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" I wanted to climb into your lap sometimes, like Eunice
did. When I was disobedient and defiant it was because I was
miserable. I thought England was going to be a dreadful
place, all laws and restrictions; and that you'd hate me. But
you weren't a bit like what I expected, and I couldn't bear to
think of you hating me. You don't know how strange it was.
I wanted to kick and scream to see what you'd say or do. But
what I wanted most of all," he was fingering her dress and
telling her these strange things with a far-off wistful look,
*' was that you should snatch me up, and kiss me, or that you
should soften down on me with one of those smiles you kept
for Eunice."


" Do you wonder I cannot bear to remember those days —
Languedoc or Ireland, with those old servants who set you
against me?'' she interrupted agitatedly.

She was not consciously disingenuous, but greatly moved
and unwilling to show it.

" Things were better after I went to Eton, weren't they ? "

" It is best of all now."

" It will be better still when we come back."


Biddy could not have been at Little Marley without either
Desmond or his mother knowing it. But she could be, and
was, at Great Marley, laid up in the hospital since the day
of Desmond's triumphant entr}\ She had a burden in her
arms when she was brought there. Biddy had not been in-
jured by the crowd, she had no broken limbs, nothing but a
bruise or two. But Biddy had been drinking for years, and
that, with the excitement following close on her journey, a
little rough usage, perhaps from the crowd, and the ungov-
ernable rage into which she had fallen when her way to the
carriage wasi impeded, had brought on what the hospital
matron called " D.T/s," and the young house surgeon, " cir-
rhosis of the liver."

The diagnosis or prognosis is unimportant. All the after-
noon of Desmond's home-coming she had drunk and maudled
and cursed, and in the evening she had been brought here. At
first she was violent, disturbing the other patients by her
cries, and her removal to the infirmary ward of the workhouse
had been discussed. This would have been en route to the
county asylum. But they wanted to see if she would improve,
and be able to give some account of herself and the baby she
carried in her arms.

" She's too old for it to be her own child. And it was
dressed in fine clothes, although they were so dirty."

" Well, nurse, we'll give her another twenty-four hours,"
the visiting doctor said cheerfully. " But I can't have her dis-
turbing the whole ward. I've given her bromide, and I'll see
her again to-morrow. Perhaps then she will be able to tell
us something about herself and where she comes from. There
were a lot of Irish over for the harvest. She may have been
left behind."

No one connected her with the great house, with Marley



Court, or dreamed the child she carried was grand-daughter to
Lady Grindelay.

Biddy had a fine constitution for all her drinking habits
and the pitch to which they had brought her. AVhen her brain
began to clear she held her tongue and pretended to have
lost her memory.

" Don't be moidering me/' s.he would say, when they ques-
tioned her. She was quite cunning and full of blarney. She
had money with her, wrapped up in the comer of an old
red handkerchief.

" It's grateful I am for all your kindness ; I won't be
troublin' much longer. I'm feelin' much stronger this after-

Ten days she had lain in delirium, and at first was too
weak to put her feet to the ground. They brought her the
baby, but she could hardly hold it.

" I'll be betther whin I've tasted the air. Will ye hould
her for me, an' let me get out for a spell ? "

They would not at first, but afterwards they yielded to her
desire to try the strength that was returning. They kept the
handkerchief with the money, as well as the baby, hostages,
as it were. The rules of the new hospital at Marley were not
nearly so inelastic as those at London — Guy's or St. Thomas's,
for instance.

" She can keep the bed for a day or two. Let her go out
for an hour since she's so anxious for air. A queer old thing !
She can't get any drink if you don't let her have her money.
She won't beg, she's not that sort."

The first day Biddy had permission to go out she came
back to the hospital in less than an hour. She had had to
cling to the railings, and recognised her own weakness. They
let her keep her bed; there was no other applicant, and her
case interested them. The baby, too, through cold or expo-
sure, developed iritis and justified itself as an in-patient.

The day Biddy Malone felt equal to the purpose that had
brought her to England was just three days before the one
on which Desmond and Eunice were to be married. Biddy
knew nothing of the marriage. She thought Desmond was


already married to the mother of the child that had been sent
to her to care for. She had no doubt it was a secret marriage,
that he feared his mother's anger. There was nothing too bad
or too incredible for Biddy to think of Lady Grindelay.

" I'll not be trustin' the child to her, she'd be for makin'
away wid it. It's Mr. Desmond himsilf I've got to see. He'll
be wantin' his child, an' the mother of it in hidin' belike."

