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My Young Alcides eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 299 pages of information about My Young Alcides.

The farmer not only turned in his scanty supply of men to help to finish off the labour, and seconded contrivances which the day before he would have scouted, but he gave his own bowed back to the work.  A pavement of the court which had not seen the day for forty years was brought to light; and by a series of drain tiles, for which a messenger was dispatched to the pottery, streams were conducted from the river to wash these up; and at last, when Harold appeared, after Eustace had insisted on waiting no longer for dinner, he replied to our eager questions, “Yes, it is done.”

“And Ogden?”

“He thanked me, shook hands with me, and said I was a man.”

Which we knew meant infinitely more than a gentleman.

Harold wanted to spend Thursday in banking up the pond in the centre of the yard, but the idea seemed to drive Eustace to distraction.  Such work before going to that sublime region at Erymanth!  He laid hold of Harold’s hands—­shapely hands, and with that look of latent strength one sees in some animals, but scarred with many a seam, and horny within the fingers—­and compared them with those he had nursed into dainty delicacy of whiteness, till Harold could not help saying, “I wouldn’t have a lady’s fingers.”

“I would not have a clown’s,” said Eustace.

“Keep your gloves on, Harold, and do not make them any worse.  If you go out to that place to-day, they won’t even be as presentable as they are.”

“I shall wash them.”

“Wash!  As if oceans of Eau-de-Cologne would make them fit for society!” said Eustace, with infinite disgust, only equalled by the “Faugh!” with which Harold heard of the perfume.  In fact, Eustace was dreadfully afraid the other hunters had seen and recognised those shoulders, even under the smock-frock, as plainly as he did, and he had been wretched about it ever since.

“You talk of not wanting to do me harm,” he said, “and then you go and grub in such work as any decent labourer would despise.”

So miserable was he, that Harold, who never saw the foolery in Eustace that he would have derided in others, yielded to him so far as only to give directions to Bullock for sending down the materials wanted for the pond, and likewise for mending the roof of a cottage where a rheumatic old woman was habitually obliged to sleep under a crazy umbrella.

CHAPTER VII.  THE BIRDS OF ILL OMEN.

Nothing stands out to me more distinctly, with its pleasures and pains, than the visit to Erymanth Castle—­from our arrival in the dark—­the lighted hall—­the servants meeting us—­the Australians’ bewilderment at being ushered up to our rooms without a greeting from the host—­my lingering to give a last injunction in Eustace’s ear, “Now, Eustace, I won’t have Harold’s hair greased; and put as little stuff as you can persuade yourself to do on your pocket-handkerchief—­orders

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