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thought of little else. Don't send me away, you don't dislike
me, do you ? You said you found me companionable."

" That isn't enough ! "

Her eyes were averted from him, she was looking across
the sea to the horizon where the sun illumined the dark
waters, and there were visions, vistas.

" It isn't enough, Michael ! It isn't enough ! " she re-
peated, and now there was something wistful in her eyes, pas-
sionate in her speech.

" What more is it you want ? " And his words, too, were
passionate. *' 1 love you with my whole heart."

" But I don't love you," she answered. " I can't help it.
I know how good you are, and kind, but love — love is differ-
ent." She knew so well, young as she was, she knew. '' Don't
look like that, Michael. What can I do? Love and liking
are so different."

Mystery and enchantment were in the words he said : " I
love you with my whole heart." But as she listened and felt
the thrill of them, it was not Michael who was saying them.
She heard another's voice. Her eyes grew soft and filled,
her heart remembered and beat quickly. Kone of the glad-
ness and glow was for Michael, though he went on telling
her how greatly he cared for her. She was hardly listening,
she was vaguely sorry for him, but hardly listening. Her
heart was awake, clamouring, although as yet she hardly
knew for what.

" Won't you give me some hope ? When you are older —
next year, perhaps? I know how young you are, I am quite
content to wait."

It was so unlike Michael to plead ; his pleading seemed to
deprive him of dignity. She was sorry for him and for his
lost dignity.


*' I couldn't feel any different if you waited a hundred
years; really, I couldn't."

" You are not kind ! " He felt more than he could express,
but her quickened sympathy heard the falter in his voice.

"I don't mean to be unkind. Oh, Michael, forgive me;
don't be angry with me ! I could never marry you. I can't
even bear to think of your wanting me to. Don't you see,
don't you understand ? I don't mean ever to marry, but if I
did it would be because, because" (the colours in her cheeks
and eyes were beautiful and changing, reflections of the sea
and sky) " because I cared for someone so much that — that I
never wanted to be away from him."

" You can't imagine yourself feeling like that with me ? "

But he knew the answer before it came to him, low-voiced.
There was nothing more to be said. They stood where they
were a little while, still watching the gulls. Michael felt
cold, and spoke of the change in the weather :

" One can never rely upon the temperature at this time
of year."

"It's time we turned back, nearly lunch time, isn't it?"

The matter was ended; they talked of other things per-
sistently until they reached the hotel. Michael was striving
to recapture that lost dignity of his. His pride was wounded,
but he vrished and struggled to hide his wounded heart. To
be a rejected suitor was hard to bear, he, with all his gifts.
But to be what he was — a rejected lover — ^hurt him a thousand
times more. She did not need his love, would have none of it.

The alteration that knowledge made in Michael McKay
was not a thing that showed at once ; it might have left him
drier, drained him of feeling. Instead it flowed inward, deep-
ening and enlarging him.

To face Lady Grindelay with the story of his defeat was
difficult, and he winced under her sympathj. When she told
him that Eunice was too young to know her own mind he
shook his head. He knew better. She was looking to life
not only for love, but romance. Something beneath his dry
surface thrilled and taught him.


His had been no figure of romance for her. He began
to see that was so, wishing that no one else need know. All
his need now was to hurry back to the office, and bury his
pain and discomfiture in legal tomes and papers — to hide

Lady Grindelay was full of sympathy for him; her own
disappointment counted less than his, for she at least was
still able to hope. Just as Michael looked now, Andrew had
looked over thirty years ago, surprising her, for he, too, had
a cold manner and Scottish caution. But Eunice would be
guarded from such an error as she had made in rejecting
Andrew and marrying Lord Grindelay.

" It will come right, Michael. Give her time, leave me to
talk to her about you. See how different she will feel after
I have talked to her."

But Michael packed for London that night; he did not
wish to see either of them again for a time.

As for Eunice, she was glad when Michael was gone. She
did not want to speak of what had happened. It seemed such
foolish talk. She and Michael ! She remembered Desmond
had warned her, and the promise that had been so unneces-
sary. She thought how young and foolish she had been a few
months ago, and blushed in remembering what else Desmond
had said to her when they were under the trees at Marley.
It had been hibernating in her heart all that summer, and
could never sleep again.