Her brain was still not very clear, but something of this
sort was in her mind. The day of the procession she had the
baby in her arms, and tried to hold it up for Desmond to see,
but the crowd prevented her; she had fought with them and
been knocked down. To-day she was quite sober, although
a little weak.

As she turned into the High Street, the carriage and pair
from the Court came past, the old-fashioned barouche with its
greys, the coachman and footman on the box, with their early
Victorian hats adorned with gold braid and acorns. They
were driving slowly, but their slow drive took them out of her
sight before she had done more than see her "bhoy," and
with a " foine young lady " by his side. She started to run
after them, but tripped and nearly fell.

"Where are you going to, mother?" A kindly young
milkman held her up; the cans in his cart jingled, but the
pony stood still. " You nearly went under their feet. Lucky
for you I'd just got out. You mustn't run about the roads
like that."

" An' who was ut that was passin' ? Shure an' didn't I
see him with her by his side ? " She gasped out her inquiry,
she was quite oblivious of her danger from the horses' hoofs.
" Young man, can ye say who it moight be ? " She was almost
dignified, although anxious, laying hold of his arm.

" You must be a stranger in these parts, or you'd have
known that was the Court carriage, the young lord in it, and
her he's to wed on Thursday."

"To wed is ut?"

" Where have you come from not to know ? "

" An' where'll they be goin' to now ? "


Her Irish wits were returning to her; the young man was
stolid and slow in comparison.

"Going to?"

" Where will they be drivin' ? "

" How should I know ? To the station most likely."

" An' they'll be eomin' back this way ? "

" What a one you are with your questioning. What other
way could they come ? "

He got into the cart again, gathering up the reins, making
a noise the pony seemed to understand.

" I'd advise you to keep on the pavement," he called out.
And then " Milk ho ! Milk ho ! " came from him monot-

Biddy Malone stood stock still where he had left her, a tall,
rather picturesque figure in her shawl and uncovered head.
She took his advice about the pavement for the moment, but
she meant to go back into the road later.

" Cock him up, indade ! He'll be seein' me a long way
off. An' she — she'll be glad to be hearin' of her baby, an'
seein' it, maybe ; if that's hersilf wid him ! An' what for are
they wantin' to kape it quiet. 'Tis something that ould divil's
up to, belike. But I'll hear what my bairn says. Maybe he
knows nothin' at all about it, and ut's a conspiracy."

The carriage was on its way to the station as the milk-
man had surmised. There was no Madame Pariset for Des-
mond, to come down and fit him with clothes for his wedding
journey. Desmond was going up to town for a final trying
on, and Eunice was seeing him off. He was not coming back
until the next day. There was a bachelor dinner to be given,
a farewell dinner.

" I'll get the fitting through this afternoon, and catch the
9.40 to-morrow morning. I grudge every minute I'm away
from you," he said, with one foot on the step of the railway

" It will be the last time," she reassured him, smiling,
blushing. " It's only for a few hours," she said again, after
that long, last kiss.

But she felt, as she went out of the station, that the hours


would seem too many. Of course, Desmond must give this
dinner party. It was to men he had been with in South
Africa, his brother officers, school friends. Jimmy Thwaites
was to be the gxiest of the evening. Eunice, as she drove off,
pictured Jimmy being carried to his seat at Desmond's right
hand. Her heart was warm to Desmond for having insisted
on it. It was so like him. She was still thinking of Des-
mond and his many perfections as she drove down Marley
High Street. The horses were pulled up with a jerk, the
footman jumped down and came to her side.

" Beg pardon, miss, but there's a woman in the road.
She won't move."

" Won't move ! Where is she ? "

" It's here that I am." Biddy answered for herself. When,
she had achieved her object, and stayed the progress of the
carriage, she came slowly to the door. '' It's mesilf that's

And then, for Eunice was gazing at her in surprise, and
the footman was waiting for instructions, she added:

" I'm thinkin' ye'd like to have a word wid me."

" Do I know you ? I seem to know you," Eunice asked

" It's Biddy Malone I am, from away over."

" Then I was right, after all ; you were in the crowd that
day. You are Desmond's old nurse ? "

She leaned forward impulsively, the encounter seemed quite
natural to her, natural, too, that Biddy should want to see
her nursling now that he had become a hero.

" He has just gone up to town. I am so sorry. I know
he would have wished to see you."

