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But the blue eyes, and now the little mole on that baby
arm . . .

When Desmond rowed and she steered for him she had
seen just such a one. Now she heard the plashing of the oars,
the sound of many waters in her ears, she thought she was

When she recovered consciousness, in not more than a
few seconds, she was lying on the floor, and the matron was
kneeling beside her.

"Give me those smelling salts ! Don't be frightened, my
dear, lie still ; you only came over a little faint. If s the first
time you've been in a hospital, perhaps? You'll be all right
in a minute or two."

She looked such a child, her face and lips had grown
chalk-coloured, her lips trembled, but she did not answer.

" Fetch up Dr. Eeid. He is still downstairs," the matron
said hurriedly to one of the sisters.

Eunice managed to say that she did not want a doctor,
that she was getting better. A little colour was coming back
to her cheeks, and she tried to get up.

" Drink this, drink it up ; it won't harm you."

The matron gave her sal volatile, and she took it grate-
fully. Now she felt only that nobody must know. Some ter-
rible disgrace had fallen upon them, upon them all. For the
moment she could hardly remember what it was. She wanted
to get home, to be with Aunt Agatha. Nobody must ever
know. Slie could not collect her thoughts, but Biddy, with
the baby in her arms, spoke to her again.

" Ye'll belave it now," she said. " Mind ye, if s not him
I'm blamin'."

" Make her be quiet ! "

She did not know to whom she was speaking, but she


knew she would faint again if another word was said, she
could not bear another word.

" Make her be quiet," she said again, with* her white lips.

The matron told Biddy to be silent, spoke to her sharply.
The scene drew Avondering eyes, the matron was aware of it,
and half-led, half -carried the girl to her own sanctum.

Eunice was grateful for the quiet. She felt* extraordinarily
shaken and ashamed, the vertigo preventing her thinking

" You are coming round nicely now."

" You — you won't let her come in ! "

" Nobody can come in here ; you lie down a bit on the
sofa. You're coming round, getting better, you know. Did
she startle or frighten you? "We don't know an}i;hing about
her here. She was brought in the day Lord Grindelay came

Eunice shut her eyes.

" That's right, rest. You would feel quite* different if you
could sleep for five minutes. Come* a long way, have you ? "

Quite a capable and good woman this hospital matron,
but on fire with curiosity, simply on fire with it.

" I want to get home," Eunice said piteously, after a few
moments. She found herself crying, tears oozing through her
shut eyes. She wanted her aunt; nobody but Aunt Agatlia
could tell her what to do. To this girl Lady Grindelay must
have been something of a mother, for now all she wanted
was the shelter of her arms, to creep into them, whisper her
dreadful story, be told that the meaning of it was not what
it seemed.


Lady Grindelat was just coming out of the hot-house,
wrapped in a shawl, with Reynolds as well as Sanders in
attendance. There was no doubt now about the Odonto-
glossom; the plant was full of spikes, the miracle had come
to pass. For years they had thought it dead; then it seemed
to be only asleep. Every spring after that there was sap in the
stem ; with the winter the living moisture dried up. Now, all
at once there was definite promise of flower.

" It will be in full bloom for the wedding," she was saying
to Sanders when the carriage stopped at the lodge.

" In blue flower, such a sight as never was seen," Sanders
answered, almost awed at the greatness of their good fortune.
" There's not another specimen in England." Sanders was
growing old, as she was herself. He was garrulous about his
successes, and detained her to talk of them. He had had
many prizes and triumphs, but this would top them all.

" I hear the carriage returning with Miss Eunice ; I will
tell her at once. There may be a spray, perhaps, to lay on
the wedding cake."

That sometliing was wrong she knew in a moment. In-
tuition told her even before she saw the matron in her nurse's
bonnet beside Eunice in the carriage coming up the drive.

" There has been an accident! My son!! "

Sanders put out an arm, but Reynolds was hefore him.

" Don't you agitate yourself, milady ; she is sitting upright.
It can't be anything. I'll go."

Reynolds thought of nothing but her mistress ; she tried to
keep her back.

Reynolds was beside the slow-moving carriage, the matron
was already explaining, before Lady Grindelay, proceeding
more slowly, got up to them.

" It's all right ; there has been no accident," Reynolds called



"It was the first time she had been in a hospital," the
matron told Keynolds. " She fainted right away. I thought
it better to bring her home myself."

