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the young are liable to when things go badly with them or they
feel they are suffering under an injustice, and it had to find


"It's all your fault," he said savagely. "You wouldn't
let me tell her."

He crushed the letter and spoke out of his misery and

" She says I've deceived her. It was you made me deceive

" I know, I am sorry. May I see your letter ? " She held
out a tremulous hand for it.

He sat beside her whilst she read it, already he was ashamed
of his words.

" I didn't mean that, mother. I don't know what I'm say-
ing ; I'm wild with thinking what she must have felt about it.
Of course, I didn't mean to reproach you."

Agatha read the letter witliout answering, perhaps witliout
hearing. That he was sitting beside her was all she knew.

" It will come right," she said, " you shall not be unhappy,
I will put things right between you. Have confidence in me."

''I saw the letter your wife wrote to your old nurse
hefoi'e she went to you in South Africa. And I've seen
your hdby. You never told me about either of them.
It makes no difference to ms if you loere not married to
her; it's just the same. You were deceiving me all the
time — I always told you everything, even my thoughts.
I am too unhappy to write, hut I never want to see you
again. I could never believe anything you said. I don't
want anything more to do with you."

It had been easy to write those few lines to Desmond in the
white heat of her revulsion from him. But to write to her
aunt had not been easy.

" You tried to Tceep everything from me always, but I
am not so innocent or ignorant as you suppose; that's
why I am going away. I couldn't bear to marry Desmond
now, and I know if I stay you would persuade, or make
me. You think of nothing but tvhat Desmond wants.
I am not ungrateful, I know everything you have done


for me. I don't know how to leave you, to go away. But
I must. I can't meet Desmond. We've always told each
other everything, that's ivhat I thought, and this makes
everything he has ever said seem untrue. Auntie dear,
let me go, don't try to folloiv or find me. Take Desmond's
haby instead — it is a darling. If I had not felt so dread-
fully, I could have taken her in my arms, and kissed her,
■the poor Utile haby! She ought to he at Marley instead of
me. She tvould he there if it ivasn't hecau^e you. want me
to marry Desmond and live at Marley. She isn't wicked;
she hasn't done anything wrong. It is all so dreadful,
hut the ivorst is about the hahy. I am sure you will have
her if I stay away. You'll get to care for her, like you got
to care for Desmond. You care for him more than you do
for me. I'm glad about that and that he loves you. I
know you are ill and trying to hide it, I have known all
the time how brave and great you are. But I can't stay
in the same house with Desmond and his hahy; the haby
ought to be at Marley. This is such a stupid letter; I
seem to say the same things over and over again, but I've
been all night trying to write it. I wish I knew you
wouldn't miss me, and then I don't wish it; I couldn't
bear to he forgotten. I know it was all kept secret for my
sake — by you, at any rate. I seem to understand every-
thing and to forgive everything except Desmond. I hate
even to think of him and all that we were to each other.

The letter broke off abruptly. Desmond refused to read it.

" What's the use ? I don't want to read that she hates the
sight of me. What am I to do ? How can I make it right ? "

Just as it had been necessary to vent his first anger, so
now it was necessary to have a confidant for his grief. He was
appealing to her, and the appeal shook her.

" I can't bear it. Mother, we must get her back, you will
get her back, won't you ? I must try and explain it to her."

" I will do my best."

" You will make her forgive me."


" Or me ! My poor son, it is all my fault. I see now,
it was my mistake, not yours. I was short-sighted, impulsive,
but I thought only of you — you believe that ? "

" I can't bear it. What must she be thinking of me ? " And
she felt that a sob tore her breast. She wanted to put her
arms about him, gather his head to her breast. But always
her words came with difficulty. She was filled with tenderness,
shaken with it, but all she got out was :
" It will all come right ; it must."

" Where do you think she has gone? What are we to do? "
He was ashamed of his breakdown, and got up from her side,
from the sofa. " We must do something."

