Julia Frankau.

Full swing online

. (page 1 of 27)
Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 1 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




■''M> ^Q4i f)^



Pigs in Clover

Decorated cloth $1.50

"By far the most powerful and search-
ing piece of fiction of the year."

— The Bookman


Illustrated in color $1.50

" Even more intense and dramatic
than "Pigs in Clover."— .V. Y. Sun







The Wheel ts come full circle."











H. M. M.


09001 i



Agatha Wanstead was barely ten years old when the great
orchid, secured from the Brazils after infinite tribulation
and almost unimaginable expenses, arrived at Marley. She
saw the long-expected treasure unswathed from its packings,
wondering at her father's excitement. Big, bulbous and un-
beautiful, it showed no promise of efflorescence, appearing
dry, unwieldy and ill-shapen.

" At last ! At last ! " cried her father exultingly. " This
will astonish them! The Odontoglossum Coeleste at last!
Absolutely the first to arrive in England ! We shall have it in
flower for the Horticultural Show."

Sanders came with it, the young Scotch gardener who
was for the future to have charge of all the orchids, to
reign, with such supremacy as Squire Wanstead should per-
mit, over the quarter of an acre of glass that furnished prize-
winners for all the flower-shows in England. A space in one
of the houses had been reserved for the new-comer, and there
through the autumn and winter it hung quiescent in its new

The attention of the whole household, indoors and out,
was concentrated upon the plant, and when spring came
Agatha heard Sanders tell her father that it was putting
forth signs of growth, that it was "plumping up." But his
reports varied and anxiety deepened. Already April had
come, when the child, motherless, a little lonely and neg-
lected, but never without knowledge of the high position into
which she was born and the desire to be worthy of it, began
to doubt whether the plant was properly treated. She heard
her father talking about it constantly, questioning this or
that. Surely what applied to growing children applied to



growing plants. Fresh air was the one thing upon which
the new doctor who had just settled in Great Marley insisted.
His advice had been taken. She was no longer cooped up in
the school-room for lessons, but all .day long was in the
garden or the "woods. Already she was better, knew she too
was " plumping up," and felt the spring in her veins.

Poor plant! She thought of it by night and by day, of
liow it was hanging up in the steaming house, stifling, unable
to breathe. She herself could hardly breathe in that hot,
moist air. How wonderful to be able to help it, to help lier
father to a great Joy in its growth, to help Sanders! Thus
thinking, she at last put thought into action, waking up in
the middle of the night, conscience-stricken at her own
supineness in the matter. The bed was warm and comfort-
able, and for a few minutes she lay and wondered whether
the morning would not be time enough for action. But it
was not her disposition then, or ever, to do the easy thing.
She got out of the warm bed hurriedly, dressed as well as
she was able in the limited illumination of the night-light,
ran downstairs, and fumbled open the locks of the big front
door. Then she went swiftly down the steps and across
the grass to the hot-house. That, too, was locked, but she
knew where the key was kept. She found and fitted it, opened
the door; the hot, steamy air rushed out convincingly, and
the stifled plant had fresh air at last.

She slept well when she got back to her own room. Less
well the next night, when the heinousness of her conduct was
brought home to her. All the orchids in the hot-house were
dead or dying, the new Odontoglossum amongst them. She
slept less well, not that she was conscious of, or admitted,
guilt, not because she was scolded or punished, but because
she was perj^lexed that one could do good and evil could come
of it, because already she felt dimly that the right path might
not always be easy to find.

Agatha's conscience was ever her torment and her un-
doing. At fifteen years she was almost overpowered by the
sense of her responsibilities; awed by the knowledge that she
was Miss Wanstead of Marley, the last descendant of the


ancient house. She tried to talk to her father about it, but
he responded lightly. She was already uneasy that her father
took hia business as a magistrate and a great landowner too
carelessly, that he devoted too much of his time to horti-
culture, and especially to orchids. When, he became fully
aware of her solicitude for him, he sent her to boarding school,
where she was homesick and miserable, realising that her own
blundering had brought about her banishment, but not more
reconciled to it on that account.