" It was very kind of you to do so. We will take charge
of her now; I am sure it is nothing." Lady Grindelay heard
the explanation and replied with dignity.

She pretended to believe that a first visit to a hospital had
brought that scared and piteous look into tlie girl's eyes.

" Auntie," the voice was tremulous, appealing. If the
matron was curious, Lady Grindelay did not intend that her
curiosity should be satisfied. She knew Eeynolds was to be
trusted. She directed her to take the matron away to the
morning-room, and look after her. Her own curiosity or
anxiety could wait. Waiting is a lesson old people have

" We will go into the drawing-room. You shall tell me
what has happened." She spoke soothingly ; she saw the girl
had been badly frightened or shaken, not hurt.

" Can't we be alone, auntie ? We must be alone."

Now she was in the drawing-room, no one tliere but herself
and her aunt.

" Don't try to talk yet."

" Auntie ! " She did not know how to begin.

" I am here beside you."

" You won't leave me ? "

" Of course not."

Now that she was lying on the sofa, with Aunt Agatha
beside her, Eunice began to feel better. She had never fainted

" It was so dreadful." She put out a shaking hand, and
Agatha took it, held it in her own that had suddenly grown

" Perhaps it will not seem so bad when you have told me."

" I can't tell you, I can't ever tell you."

" Something has shocked or alarmed you ? "

The girl was ashamed to speak. It could not be what she
thought or feared. She hardly knew what she feared. Auntie
would know, but could she tell her — could ehe?


" There is no hurry."

Agatha kept herself well in hand, although already she
was afraid, desperately afraid.

" It was after Desmond left you ? "

Eunice answered, after a pause :

" Yes."

What a long time it seemed — what a long time since she
had stood on the step of the railway carriage to kiss Desmond
good-bye !

" After you left Desmond "

" Yes."

" Someone met you, or spoke to you — frightened you ? "

A fear of the truth came to her, not the whole truth, but
a fear that from the quarter she had dreaded trouble it might
have come. Where the pain in her side was always, it deep-
ened ; the fear seemed to fasten there like the teeth of a rodent.
It was hard to sit upright, hard not to call out. For such pain
as this she had her morphia draught; but she must not move
or leave the girl until she knew the truth. Eunice had said
they must be by themselves. Not even Eeynolds must come
with the draught until she had heard what it was.

She had not long to wait. Once Eunice began she could
not leave off, pouring out a torrent of words, holding on to
Agatha's skirt presently as if she had been a child again,
hiding her face in her skirt.

" Of course I don't believe it. I know it could not be true.
I don't know why I fainted. I don't believe a word of it.
Desmond could not have a wife, and — and a child, could he,
auntie? Why does it look like him? What does it mean?
Be angry with me; tell me I ought not to have listened. As
I'm telling you it is all becoming unreal. Desmond has never
loved anybody but me, never. He couldn't have, could he?
Why am I shaking with terror ? Wliy aren't you answering ? "

Agatha put her hand to her side where the pain was.

" You don't think you could ring for Reynolds, do you ? "
She spoke faintly. Eunice caught a glimpse of her face, got
quickly to her feet and to the bell.

There was silence until Eeynolds came nmning; the


draught was quickly administered. Lady Grindelay stayed
quietly in her chair, detaining Eunice, sending Reynolds away
again quite soon.

The draught did its work. Eunice had hardly time to be
frightened. Eeynolds was a soothing and tactful person;
there never had been, and never will be again, a maid like her.
She knew there was something lying between these two just
now, that Lady Grindelay needed strengthening for it, and
that she must leave them alone.

" I am all right now, or I shall be in a few minutes. Do
not go, Eunice; do not be afraid — it is nothing. What you
have told me startled me a little, that was all. Eeynolds may
go. Lie down again; I shall be able to talk to you in a
minute or two."

Lady Grindelay sat still until the morphia began to do its
work; thinking what to tell the girl, how much, or how little.
In three days she would be Desmond's wife — in less than three
days. It was she who had insisted upon secrecy, and brought
them to this pass. She only thought now how to satisfy Eunice
without injuring Desmond in her eyes.

" There is certainly some truth in the story Desmond's
old Irish nurse has told you," she began.

