells of deeper thought that had been so long choked by the stony hardness of a proudly-borne sorrow seemed suddenly to open, when she gave herself up to the thought of Harold. She even arrived at sorrow for the way she had treated her mother; when he had given up his own hope rather than make her disobedient. She asked Lady Diana’s pardon. She had never done so voluntarily in her whole life. She was met by tears and humility that softened and humiliated her in her sorrow more than aught else. Her precious flower-pot was in her window with its fragrant verbena, and I gave her the crystal cross again, telling her where I had found it, and she held it a moment and said, “Some day it will be buried with me. But I must do something to feel as if I deserved it. You know it comes to me like a token out of the sea of glass like unto crystal, where they stand that overcome! I think I’ll only wear it at night when I think I have done something, or conquered a bit of my perverseness with mamma.”

A sudden idea came over me. Mr. Benjamin Yolland was in dire want of a lady as reference to a parish woman for his Hydriots. I had begun, but had been called away. Miss Woolmer had tried, but was not well enough, and there was no one else whom he thought capable. I was to stay at Arked for six weeks more; should I put Viola in the way? It would be work for him.

She caught at it. Lady Diana bridled a little as she thought of the two young men who managed the Hydriots, but the doctor’s prescription recurred to her mind, and she consented.

Need I tell you how dear Aunt Viola’s soul and spirit have gone forth with those Hydriot people, how from going once a week to meet the parish woman at Miss Woolmer’s, she soon came to presiding at the mothers’ meetings, to knowing everybody, and giving more and more of her time, her thoughts, her very self to them and being loved by them enormously. The spirit, fun, and enterprise that were in her fitted her, as they began to revive, for dealing with the lads, who were sure to be devoted to anything so pretty and refined. When she began, the whisper that she was the love of their hero, gave them a romantic interest, and though with the younger generation this is only a tradition, yet “our lady” has won ground of her own, and is still fair and sweet enough to be looked on by those youths as a sort of flower of the whole world, yet their own peculiar property. For is she not a Hydriot shareholder, and does she not like to know that it was to Harold’s revival of those shares that she chiefly owes her present means? Since her mother’s death she has lived among them at the house that was old Miss Woolmer’s, and is tranquilly happy in finding happiness for other people, and always being ready when any one needs her, as our dear old uncle does very often, though I think her Hydriot boys have the most of her.

Hippolyta made Eustace a good wife, and watched over him well; but there was no preventing his deficiency from increasing; it became acknowledged disease of the brain, and he did not survive his cousin six years. Happily none of his feebleness of intellect seems to have descended to Eustace the third, who is growing up a steady, sensible lad under his mother’s management; and perhaps it is not the worse for Arghouse to have become a Horsman dependency.

It was the year before Eustace’s death that the conductress of the school at Baden wrote to Mrs. Alison about Dora. The sad state of her brother had prevented her coming home or being visited, and though I exchanged letters with her periodically, we had not sufficient knowledge of one another for any freedom of expression after she had conquered the difficulties of writing.

When she was a little more than sixteen, came a letter to tell that she was wasting away in either atrophy or consumption, and that the doctors said the only hope for her was home and native air. Poor child! what home was there for her, with her sister-in-law absorbed in the care of her brother, whose imbecility was no spectacle for one in a critical state of health and failing spirits? We were at Arked at the time, and offered to go and fetch her (it was Dermot’s kind thought), leaving the children to Viola’s care.

Poor dear, what a sight she was! Tall in proportion to the giant breed she came of, but thin to the most painful degree, and bending like a fishing-rod, or a plant brought up in the dark, which, by-the- by, she most resembled, with her white face and thin yellow hair. Her complexion had recovered, but her hair never had, nor, as it proved, her health, for she had been more or less ailing ever since she came, and the regimen of the frugal Germans had not supported the fast-growing English girl’s frame, any more than the strict and thorough-going round of accurate education had suited the untrained, desultory intellect, unused to method or application. Nor did the company of the good, plodding, sentimental maedchens give any pleasure to the vehement creature, whose playfellow from babyhood had been a man–and such a man! Use did no good, but rather, as the childish activity and power of play and the sense of novelty passed, the growth of the womanly soul made the heart-hunger and solitude worse, and spirit and health came yearly to a lower level.

She was too languid to be more than indifferent when she saw us, and the first sign of warmth that she gave was her kiss, when I went back to visit her after putting her to bed at the hotel. She looked up, put her arms round my neck, and said, “This is like the old days.”