True, his hot-houses, warm-houses, cool-houses, his
Dendrobiums and Odontoglossums, Vandas and Cattleyas
were more important to Squire Wanstead than Marley or his
young daughter. He was the first of the orchidaceans. What
began as a pastime ended as a passion. Far and near he
sought for rare specimens. His experiments in hybridisation
were the talk of the horticultural world as early as 1863. He
had neither time nor inclination to discuss ethics with his
young daughter, it was easier to rid himself of her.

One experiment he made of a culture less exiguous. In
his sixtieth year, Agatha still at school, he became besotted
over a pale English rose, importing it hastily to the terraced
garden of the Court, where, like so many of his other impor-
tations, it failed to flourish. He and his daughter were alike
impulsive, and came into sad conflict over this ill-considered

When Agatha returned from school, full of desire to be
a companion and help to her father, to take her place as lady
of the manor and be a benefactress to all Marley, she found
herself confronted by a young stepmother about to bear a
Marley heir, and by a father comparatively indifferent to
the greatness of his position and completely oblivious of hers.
Little Marley interested him very little, and Great Marley
not at all.

The young stepmother wanted smart clothes and jewellery,
a house in town, new carriages and liveries, more horses.
Squire Wanstead's hobby was an expensive one. And at
Little Marley cottages were in need of repair, the sanitation
was considerably worse than primitive; there was no district


nurse or cottage hospital. Agatha's sense of duty burned
hot within her; she was young and spoke in season and out
of season. " They are our people, Marley people ; they look
to us for help, and we are doing nothing for them. . . ."
*^ou are a bore, Agatha; nothing but a bore," was her
father's final and irritated answer. " Damn the cottages and
Little Marley. Great Marley, too, if you like. Can't you
leave things alone ? "

" The rain comes through the roofs, the woodwork is
all rotten; they ought to be rebuilt. No money should be
spent until that is done," she persisted.

" I believe she grudges me the very food I eat, the clothes
I wear," complained her stepmother.
" I grudge you nothing."

Agatha saw right and wrong in unshaded lines of black
and white. She was conscientious and utterly honest, without

"But we are not doing our duty, not doing the right
thing by our people."

The doctor from Great Marley had convinced her that
something should be done, and she spoiled the dinner, as she
had spoiled the luncheon, by talking of drains and diphtheria,
water and germs.

" Such talk is so bad for me," pouted young Mrs.

" Can't you see you are upsetting her ? " said the squire

"Dr. Eeid says I am not to be agitated," echoed the
expectant mother, plaintively.

Agatha took life seriously, and wanted to do her duty
in a properly feudal manner. There was hardly a truce in
the arguments that ensued between her and her futile, ex-
travagant stepmother, between her and her irritated father.
Her desire for justice and sense of responsibility were streaked
with periods of doubt, fears lest she lacked filial piety.
Although she could not help criticising her father, she had a
. deep-seated respect for him as the head of the house. She
would have cared for him but that her heart had not begun


to grow; it was so overladen with conscientiousness. Yet there
was undoubtedly a substratum of tenderness in it, and when
her feeble stepmother was ill and nervous, she made tenta-
tive, a little awkward, and somewhat pathetic, efforts toward

The moment was inopportune for the expected event.
The threatened diphtheria at Marley made its appearance
in the form of one mild case of endemic typhoid. But in-
stead of new drainage, there was a hasty exodus to London.
That it was the season for Messrs. Protheroe and Morris's
auction sales of orchids may have influenced Squire Wanstead,
but he never admitted this, nor that the season's gaieties, too
much dissipation, and many imprudences were responsible
for the disastrous result. The baby girl was bom into a
motherless world. There was no male heir to unentailed
Marley, there was only a little stepsister whose birth cost
her mother's life and left Squire Wanstead, his mind stag-
gering a little under the blow, more unreasonable than before,
and with a perpetual grievance, a grievance that he nurtured
until the end. He was convinced that Agatha had driven
them from Marley, and was responsible for her stepmother's

Squire Wanstead was never the same man after his second
wife died in childbirth. He became querulous and always
more exacting and unreasonable, accepting many sacrifices
from his elder daughter, but never forgiving her ; dying with
a dim idea that it was her fault, too, that the Odontoglossum
Cceleste showed leaves but never a spike.