" Some truth ! "

Beside her aunt, in this quiet drawing-room, Eunice had
begun already to discard, to disbelieve the story. ISTow the
colour flooded her, and her heart began pounding again.

"You will be married to him soon now; perhaps it 1=5
as well you should know. You must listen sympathetically,
try to understand. Boys and men are not sheltered like girls
in their homes. They have temptations ; there are bad women
in the world — women with whom you have never been brought
into contact."

" But Desmond, Desmond! "

Poor Agatha felt the difficulty, the impossibility of ex-
plaining what she herself so little understood. Yet she had
to explain.

" Desmond met one of these bad women — one of the worst
of them "


" Is it true that Desmond is married ? It isn't true. Mar-
ried!" Her eyes were piteous with incredulity, bewilder-

" No, it is not true ; of course it is not true," Agatha an-
swered dully. " Since you and Desmond are to be married
in three days' time ! "

The colour rushed hot to the girl's cheeks, and she was
ashamed even to face her aunt because she had asked such a
question. She was on her knees now, her face in her aunt's
lap. Lady Grindelay strove for the right words, the words
that would explain and at the same time exonerate him.

" It is dreadful — ^but not as bad as you think."

" It was not — it was not his baby ? " Eunice stammered out.

" There comes a time when a girl has to learn of such
things, of the difference in men's temperaments from ours."
The poor woman remembered how she had learnt it, with how
little knowledge or preparation. "I have tried to keep you
ignorant, innocent; perhaps I have succeeded too well. You
must not take it hardly; you are not thinking unkindly of
Desmond, are you? You know how much he cares for you;
he told me so when you were little more than a child. You were
then, you are now, so much more to him than I am "

" It was not his ? " Even the delicate ears were crimson,
and the words were breathed, hardly spoken.

" It may be ; it is possible." Agatha could not answer more
definitely. It was difficult to answer at all.

" You must not judge him without knowing more."

She paused. Some of her life she must unveil — the dese-
crated places.

" Desmond has not been imfaithful to you. This hap-
pened at the time when he had no hope of winning you, when
I was standing between you. During my own married life I

learnt that wives have to be tolerant " But she had not

been tolerant, and hardly knew liow to urge it.

Eunice could not bear to hear the words to which she was

" You — j'ou knew ! " It was incredible, worse than every-
thing else.


" It has to be forgotten. We never meant you to hear of it."

" Desmond never meant that I should know ? " Her voice
was strangled.

" No ; we thought it better. It is an ugly story, and I
have tried to keep the ugliness of the world from you. The
woman and her child have been provided for. If Biddy came
here to make trouble between you two, she must not succeed.
She must be sent away again at once, the child with her, before
Desmond comes back. Nothing must come between you two
any more," she said slowly. The drug was working.

Eunice got to her feet. She looked pale, and she could not
speak. She was overwhelmed, she still felt sick, but no longer

Lady Grindelay went on:

" That is right ; you must be brave. It has been a shock
to you ; it was a shock to me when I first heard. If you must
speak to Desmond, wait until after you are married, until
after Thursday. You will understand better when you are a
married woman ; you can hardly mention it to him until then.
He will be distressed to learn you know, and I am sure you
would not wish to distress him. They shall be sent back. You
must not think of it again ; there are such stories in most men's
lives. Desmond was hardly to blame, it ... it is the
woman's child."

Very white were Eunice's lips.

" And — and Desmond's ? " she asked.

" You must forget it."

"I shall never be able to forget."

Agatha was getting a little drowsy.

" He will explain everything after you are married."

Eunice's lips trembled.

" I can't marry him. You know I can't marry him, after
this," she broke out desperately.

Her aunt did not know it.

" Yes, you will, it must not make any difference. I can't
talk to you — not just now, but you must be guided by me.
The fault was mine; I stood between you "

" Desmond himself is standing between us."


She knelt again suddenly.

" Auntie, I haven't got anybody but you. Help m^. Send
me away somewhere ; let me go. I can't meet him, I don't know
what to say to him."

" Don't say anything."

'' Oh, I must— I must."

" You will forget it. You will be as happy as ever in a
few days, happier than you have ever been."

" It is impossible — ^you must know it is impossible ! Oh,
auntie, help me ! I don't even want to see him."

" You must say nothing, think nothing, feel nothing, until
after Thursday."