She would have liked to have bidden her get in, driven
her to the Court, there to await Desmond's return, but she
remembered how strange her aunt had been about this woman,
and hesitated. Biddy saw the first impulse and the hesitation.

" Won't ye be gittin' out ? " she wheedled, adding in a low
voice : " There's somethin' I'm wishful to be tellin' ye."

There was only one person in the world for Eunice. This
old woman had nursed him when he was a baby, been with


him all through his early years. Eunice was never tired
of hearing about Desmond and those early years,

" I should love to hear. You can drive on, John. Pick
me up at Layton's ; I shall have tea there."

Layton's was the principal confectioner's in the town.
Eunice and Desmond often went there for tea or ices. John
thought it was rather " a rum go " to take the old woman
with her, but charity covers a multitude of eccentricities.

Neither John nor the coachman recognised Biddy.

" Spun her a tale no doubt. It's no concern of ours," the
coachman said, when John repeated that it was " a rum go."
" She's growing like her aunt. Any beggar can get hold of
them if they go the right way to work. We'll get along to
the ' Arms.' "

Biddy stalked, tall and picturesque, by Eunice's side.

" We'll not be talkin' just yet," she said mysteriously.

Eunice was in no hurry.

" You'll have a cup of tea with me, and tell me all you
can remember. He is coming back to-morrow. You want to
see him, don't you? He has never forgotten you. Where
are you staying ? Why haven't you been up before ? "

" Is ut to the Court I'd be comin' to see hersilf ? "

Eunice had no thought of disloyalty to her aunt, but she
knew Lady Grindelay was a little hard on the outside, and was
deemed intolerant by tliose who did not know her.

" She would have understood you wanted to see him again,
and arranged something. I'll tell her when I go home."

" You'll be tellin' her ! "

Biddy stopped still in her astonishment.

" She won't mind," Eunice answered confidently. " Here's
Layton's. We'll go upstairs, there is a nice quiet room. You'd
like eggs with your tea, wouldn't you ? "

She gave her order. They knew her quite well at the
shop, and asked after Lady Grindelay, and if her health was
keeping up.

" This is Lord Grindelay's old nurse. We are going to have
tea together. She has come all the way from Ireland to see
him. Mind you send us up a nice tea."


Biddy followed Eunice upstairs slowly. She was shrewd,
and began to have her doubts. Eunice looked very young in
her light clothes and wide hat ; kindness was in her blue eyes
and fresh young voice, she seemed frank, not as if she had a
secret to hold.

In the quiet room upstairs, with its white-topped tables,
whilst they waited for their tea to be brought, Eunice began
at once to question Biddy.

" Tell me everything you remember about him. Begin at
the beginning, when he was quite a tiny baby."

" Is ut of Misther Desmond, God bless him, ye're wantin'
me to tell ye ? " Biddy said slowly.

" Who else should it be ? " Eunice laughed merrily.
" Here comes the tea ; they haven't kept us waiting long, have
they ? I'm going to wait upon you, to pour out. I expect the
scones will come later; they're cooking them. You'll begin
with the bread and butter." Eunice knew how the old women
at Little Marley liked their tea. " I'm just going to sit and
listen, you must do all the talking."

She had no misgiving. This was something of an adven-
ture, something to tell Aimt Agatha over dinner, something
to chaff Desmond about. She would hear when he first spoke,
and the things he said, anecdotes of his babyhood.

" Go on, I want to hear everything. I recollect how dis-
obedient he was, and that my nursie called him ' a limb.' He
began to ride when he was three years old, didn't he? You
must have been afraid every time he was out of your sight."
She was encouraging her to talk.

Biddy stirred her tea, and poured it out into the saucer

" Go on," said Eunice; " begin."

"Is ut of Mr. Desmond ye want to hear? Not her I've
brought wid me ? "

" Whom have you brought with you ? No, of course not ;
it's only of Desmond. Is Larry with you ? Desmond has told
me about Larry."

" It's not Larry I've got wid me. Is it you that's goin'
to marry himsilf in three days time, thin?"


" Yes."

" An' your aunt, her up at the house, she's led ye on to ut ? "

" She is quite pleased."

" I recollect now. It's you was the child in the white frock,
her that had never got to get her feet wet, that stood before
my lambeen bawn, before the own son of her."

The old woman raised her voice. Eunice thought she
seemed to be angry, and tried to soothe her.