Agatha suffered his reproaches, believing sometimes that
they were deserved. For, incidentally, it has to be admitted
that no infection spread, the sporadic case of typhoid having
no successor. The form her remorse took was the care she
gave to the bereaved baby. Her troublesome conscience made
it inevitable.

Suitors came to Marley after her father's death. She had
as much of good looks as was compatible with complete indif-
ference to them, owing nothing to dress or cosmetics. Her
skin was clear and her eyes bright; she was accounted some-


thing of an heiress. Sir John Campden came from Denham
with the lure of adjoining land; Lord Deerhaven, from
Amherst, with a pedigree as distinguished as her own, and,
surprisingly, Andrew McKay, the family lawyer, familiar to
her and valued, but not associated in her mind with courtship.

But she would have none of them, more serious things
than courtship absorbed her. At three-and-twenty she was
mistress of Marley, her little stepsister Monica, and the wel-
fare of all the tenantry.

There had been a gathering of orchidaceans at her father's
funeral and handsome tributes in the Press, and she deter-
mined to sustain the reputation of the Marley Court hot-
houses and her father's culture. She was full of good reso-
lutions, and if she magnified her own importance in the
scheme of creation, she was nevertheless, and secretly, some-
what diffident of her capacity to fulfil her obligations. Her
father's attitude toward her had cut away some of her self-
esteem and implanted a deep-rooted shyness. Marley, of
course, was the capital of the universe. She saw Little Marley
redrained, schools built, public-houses banished and clubs
substituted. What she never saw at all was Andrew McKay
looking at her with appreciative eyes.

Three generations of McKays had kept the dusty archives
of Marley. Andrew knew everything that was to be known
about the history of the family, could advise about leases and
forfeitures and the powers of local government boards. He
could talk, too, about orchids, and had, indeed, a taste for

He came to her a month after her father's funeral, a strong,
reliable man, with a slight Scotch accent and a Scotch inten-
sity of purpose, a few years older than herself, and with no
idea that she looked upon him as anything but her equal. And
why not ? The small landed gentry, and it was amongst these
that the heiress of Marley was placed, held no undue impor-
tance in his mind. He had ample means, a fine county busi-
ness, and a high reputation. It was time he took a wife, and
Agatha was the wife he wanted.

For a month he had been coming and going, making his


meaning clear. So he thought. But Agatha had seen only
in his attentions the little business matters that he had used
as excuses; the proving of her father's will and satisfaction
of the claims of the Inland Revenue, the transfer of farms
and resettlement of tenures. She "was always glad when he
came. He was sympathetic with all her views, clear-minded,
sound on sanitation and the better housing of the agricultural
labourer. Unlike her father and the majority of her acquaint-
ances, he did not say it was no concern of hers, nor show by
disapproval that he thought her interest in such things

But, nevertheless, on the day when he pushed the papers
on one side, and abruptly, without any preamble, asked her
if she would marry him, she was dumbfounded. At first she
thought she could have been no more astonished if Sanders
himself had asked her. But she quickly recognised the
absurdity of the parallel. When she remembered that Andrew
McKay was her equal in everything but blood she grew hot,
for she was not really a snob, only somewhat overburdened
by her lineage.

She answered hastily that it was impossible, then, quite
seriously, that she never intended to marry. Her flush
emboldened him.

"It will take me years to put the estate in order," she
said breathlessly, and to gain time.

" I could help you."

" I don't want any help."

He pressed his suit, and she took refuge in phrases that
even to her own ears began to sound empty and meaningless.
Although she was seeing him in a new aspect, she could not
deny that she had always liked him, and sometimes listened
to him. Sir John Campden was red-haired, with white eye-
lashes, and coarse, freckled hands. It had cost her nothing
to refuse him, although their lands lay in a ring fence. Lord
Deerhaven was a delicate decadent, talking culture, but need-
ing money to patch up his broken fortunes. She had sent him
away without a qualm. Neither of them had spoken a8


Andrew McKay was speaking now, nor looked at her in the
same way.