" Not on Thursday, at least not on Thursday," the girl said
wildly. " I— I can't bear it."

Agatha struggled against her drowsiness; she sat bolt
upright. The pain that the morphia smothered had been very
bad, almost unbearable, a death pang, perhaps. She must see
everything right between them before she went; repair her
mistakes. The wedding must not be postponed, not on any
account. Her anxiety mastered pain and drug. She wanted
to speak firmly, but to the girl she seemed to speak harshly,

" Nothing must prevent the wedding taking place on


Pekhaps Lady Grindelay was too old to realise what a girl
feels when she sees sin for the first time; not vaguely and
far off, as kneeling in church and praying to be forgiven for
something that is only a word; but close and concrete, out-
raging and shocking delicacy. Perhaps Agatha's experiences
with Lord Grindelay had unconsciously, and notwithstanding
herself, coarsened her a little, so that she did not see how
such a thing as this would appear to a girl like Eunice.

Eunice made no further appeal. Agatha drowsed a little
in her easy chair in the drawing-room. When she roused
herself, to find Ee}Tiolds waiting to take her to bed, the girl
had gone.

"Where is she?"

"Miss Eunice? She has gone to her own room. She'll
come and say good-night to you when you are settled up."

She came. Her good-night was close and tender, more,
not less, loving than usual. Agatha detained her.

" You are going to do what I tell you ? "

Eunice kissed her again, but her manner was evasive.

" Can't Desmond's baby come here ? You say that — that
the mother left it, will not come back, isn't good or — or true.
But the baby is not wicked "

The big bedroom was very dark and quiet, and Agatha
could not see the pale determination of the girl's face nor the
likeness to herself that showed now strongly upon it.

" It ought to come here," she continued.

Agatha was as sure as that once; Agatha, too, had been
certain that right and wrong were colours as clear as black and
white, that there were no greys nor drabs nor indefinite, inde-
cipherable shades in either.

" It is your children who must be here — yours and Des-
mond's," she answered. " But do not let us talk about it any
more," she added, as if the matter were closed, as if, when she
was satisfied, Eunice must also be.
19 289


The exertion of coming upstairs had restarted the rodent;
again the teeth were gnawing, and she wished the girl to go so
that she might groan, so that she need not hide her pain.

"We will talk of it again, when you come home from
your honeymoon. I thought like you once."
" It isn't right."

" Leave me to know best, to act for the best."
Eunice kissed her again, and left her afterwards without
another word.

That night, for the first time, the morphia failed, and at
two in the morning Dr. Eeid was summoned.

" She is taking the most terrible risks," he told Keynolds
before he went upstairs. " The operation should have been
done last week, when she was in town. I have never seen such
obstinacy." Such courage, he meant, for he knew the reason
for it.

" You will have to patch me up until after the wedding,"
she gasped, even to-night. " You must keep me going until
after Thursday."

He said he would do his best. His best sent her to sleep
about six in the morning, and the orders were that she was
not to be disturbed for anything.

Eunice came irresolutely to the door about half-past eight,
stood outside, listening. There was no one to see her. She
knelt before the shut door, and sent a kiss or a prayer through ;
her throat was contracted with the sob she held back.

" Good-bye, auntie, good-bye ! " she whispered. " I must
go — I must."

She went along the drive presently, one of the gardener's
boys carrying a bag or parcel for her. But there was little
unusual about that; there were always parcels going to Little
Marley or to the Guild in London.

The order had been given overnight, and when the carriage
went to the station at eleven to fetch Desmond, Agatha was
still sleeping. But she heard it return. The first words she
spoke showed she had wakened with her mind alert.

" That is the carriage coming back from the station. Are


you there, Reynolds ? " The room was still in darkness. " I
am very thirsty. I am sure he gave me too much morphia. Get
me something to drink — ^tea, or lemonade, or ice. But look out
of the window first; tell me if they have come back together.
Did she go to the station to meet him? I want to see him.
I shall get up presently. Have you anything to drink there? "

The lemonade was by her side, Reynolds handed a feeding-
cup to her before doing anything else, and she drank thirstily.