'• But all that's a long time ago. Desmond comes first

" Ah, does he ? An' she's made up tliis f oine match betune
yez, f orcin' him to ut belike ? "

The old woman certainly seemed angry. She was not
drinking her tea, but sat staring at the girl, her dark eyes

" She is not forcing him to it," Eunice answered, smiling,
dimpling, but a little afraid nevertheless, wondering whether
she had been too impulsive, now that it was too late, wondering
if her guest were drunk or mad, whether anyone would* come
if she called. The thought of the scones comforted her; they
would be here soon, and Mrs. Layton, stout, motherly Mrs.
Layton, with them.

" He wants to marry me. You mustn't think auntie has
arranged it."

" An' how about his wife an' child ? How about his wife
an' child ? " Biddy asked fiercely. She banged the table with
her fist. " Tell me that. What^s to become of the child ? Is
ut the dirty suck she'll be puttin' on ut ? "

Of course she was mad, stark, staring mad. Desmond's
" wife and child ! " The phrase flushed her. She was so soon
to be Desmond's wife. The mere thought of a child, a baby,
Desmond's and hers, brought the flush hot, and she made no
answer to this mad woman. Now she only wanted to get
away from her.

" I'll go down and see Mrs. Layton myself, she is such a
long time coming."

She rose, but Biddy rose with her, tall and menacing.

" You'll not lave this room. I don't belave ye know a


word about it. You've got to hear. An' to think of the
wickedness of her ! An' him with a wife an' child already."

Biddy was pouring out fierce, incoherent words.

" Let me go, you are making a mistake, you must tell him

Eunice was startled and alarmed, did not know what to
say, how to make her escape. Of course tlie woman was mad.
She ought to have known it before, when she saw her standing
in the road.

"You think you're the first wid him; that ut's his wife
ye'll be ! " Biddy spoke more slowly now, and with less inco-
herent vehemence. She could see well enough now that it was
news she was breaking to the girl. " The wickedness of ut!
You that's little more than a cliild yersilf ! They haven't tould
ye a word about ut, nor Desmond himsilf belike. I misdoubted
whin there was no word of ut in his letter. Ye don't belave
what I'm tellin' ye? An' haven't I got the bit uv writin' in
me pocket ? " She produced a worn letter. " Here, take ut,
an' read for yersilf."

Because now she was more than a little frightened, not at
what she was saying, but by the woman herself, this mad
Irishwoman, and did not wish to irritate her further, Eunice
put out her hand for tlie paper. Her eyes fell perfunctorily on
the page, the letter could be no concern of hers. But her eyes
having fallen on the page remained there, fastened on it.

"This is to Biddy Malone, Desmond's old nurse.
I am sending you his hahy as he desired. You're to care
for and keep it until either o-r both of us co7ne hack from
South Africa. The ivoman who brings him to you can,
stay a night or two I suppose. She's an old friend of
mine, and I've given her all instructions.

" (Lady) Gabrielle Grindelay."

" Gabrielle Grindelay! "

Eunice's eyes clung to the page, coming away slowly.
" An' what do ye think now ? " Biddy said triumphantly.
" It isn't true ! " Eunice answered unsteadily. " I know it
isn't true."


" Perhaps ye'll be readin' it agin."

" It isn't true ; you're a wicked woman. No, I don't mean
that, but you've been deceived."

There was a constriction in her throat, and she felt as if
she would like to cry. She had not known there were such
wicked people in the world. The full sense of the letter had
hardly come to her, but she was ashamed, as if she had
stumbled into sometliing unclean, and shocked, but, above
all, incredulous. She wanted to get away from this old woman
and her dreadful words, her stupid letter.

" Not thrue, thin, is it ? An' her the livin' image of her
feyther. Do ye remimber the curly head ov him, and the
bonnie blue eyes ? I've the child wid me at the hospital. Per-
haps ye'd like to see her. She's not so big, but she's the mole
on her arm an' all, the livin' image ov him, the darlint."

" Be quiet, be quiet. I won't listen."

She felt she must get away, out of the room, away from
the shop, away from tliis disreputable old woman and the
horrible things she was saying.

" It's no marriage at all ye're goin' through," Biddy said
solemnly. " I don't know what lies they've bin tellin' you
nor him. He'll be thinkin' he's free, surely; it's not him
that ud be playin' the trick on ye."