He got up from the table and came over to her.

" I thought you knew I cared for you."

" Oh, no ! "

"I told your father of my wish before lie died, and he
was quite content."

"My father!"

" That surprises you. I don't know why."

" Only because — ^because " But she could not tell him

why. He would have taken her hand, but she put it behind her.

"I ... I don't like that sort of thing," she said.
The blood was hot in her cheeks.

"What sort of thing?''

" Love making."

He was sorry for her flush and awkwardness; thinking
it virginal, not unseemly, part of her unique charm.

"Then I won't make love to you." He added quietly,
" Not yet." At which she reddened more and thought it
was from indignation. " I have to persuade you first to
marry me. Will you talk it out with me? "

It was difficult for her to refuse when he stood so close
to her, clear-eyed and strong, rugged yet purposeful, quite
new in this aspect.

" You can say what you like ;" and then added quickly :
" but my mind is quite made up."

" Against matrimony, or against me ? " he asked.

" Matrimony — you — ^both." She found it difficult to
recover her self-possession.

" Because of your responsibilities and duties here ? "

" Yes, partly. And Monica." She was hard pressed for
excuses ; she had not guessed she liked him so well.

" A husband and children are the best responsibilities for
a woman."

" I don't think so ; not for a woman in my position. The
idea is old-fashioned." She was standing up, speaking a
little more quickly than was usual with her.


" Perhaps it is old-fashioned to want you for my wife.
But I do."

What was in her eyes and voice made her fearful of herself.

" If you will take me for a husband you will take a man
who cares for you more than he can tell."

" I don't want a husband," she answered abruptly, redden-
ing again, as any girl who was not a Miss Wanstead of
Marley might have done.

" You don't know what you want. How should you ? "
he said tenderly. His arms would have gone about her, but
she was holding herself too upright. " Let me teach you. I
understand you better than anyone else has ever understood
you, or ever will; the hard surface and difficult softness
beneath ; how dogmatic you are, and yet impulsive ; how easily
moved and quickly ashamed of it."

"I hate being analysed. I am not at all easily moved."

But he could see her uneasiness, and was encouraged by it.

" You will not admit it, but you are moved now. Perhaps
you like me better than you know." He went closer to her.

But he was employing the wrong methods. Agatha was
not really like other girls and women. She had a sense
rudimentary or lacking, stumbling through life, therefore, as
a lame man walks. She resented Andrew McKay's advance.
Finding herself breathless, as if she had been running, she
was angry with him, with herself, and with the circum-
stances; she was sure it was only anger she felt.

"You can't mean to send me away, to say 'no' to me.
There is nothing you want to do in which I could not be of
use to you. No woman is fit to stand alone, you least of all."

Her instinctive sex-antagonism took quick refuge in
exclamation, denial.

" I ! I am not fit to stand alone ! I want no help from

" It is not true, dear, it is not true."

And when he called her " dear " her heart shook, although
outwardly she was still rigid and unconvinced. He went on,
although perhaps with less confidence, for he had hoped by
now to find her in his arms.


" For all you are so strong, you are weak ; your heart is
soft under that surface hardness. Your father imposed upon
you; the baby does so already; other people will. You don't
know yourself."

" Xobody can impose upon me ; it is not true."

" You need someone to care for you, to see you make no
bad mistakes, help your folly to wisdom, your dear conscien-
tious follies. I love you." He may not have been a good
wooer, but he was an earnest one.

When Andrew McKay said he loved her, notwithstanding
her missing sense, right in the soft core of that small, hard
heart of hers Agatha was conscious of a vibration, something
that in an ordinary girl might have brought them together.
But the vibration inspired Agatha with fear, and she defended
herself from him hurriedly, impetuously, and so well that he
retreated from her, chilled, disappointed.

" You will think differently some day," was the last
thing he said. " I can wait."