" Do you see them ? "

When Reynolds pulled aside the blind, whoever had occu-
pied the carriage was already out of sight; the carriage was

" Find out, will you ? Find out if they came back to-

It needed all Reynolds's tact and intelligence when she
returned from her errand to keep back the result from her
mistress. Young Lord Grindelay had come back alone, and he
was fretting and fuming, questioning everybody to know what
had become of Miss Eunice, why she had not been at the
station, where she was to be found. Already there was doubt
in the air of the house — uncertainty; it was extraordinary
how quickly the household knew that there was something

'' Miss Eunice went to meet him ; she went quite early,"
was all Lady Grindelay heard until she had been given her
breakfast. She insisted then upon getting up and dressing.
Reynolds stood waiting upon her, not arguing or contradicting,
for she knew it would be no use.

" Only one day more," Lady Grindelay said ; '^ you won't
have to worry about me after that." She knew by the way
Reynolds was looking at her that she showed the effort it was
to stand up and dress, to sit in her chair before the glass and
have her hair done. " After to-morroAv there is only Thurs-

" If you can keep up until to-morrow," said the maid

" I can keep up well enough."

" You won't go out ? "


*^ No. I'll go into the drawing-room. I suppose yon will
be satisfied if I lie on the sofa ? "

" You'll only do that if you can't stand up ! " Reynolds

Lady Grindelay finished dressing, and then went down-
stairs, Eeynolds carrying a shawl. She had managed to keep
anyone from breaking in upon tliem until then. Inquiries
were being made in all directions.

Miss Eunice was not at the station ; she was not in the
house; she had gone out early, taking a bag with her. Whis-
pers were gathering ominously. The housemaid found a letter
on the dressing-table when Desmond sent her up for the third
time to see when Miss Eunice went out, whether she had on
walking or garden shoes. Already he was beyond impatience.
The letter was handed to him. The housemaid did not know
why she had not seen it before. She added, looking at him
curiously, tliat the waste-paper basket was full of torn papers.
" Miss Eunice must have sat up half the night writing."

The letter was bulky, and when Desmond had it in his
hand it seemed at once to weigh on his heart. He was walking
up and down the drawing-room when Agatha came in, and he
went to her swiftly.

^' What does it all mean, mother ? What does it mean ? "

^' Her ladyship has not been very well in the night." Eey-
nolds tried to avert any shock from her, to soften or stay
his unheeding impetuosity.

" Where is Eunice gone ? Why isn't she here ? She prom-
ised to meet me."

"' Not here ! Eunice not here ! Where is she then ? "
Lady Grindelay asked. The exertion of coming downstairs had
tired her, and her wish, of course, was to hide it from him.
But she need not have feared ; he never gave her a thought.

" She went out early. She wasn't at the station. She left
a letter on her dressing-table."

" A letter ? You can go, Eeynolds. Give it to me,"

*' Mother, what does it mean ? "

^' Give me time, Desmond ! Give me time."

" Open the letter. Perhaps there is one for me inside.


Where has she gone ? Why ? She can't have heard — it isn't
that! Mother?"

" She heard it yesterday. I thought I made matters all
right ; but I've been ill." Her hand went to her side even now,
and the letter dropped from it.

Desmond picked it up. He thought her maddeningly slow
in opening it.

" There is one for you too." She handed it to him.

When Reynolds went out of the drawing-room she saw
a woman standing in the hall, a woman with a baby in her
arlns, arguing with the butler, asserting doggedly that she
would see his lordship, that she was going to sit there till he
came, that she wouldn't go until she had seen him. No one
had been able to manage or move her, not the butler nor either
of tlie footmen. Eeynolds coaxed her away. What those
two were saving to each other she did not know, but she knew
they must be undisturbed. She coaxed Biddy away from the
hall, praising the baby and talking to it, promising that Lord
Grindelay should not leave the house without being told.

" You come up to my room, where you can watch the front
door. He's engaged now, very particularly engaged, but you
shan't miss him."

While the bright-plumaged birds were flitting about in the
conservatory, uttering now and again their strange cries, in the
adjacent drawing-room Agatha sat upright on the sofa and
read her letter. Desmond stood beside the mantelpiece and
read his. Afterguards there was silence, quite a long silence,
between them.

" She has left us," she said at length.

" There does not seem to be any doubt about that." Des-
mond's tone was very bitter. " She won't have anything to do
with me." He crushed the letter in his hand, his face was
very white.

He had a moment's irrational and overwhelming rage, as

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Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 22 of 27)