Lady Grindelay waited, and in the end forced her con-
fidence. Eunice did not want to speak, was not ready for
speech. And the confidence that was forced was only a half
confidence; her speech closed down again like the leaves of a
night flower forced open by some rude hand before the dark-
ness comes.

" Poor Michael ! His holiday was cut sadly short. You
were not very kind to him, I fear."

" He was silly."

" I told him you were still young, you might change your


" I couldn't marr}' Michael/' Eunice said hurriedly,
shamefacedly. " I could never marry Michael."

"Why not?"

" It's impossible ! " She did not want to explain.

Lady Grindelay spoke of Michael's high character, fine
qualities. Eunice grew hot in saying that had nothing to
do with it. She was sure Michael was all that her aunt said.
Agatha wanted to get into the girl's mind and guide it. She
was a little jarred and repelled by what she was being told.

" Congenial tastes, characteristics, sympathies are what
make a happy marriage."

" But there is something else. . . ."

"Tell me what is in your mind against this marriage.
To have won Michael's regard, his great regard, is something
of which to be proud. Are you not proud of it? You are
little more than a child. Michael is a good man."

" I want to stay with you," there was quite a pause, and
when she added two words her voice was low, "with you
and Desmond."

" With you and Desmond ! "

Lady Grindelay could have won the confidence she would
have forced. She had but to yield her prejudices, open her
eyes to what was before her, and open them wide and toler-
antly. One word now, and all the unhappy future could
have been averted. What her son had told her the girl at her
knee was repeating. She need do nothing, only stand aside,
let them take their own lives in their own hands — follow

But she deemed her conscience and her duty were in-
volved. "Intolerant Agatha" her husband had often called
her. She had not grown less so as the years rolled on, con-
firming her in place and power. " With you and Desmond,"
the girl whispered.

Why not? What could have been better? The girl for
whom she had made herself responsible to stay for ever in
the home she loved with the son who should inherit it ! But
she had decided that Eunice should marry Michael. She
owed his father that, and to Monica's child safeguarding from


danger. Love was almost a myth to her — sex love.. Desmond
was too young to know his own mind. Her husband had told
her how often he had been in love.

"I don't suppose Desmond will come back to Marley for
any length of time, at least. You can stay on with me, of
course, always, if you don't wish to marry. But Desmond
will, I hope, be with his regiment."

The low voice persisted. The girl had been forced into
speaking, and now she could not be silent.

" But when he is older ? When he comes home for good ? "

Eunice could not say all there was in her mind. She was
too shy, and he had given her no title to speak. At Whitsun-
tide he had been quite different. But she never faltered in
her allegiance to Desmond. She began to speak again pres-
ently, hurriedly, to defend, to explain him.

Agatha said, a little coldly, that there was no doubt
Eunice thought she knew Desmond better than his own
mother did, and had a spasm of pain lest it might be true.

But Eunice's love was young and tender and defenceless;
she could not even talk about it. He had given her no title ;
he had said nothing at Whitsuntide. Agatha went on, half
hurt, and half because she knew no better.

'* Give up any idea of Desmond, be guided by me, you
may be sure I have only your interest at heart. You must let
me judge for you."

There may have been jealousy in it, a natural jealousy;
but if so, she was unaware of it. She thought only that it
would be years, if ever, before Desmond would be fit for
responsibility, and that it was she who would guide him all
these years. Eunice must marry Michael because the promise
had been given to Andrew. But she did not wish the girl to
be unhappy or feel ill-used, meant to be kind to her. She
thought Eunice would be easy to persuade, it was Eunice
herself who gave her that impression.

Whatever the girl's feelings were toward her cousin at this
time they were immature feelings, young and tender, igno-
rant, half-ashamed. She could not argue with her aunt, nor
express herself clearly.


Whilst Michael was conducting his ill-fated wooing' in Corn-
wall, Desmond was spending his monotonous six weeks at

Anyone who knows anything ahout reading parties knows
that they are not exhilarating. Blathwayt Bird managed to
get a certain amount of work done, but he was suffering from
one of his recurrent attacks of ill-health, and left his five or
six young men very much to their own devices. Pretty poor
devices they were: ogling young ladies on the sands; going
aimless walks; playing nap; taking part in a weekly cricket
match where the local clergyman umpired, and looked after
his local team so well that the stumps had to fly before the
batsman retired. Everyone was glad to go back to town,
Desmond no less than the others.