We brought her by slow stages to London, where Hippolyta came up to see her for one day, and was terribly shocked. The doctors were not hopeful, but said she might go where she pleased, and do what she liked, and as her one wish was to be with us, my dear husband laughed to scorn the notion that, whatever had been dear to Harold, should not be his sacred charge, and so we took her back.

And there, she did not die. She lay on the sofa day after day, watched the children at play, and listened dreamily to the family affairs, rested and was petted by us both, called it very comfortable, and was patient, but that whole winter seemed to remain where she was, neither better nor worse. With the spring came a visit from George Yolland, a prosperous man, as he well deserved to be, and the foremost layman in all good works in the neighbourhood since dear old Lord Erymanth had been disabled. In the forenoons, when I was teaching the children, and Dermot was busy, he was generally in the drawing-room, talking to Dora, whose blue eyes had a vivid silent intelligence, like no one but Harold’s. From the first day he had confirmed my conviction that, at any rate, she was not dying now, and she began to start into strength. She sat up all the evening, she walked round the garden, she drove out, she came down to breakfast. The day after that achievement, she came to me sobbing for joy with something inaudible about “his sake,” while George was assuring Dermot that there was only one woman in the world for him!

So, on a bright summer day, we gave her to the friend Harold had gained on the same day as Dermot, and she went to be the happy mistress of Mount Eaton, and reign there, an abrupt woman, not universally liked, but intensely kind and true, and much beloved by all who have cared to penetrate through her shell.

There! my work is done, though I fear it is a weaker likeness of my young Alcides than even the faded photograph by my side, but I could not brook that you, my children, should grow up unknowing of the great character to whom your father and I owe one another, and all besides that is best in our lives. There are things that must surprise you about your dear father. Remember that he insisted on my putting them in, and would not have them softened, because, he said, you ought to have the portrait in full, and that, save at his own expense, you could not know the full gratitude he feels to the man who made a new era in our lives. He says he is not afraid either of the example for you, or that you will respect him less, and I know you will not, for you will only see his truth and generosity.

L. P. T.

All that your mother has written is true–blessings on her!–every word of it, except that she never could, and I hope none of you ever will, understand the depth and blackness of the slough Harold Alison drew me out of, by just being the man he was; nor will she show you– for indeed she is blind to it herself–that it was no other than she, with her quiet, upright sweetness and resolution, that was the making of him and of both of us. Very odd it is that a woman should set it all down in black and white, and never perceive it was all her own doing. But if you see it, young people, what you have to do is to be thankful for the mother you have got and try to be worthy of her, and if the drop of Alison blood in you should make one of you even the tenth part of what Harold was, then you’ll be your father’s pride, and much more than he deserves.

D. E. ST. G. T.

Thank you, dear brother, for having let me see this, though I know Lucy did not intend it for my eyes, or she would not have been so hard on poor mamma. It shows me how naughty I must have been to let her get such a notion of our relations with one another, but an outsider can never judge of such things. For the rest, dear Lucy has done her best, and in many ways she did know him better than anybody else did, and he looked up to her more than to anyone. But even she cannot reach to the inmost depth of the sweetness out of the strong, nor fully know the wonderful power of tender strength that seemed to wrap one’s mind round and bear one on with him, and that has lasted me ever since, and well it may, for he was the very glory of my life.

V. T.

I am glad to have read it, because it explains a great deal that I was too much of a child to understand; but I don’t like it. I don’t mean for putting in the fatal thing I did in my ignorant folly. I knew that, and she has softened my wilfulness. But there’s too much flummery, and he was a hundred times more than all that. I had rather recollect him for myself, than have such a ladylike, drawing- room picture; but Lucy means it well, and it is just as he smoothed and combed himself down for her. Nobody should have done it but George. He would have made a man of him.

D. Y.

As if George could have done it! A lady must always see a man somewhat as a carpet knight, and ill would betide both if it were not so. But, allowing for this, and the want of “more power to her elbow,” I am thankful to Mrs. Tracy for this vivid recall of the man to whom I and all here owe an unspeakable debt. For my own part, I can only say that from the day when I marvelled at his fortitude under the terrible pain of the lion’s bites, to that when I saw the almost unexampled triumph of his will over the promptings of a disordered brain, he stood before me the grandest specimen of manhood I ever met, ever a victor, and, above all, over himself.

G. Y.