Having brought him to this she may have repented, but
she succeeded so well in disguising it, resuming their business
talk as if nothing had interrupted it, that he became reluc-
tantly convinced she meant what she said, that she would not
marry, that under the clear skin and bright eyes she was not
a woman at all, but only a syllogist. He asked her the same
question again, nevertheless, on several occasions. But, true
to her want of temperament, the more she inclined to him
the greater seemed the necessity of retreat. And in the end,
his heart not caught in the rebound, but feeling the necessity
of a home, he found a more amenable, if less rare, woman,
proposed to her, and was gladly accepted.

Andrew McKay married. And that was the end of
Agatha's girlhood. He had come to mean so much more to
her than either of them knew or guessed. She had said
" no," and " no " again to him, but never thought of him
marrying elsewhere. Perhaps he realised it when he made
the announcement and saw the sudden pallor of her cheeks.
But he may well have thought, even then, that he had been
mistaken. For she congratulated him with apparent sin-
cerity, and said, with all her young dignity vibrant, that she


hoped ills marriage would make no difference in their business

" I have come to rely upon you," she went on, and
smiled condescendingly, or, at least, he read that small forced
smile as condescending.

He replied soberly that he was glad of it.

" You will not abandon Marley — or me ? " she Eidded,
more naturally.

" Marley and you will always be my first interest."

It was true. Andrew McKay married, making his wife
a good and affectionate husband. But Agatha Wanstead was
his first and only love. No one ever saw her with the same
eyes as he did. After his marriage, and notwithstanding his
loyalty to his wife, they grew in intimacy and understanding.
He was lawyer to the estate, and spent much time in repairing
her mistakes.


There are Great Marley, and Little Marley, and Marley
of the Woods. In the first, strikingly incongruous with the
new shops and houses, the bank and the brewery, the red
brick town hall and adjacent police station, there stands,
together with an ivy-grown parsonage of questionable date,
the famous old church that attracts tourists and sightseers
from all parts of the world. The church, with its frescoes
and stained-glass windows, its monuments and brasses, the
chancel dated 1519, the screen and christening font, was
"restored'' in the year 1794. Time has hallowed these
restorations. A monument by Nollekens to the memory of
'' Hannah Wanstead and her nine children," and a medallion
by Flaxman, compete now in interest with the sixteenth
century brasses.

From the old church, leaving the new town behind, is
the beautiful walk to Little Marley, through the natural
avenue of wych elms, their huge trunks spreading from a
single stem, umbrageous and cool in the summer, weird and
wonderful in the winter. Little Marley is hardly more than
a hamlet, a single street of thatched, half-timbered cottages,
with a stream running along one side of it, a stream that
eventually winds its way back to the Thames.

Beyond the gorse-clad hills lies Marley Chase, three
separate woods, where high amid the encompassing pines the
old house shows, E-shaped and grey, as when James I. was

Here, as piously as modem conditions allow, Agatha
Wanstead prepared to sustain the feudal traditions for the
sake of which she had rejected Andrew McKay.

In Great Marley she had some small property, besides
the family brasses in the old church. Little Marley and
" Marley of the Woods " were her own, together with a few
outlying farms and the Chase.



In the management of this estate during the years that
followed her rejection of Andrew she made every mistake
that is possible to feminine ignorance and inexperience.
She built elaborate model cottages that no workman would
occupy, established a system of drainage at Little Marley for
which there was no outlet, was sympathetic and indulgent to
bad tenants, and bent on forcing the good ones to new and
costly agricultural experiments. She was at first unpopular
with her neighbours, but when they understood the motives
that actuated her, the most intelligent amongst them forgave
her methods. She made good and even enthusiastic friends.
Colonel and Mrs. Metherby, for instance, who lamented her
independence; the vicar and his wife, who realised her gen-
erosity; Sir John Campden's wife, who was perhaps grateful
to her for having refused him, and Dr. Eeid.

Outwardly, at least, as the years progressed she appeared
satisfied with the conditions under which she lived. There
was nothing too great or too small for her restless energies.
To all the household of the Court, outside and inside, she was
an exacting but considerate mistress. In Little Marley she
was Lady Paramount, dispensing beef tea, blankets, bibles,

Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 1 of 27)