In London he had a hurried glimpse of his mother and
Eunice. They stayed in London one night on their way from
Cornwall. They were not returning to Marley, but going
to Biarritz for the month of September and part of October.
" You'll have passed by the time we get back.''
" Anyway, the beastly examination will be over."
He dined with them at their hotel, and saw them off from
Victoria the next day. He had nothing to say to Eunice,
apparently, nor she to him. If they had, there was no oppor-
tunity. Lady Grindelay talked of Cornish scenery, and of the
new travelling maid she had secured — a treasure who spoke
several languages, and could be trusted to see them through
the various custom-houses. She lamented that Eunice spoke
no Spanish, and hoped her French would prove useful. She
gave Desmond a handsome cheque and told him he was not
to grudge himself anything, suggested he should buy a horse,
and ride in the Park in the mornings.

" We shall be back before you go to Sandhurst. You must
keep yourself well."



She seemed to have no doubt he would get through.
Affairs in South Africa were farther than ever from a settle-

Desmond did manage to ask Eunice if McKay had been in
Cornwall all the time they were there; and, of course,
interpreted the blush and hesitation of the affirmative reply.
He thought she had forgotten all they had said to each other
in the wood. She thought he had. But neither of them was
quite sure. He asked his mother if Michael McKay was to
be at Biarritz, and she replied without reflection :

"Very probably."

But this was after she had taken her seat in the railway
carriage, and was testing the value of her new treasure, who
had actually given her a cushion for her back, the tea-basket
as a footstool, and was inquiring if she would like a book or
a paper.

When he walked out of the station Desmond had the idea
that if he failed to pass he would not face them; he would
either enlist or cut his throat. He had the feeling his mother
was standing successfully between him and Eunice, that he
was as much under her sway as the servants at Marley Court,
the villagers at Little Marley. He owed her even his income.
Languedoc was only an expense. He hated his dependence.

Very soon, too, he heard how well Biarritz suited them all,
and that they were going on to San Sebastian when the
weather grew cooler.

His own letters were short. He said he was busy working,
and for a short time after their departure this was true.
Even Blathwayt Bird was heard to say young Grindelay was
waking up ; if he could catch the examiners napping, he might
get through, that is, if he could keep it up. But he doubted
that, and the doubt was not helpful to Desmond. Neither
was the weather, it was very damp and muggy, raining con-
tinuously, affecting his spirits. It should have been a time
of growth with the boy, but all the growth was blocked and

Two weeks before the examination he caught cold. When
the cold was pronounced influenza., he was glad of the excuse


it gave him to remain in bed. Blathwayt would " rot him "
about staying in bed for a cold, however badly his head
ached, or his limbs, but an attack of influenza justified him.
Besides, the doctor insisted, and he had neither the power
nor the inclination to resist.

There was no one in the house whose duty it was to attend
to Desmond. Blathwayt Bird never thought anyone could be
ill but himself, or that it mattered if anyone else should be.
Influenza was a trivial complaint, almost childish, an affair
of forty-eight hours. Nevertheless, in accordance with his
duty, he wrote to Lady Grindelay, making light of the attack.

" He will be all right in a day or two, no doubt ; in any
case, I think Ave are through the worst." He was alluding
to the coaching and not to the illness. " I think he will get
through, although it has been a hard fight; he has shown
himself much more industrious lately."

Desmond, on the third or fourth day of his illness, asked
if his mother had been written to. The doctor was able to
assure him this had been done. It was after the symptoms of
pneumonia developed that he got a letter from her. It urged
him to make a last effort.

" Mr. Bird writes me that the next fortnight is all-impor-
tant. I hope you have thrown off your chill and are working
with all your power."

