'I don't know,' said my aunt. 'We shall see.'
In the preceding pages I have given a short record of the first twenty-six years of my life — years of suffering, disgrace, and inward remorse. I fear that my mode of telling will have left an idea simply of their absurdities; but, in truth, I was wretched — sometimes almost unto death, and have often cursed the hour in which I was born. There had clung to me a feeling that I had been looked upon always as an evil, an encumbrance, a useless thing — as a creature of whom those connected with him had to be ashamed. And I feel certain now that in my young days I was so regarded. Even my few friends who had found with me a certain capacity for enjoyment were half afraid of me. I acknowledge the weakness of a great desire to be loved — of a strong wish to be popular with my associates. No child, no boy, no lad, no young man, had ever been less so. And I had been so poor, and so little able to bear poverty. But from the day on which I set my foot in Ireland all these evils went away from me. Since that time who has had a happier life than mine? Looking round upon all those I know, I cannot put my hand upon one. But all is not over yet. And, mindful of that, remembering how great is the agony of adversity, how crushing the despondency of degradation, how susceptible I am myself to the misery coming from contempt — remembering also how quickly good things may go and evil things come — I am often again tempted to hope, almost to pray, that the end may be near. Things may be going well now —
'He is very good-looking. He reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless in his . . .'
It was at that moment that the first hint of a dreadful, incredible doubt entered Drax's mind. But again he looked at his hand, and again he was reassured. At the very worst he couldn't fail to make two tricks.
For the Graphic, in 1873, I wrote a little story about Australia. Christmas at the antipodes is of course midsummer, and I was not loth to describe the troubles to which my own son had been subjected, by the mingled accidents of heat and bad neighbours, on his station in the bush. So I wrote Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, and was well through my labour on that occasion. I only wish I may have no worse success in that which now hangs over my head.