Here was Alured’s eighth birthday, and he had never been ill at all, but was as fine-looking healthy a boy as could be seen.
We took him to London, and showed him to Dr. Hart, and he said that the old tendency was entirely outgrown, and that Lord Trevorsham was as likely to live and thrive as any child of his age in England.
It really seemed the beginning of a new life, not to have that dreadful fear hanging over us any longer! We felt settled, that was one thing; not as if we should do as Bertram expected, have to come off to New Zealand.
The farm had just began to pay. Fulk’s sales of cattle had been, for the first time, more than enough to clear his rent. He had a great ox in the Smithfield Cattle Show, and met our Lupton uncles there not as an unsuccessful man.
And I? I had a dim feeling that Alured would soon cease to need me, and Jaquetta would not be claimed for a long time; and if—
But in the midst of that I saw a haggard face driving in the park by the side of a little, over-dressed, faded woman.
And Aunt Amelia told me how (in the rebound from my harshness, no doubt) Mr. Decies had, as it were, dropped into the hands of a weak, extravagant girl, who had long been using all the intellect she had to attract him, and now led him a dreary life of perpetual dissipation.
I don’t know how much I had been to blame. I am sure he was meant for better things. Mine could never have been real love for him, and the refusal could not have been wrong. It must have been the pride and harshness that stung him!
I was very sorry for him, though I could not think about it, of course, still less speak; but that was the beginning of my hating myself, and I have hated myself more and more ever since I have taken to write all this down, and seen how hard and foolish I was, how very much the worst of the three.
Even my care for Alured sprang out of exclusive passion, and so, though I do think that by Heaven’s mercy I had a great share in cherishing him into strength and health, I had managed him badly, I had indulged him over much, and was improperly resentful of any attempt of Jaquetta, or even of Fulk, to interfere with him or restrain him.
Thus, when the anxiety was over, and he was a strong boy, full of health and activity, his will was entirely unrestrained, he had no notion of minding any of us, still less of learning. Trevor Lea could read, write, talk French, say a few Latin declensions, when Alured could not read a word of three letters, and would not try to learn.
Oh! the antics he played when I tried to teach him! Then Fulk tried, and he was tame for three days, but then came idleness, wilfulness, anger, punishment, but he laughed to scorn all that we could find in our hearts to do to him.
As to getting other help we were ashamed till he should be a little less shamefully backward. The Cradocks offered to teach him, but then, unless he was elaborately put on honour, he played truant.