" Wire her I'm all right," he said feebly to the nurse, only
installed a couple of hours. '"Tell her I won't write again
until after the examination. I can't have her bothering me

The nurse soothed him, thought already it was impor-
tant he should not be bothered, wrote out the telegram accord-
ing to his wish, signed it with his name :

" Getting on all right. Writing later. — ^Desmond/'

It seemed inadequate, but he was unable to think of any-
thing better to say. He was running into illness — serious
illness, and already his mind was a little obscured.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Bird wrote again to^rard


the end of the week. But he still did not believe that young
Lord Grindelay was really ill. He thought the doctor was
probably desirous of running up an account.

"Influenza is rife in London at the moment. Desmond
has had a sharp attack, apparently, but when this reaches you
he should be well on the road to recovery."

She telegraphed when she got this letter, and also to
Marley, directing that hothouse grapes and other fruit should
be sent to Lord Grindelay. By this time Nurse Radlett had
listened to the young Irish peer in delirium, when his mind
was wandering. It may be supposed that she had formed
her plan, or some plan. Already she knew she wanted no one
to come between her and her patient. Again she sent a reas-
suring telegram. And Agatha was reassured, taking it for
granted Desmond was back at work; the test time was

Nurse Radlett informed herself that Desmond, Lord
Grindelay, was an only son, and that the Languedoc acres
were many; as to their condition or value, she made no in-
quiries, taking them on trust. She had the young man en-
tirely to herself, to nurse or influence. The institution
hummed with industry as the final days approached, rustled
with papers and the loud voice of Blathwayt Bird. No one
had time to think of the doubtful pupil, who might have got
a place, though only a low one, reflecting no credit on the
establishment. He was important to no one in Netting Hill
but Nurse Radlett; to her he was of ever-growing interest
as the days went on.

Desmond's temperature went up and up, and in low mut-
tered delirium Nurse Radlett heard of Eunice and Michael,
of his mother's bad opinion of him, and his own self-doubt.
Desmond, usually so reticent and reserved, in his delirium
let that ultra-intelligent nurse into many of the secret places
of his wounded sensitiveness.

Nurse Radlett, red-haired, and attractive in her white cap
and apron and neat uniform, thoroughly capable and certif-
icated, sat up with Desmond at night and tended him by
day, proving herself not only competent but indefatigable in


attention, unwearyingly kind. She could hardly be per-
suaded to her daily walk, and came back bringing a bunch of
violets, or a newspaper, oranges that suited him better than
the Marley grapes, stories to beguile the weary hours. She
relieved his pains with poultices and steam kettle, his sleep-
lessness with drugs, his weakness and depression with many
nursing expedients. He had had no illness before this, except
infantile ones under Biddy's care. Nurse Radlett was much
more competent than Biddy, as he remembered her nursing.
Desmond was really very ill for a short time, was nearer to
danger, and even to death, than anybody but the nurse and
doctor ever knew. Desmond himself knew it only when the
danger was past. Then he heard that no one had inquired for
him, that no one had been interested in what became of him.
No one but Nurse Eadlett ! It was already September when
he was well enough to realise this. There was no question
now of his being well enough to go up for his examination.
But Blathwayt Bird was so busy putting the final polish on
those boys who were sure to do him credit, and keep up his
average, that he even forgot to write to Lady Grindelay. She
took it for granted Desmond was up at Sandhurst plodding
through his papers.

Nurse Radlett, quite aware of what was in her patient's
mind, why he inquired for letters so constantly and was
depressed and cast down by their absence, asked him one
day carelessly if Miss Eunice Fellowes was not a cousin of
his ; told him, as if she knew no better than that it was good
news, that she had just read the announcement of her
engagement to a Mr. McKay.

" I should have thought your mother would have looked
higher for her. He doesn't seem to have a country place at
all. It only gives a London address — Campden Hill — it
doesn't seem he is anyone in particular."

Desmond, laid very low by the influenza and subsequent
pneimionia, never asked her in what paper she had seen the
announcement, never asked to look at it or for confirmation
of the news. She had reckoned on this. He went very pale
when she gave him the news, and she took the pillow from


under his head, made him lie flat, and talked about the heat
of the room.

He never doubted the story, never dreamed his good,
kind, attentive nurse could so deceive him. He had been very
ill, and nobody had written or inquired for him. Much that
happened in those worst days of his illness was always con-
fused in his mind. He only remembered the chill sense of
desolation that fell upon him then, heralding a sharp relapse.