Mrs. Layton came in with the hot scones and stopped short
at the door. Eunice was white and her eyes were frightened.
Mrs. Layton had known Eunice since she was a child ; she put
the plate down and went to her.

"■' Why, Miss Eunice ! " She looked suspiciously at BidSy.
" What's she been saying to you ? Is anything the matter ? "

" There's notliing the matter." The girl held up her
head and maintained her courage. " Wliat she's been saying
to me has to be proved." She met Biddy's eyes and went on
defiantly : " She has told me a stor}', and I am going to see
if it is true."

" It's thrue enough," Biddy put in.

Mrs. Layton stood irresolutely.

" I never did hold with them Irish," she said.

Eunice felt that it was for Desmond she was fighting.


The room vras very dark and swa}'ing about her, and inside
she was trembling. But now it seemed to her that she must
fight for Desmond, for his honour. Someone had been writing
lies about him, wicked, incredible lies. He would not be back
until to-morrow to defend himself, but she would defend him.

" I will drive back with you to the hospital and see this
child. You will have to give me that letter. I can't think who
wrote it; it must have been some wicked, wiched woman.
There is no other Lady Grindelay but Aunt Agatha."

The carriage was already outside; she heard it drive up,
saw it from the window. The back of the coachman gave
her confidence, a sense of solidity came back to her, the room.
ceased to sway.

" If you have finished your tea,'' she said to Biddy, all
her young dignity in arms, " we will go now."

Already she was imagining herself telling Desmond of this,
saying : " Of course I never believed a word of her story, never
for a single instant."

The stairs were uneven and close, and the shop smelt in-
tolerably warm and nauseating. She was glad to find herself
in the carriage, with Biddy beside her.

Biddy sat with set face, malice or triumph in the dark
eyes. It was of Lady Grindelay she was thinking, " the foine
English lady who had thought herself too good for them all
at Langucdoc ! " Whatever she had meant to do, she, Biddy
Malone, would get even with her now.

" Was she thinkin' me such an ownshuck that it was easy
to throw dust in me eyes ? " she thought.

" To the hospital, to Marley Hospital," Eunice told the

" I think you ought to give me that letter," she said, after
they had been driving a few minutes, when the air had revived

" I'll give it up to thim as had it wrote to me."

" You'll give it up to — to Lord Grindelay ? "

" He'll not be wantin' it," she answered dryly. *' It's him'll
be knowin' what's inside."

Eunice did not speak again ; she could not.


When they got to the hospital, Biddy got out nimbly.

" You bide there, I'll bring her to you."

Eunice was glad to be alone, if one can apply such a word
as gladness to the state of her mind. She knew that it was
all untrue, that there was not a word of truth in what had
been told her. But for all that, the wild beating of her heart
had given her a dreadful pain in her back, her limbs were
trembling, and she felt sick and faint, almost incapable of
movement. If anyone she knew passed her she would be un-
able to speak to them or explain. She knew she was being a
coward, that she would not feel like this if she were not a
coward. Yet she held on to her faith like a heroine. " Not a
word of it is true, I can tell him I knew that all along," she
kept saying to herself.

Biddy reappeared.

" They won't let me bring her out. You'll have to come in."

Lady Grindelay subscribed generously to the Marley Hos-
pital, but Eunice had never been there. From all sickness
and sorrow, from pain and the knowledge of it, Agatha had
protected the girl. Matron and nurses glanced at her when
she went through. Her head was erect, but her face pale.
Perhaps they wondered or surmised a story ; not the true one,
but a story.

"Here she is, thin."

Eunice sat down on the chair beside the cot; she was
unable to stand. The baby lying in the cot had blue eyes,
and dark hair like Desmond's. They were Desmond's eyes
that looked at her or at Biddy. Eunice was .not going to faint;
she forgot everything else now but that she must not faint.
Biddy took the infant up in her arms.

" Look at the darlint now, an' the bright blue eyes of

" You must not do that," The nurse came forward. " She
must stay in her cot."

" Arrah thin, an' don't be interf erin' wid me." Certainly
there was a note of triumph in her voice. "I'm showin'
the lady the birth mark of her." She pulled up the sleeve of
the pink flannel nightgown. " On the inside of the arm now.


An' another she's got on her leg, an' your aftlier tellin' me she's
not belongin' to his lordship ! "

Eunice was of high heart and courage. She had made up
her mind to believe nothing. All the time it was in her mind
that she would be able to tell him she had believed nothing.

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Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 21 of 27)