Afterwards he knew Nurse Radlett was always there, soft-
handed and gentle. One day he saw that she was crying, and
lay wondering feebly as to the cause of her tears. He asked
if he was going to die. She hesitated before saying " No,"
came over to the bed, and put a hand on his pulse. He could
see her eyes were moist.

" I can't bear to see you so weak."

Desmond had no idea how weak he was imtil she told him
of it.

She made the pillows more comfortable, lifting him so that
his head lay against her breast a moment.

*' You are not to worry about what I was crying for. Who
told you I was crying ? "

"I saw you. Am I going to die? Tell me the truth.
I don't care. Nobody cares."

Every day he asked, and every day he was told nobody
had inquired after him — that there .were no letters from

" I'm not going to let you die if I can keep you here."

" I am very bad, then ? "

''You must not talk." A cool, soft hand was laid upon
his hot forehead and over his fevered eyes. " I am going to
pull you through if I have to watch day and night. You
won't die for want of care."

He lay and thought what would happen if he were to die.
It seemed an easy way out of his troubles. He would never
pass any examinations, he could not retain names or dates in
his woolly head; he was no good. He felt very tired, and it
seemed that nothing mattered. But Nurse Radlett let him
see, never ceased to let him see, that to her at any rate he was


all-important. They were alone together all the time save
for the visits of the doctor and short ones from one or another
of the boys or over-worked teaching staff. The house emptied
suddenly, and now everyone was at Woolwich or Sandliurst,
Oxford or Cambridge, or Burlington House. Nurse Eadlett
had no one to interfere with her. Desmond for the moment
was without spring or initiative, his vitality low. His treat-
ment had been old-fashioned. He had been given too many
drugs, too little air and food and moral stimulant. It suited
neither nurse nor doctor that he should get well too quickly.
They were not in league, but their interests were identical.

" Tell me about your troubles ; I am so sick of lying here
thinking of my own." This was a few days after he had
watched her crying and inquired, stupidly enough, whether it
was because he was going to die. His mind was clearer now ;
he knew what an absurd hypothesis that had been.

" I've seen you crying more than once. Is anybody you
care about ill ? I've been awfully ill, haven't I ? Neither my
mother nor cousin has written or sent. Is someone ill belong-
ing to you? Tell me about it."

" You know nobody could have been worse than you were
— nobody who has ever got better."

"It wasn't about me you were crying that night. Who
were you crying about ? "

" Why shouldn't it have been about you ? "

She was standing by the side of his bed. There had been
nights, or hours, when he could not bear that she should
stand anywhere else, when she had been his only hold in a
world that swayed deliriously about him, with voids into
which he sank, sick darknesses when the cold sweat broke out
upon his forehead, and he swung breathless over fathomless
pits. He only felt safety when he found her wiping the
sweat from his forehead, when he found himself clutching
her dress or apron.

"Why shouldn't I have been, crying about you?"

"Were you?"

It seemed wonderful. No one else cared. He could still
hardly move in bed. She stooped even now and raised him


in her strong, helpful arms, pillowing his head more com-

" Don't you think one can get fond of a patient ? "

"^ Not of one like me."

" Why not of one like you ? "

" I'm not much of a fellow."

" You haven't had a good time ? "

" Rotten." He spoke shortly.

" Poor boy ! " She answered briefly, but there was a world
of sympathy in her voice. " I knew you were unhappy," she
said under her breath, as if she were guessing and sorry to
have guessed right.

" Bid you ever see anyone as lonely in a bad illness as I've
been ? " His voice choked ; he turned his head away from her
and hid it in the pillow. On the pretence of moving him
into a more comfortable position, she rested his head on to
her breast.

That night, when she lay on the sofa in his room in her
blue dressing-gown, her red hair unbound — an aureole, as it
were, about her — she began to talk about loneliness; she said
she could imderstand so well what he was going through,
having suffered herself.

He was restless that night and could not sleep. The night-
light burned low, and the fire, too. They were intimately and
extraordinarily alone in the stillness of the night. Nurse

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Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 11 of 27)