" Is anything known in the house ? " Agatha asked.
"Jane gave me the letter, said she must have sat up all
night writing. Mother, how did it all happen ? How did she
get to know ? Who told her ? It must have been someone who
hated me — us. I would have told her myself one day, you
know I would, when we were married. She'd have forgiven
me; I know it. I'd have made her. Gabrielle is married,
Michael McKay told me so last night."

" It was the child, your old nurse Biddy showed her the

baby. It seems there is a likeness "

Lady Grindelay spoke slowly, with difficulty. She found
it unbearable to think it was she who was responsible for Des-
mond's pallor, the ravage his sudden trouble had brought
upon the young face she loved. She felt that if she were in
health she could comfort him, help him. If only the pain
would leave off gnawing at her for a moment so that she might
think !

Desmond went on unhappily :

" I know why she ran away ; it isn't only my not telling
her. She's got it into her head I've neglected the child, Eunice
adores babies." A flush dyed his forehead. " I know what
she'll have been thinking. She's right, too. Only it isn't
exactly as it seems. He was exculpating himself, now he no
longer wished to blame anybody else. " I never thought of it
at all, that's the truth of it. When Gabrielle told me it was
coming, I made her marry me. I thought I might be killed,


and then — I forgot all about it. It wasn't there, you see."
He paused, and his mother watched him, following his argu-
ment, feeling with him, suffering with him. " And she never
said a word about it to mc when she came to Waterval. Do you
think you'll ever be able to make Eunice understand ? "

"You have very little for which to blame yourself," his
mother answered. " I, too, never gave the child a thought ;
you seemed to me as if you were still little more than a boy

" Mother, help me to find Eunice, to speak to her face to
face. I may be able to make her understand."

" We will find her."

" But if we can't find her? "

" Don't look so unhappy, I cannot bear it. There are only
one or two people to whom she can have gone."

" You'll get her back to-day ? "

" To-day or to-morrow ; soon."

" To-morrow is Thursday — our wedding day ! It must
be to-day. You don't know how I feel about it." But his
eyes and voice told her.

" I will do my best."

" I want her."

"I am afraid the wedding must be postponed," Lady
G-rindelay said uncertainly.

" I didn't mean that. But I must find her, see her, speak
to her. Nothing ought to have prevented my telling her."

" It was all my fault. I wanted her to see you as I do now,
as I ought always to have done, without flaw. My son "

" I could have persuaded you, I can't humbug myself, I
know I could have persuaded you. I didn't want to. I didn't
want her to know,"

After a little further talk Lady Grindelay began to plan
how to account for the postponement of the wedding, what
explanation must be given to the neighbourhood.

" I think it had better be given out that I have been taken

He cared nothing at all for what the world might say.


" But you're not ill," he objected. " Keynolds said you had
been, but that was only her fuss, wasn't it? You look all
right." If he had looked at her more closely he might have
thought differently. " I shall want you to help me with her."
She was well enough at least to be glad he needed her help.

" How could I be ill if you need me? But I hear Dr. Eeid's
brougham. I think I can manage to persuade him that I am."

" It will come right, mother ; say you think it will come
right between us." He was so desperately in need of comfort
that she had to tell him again.

" I am sure of it. Leave me now, I must talk to Dr.
Eeid. Don't be out of reach. Telegraph to Andrew McKay,
advising him of the delay, giving my health as the reason. I
don't think he will be surprised. And — and — Desmond, I
think you will have to speak to this woman "

" Biddy will do anything I tell her. If only I'd seen her
before! But I can't do anything till I know where Eunice
has gone, until I've seen her," he cried out. " You said she can
only have gone to one or two people ? "

" Hush ! " For now the doctor was in the room, and Lady
Grindelay was steady in her intention that no one must know
what had occurred, steady in her belief that she could minimise
its seriousness. " I have been telling my son of that attack
last night. Do you think I am fit to go through the fatigue
of the wedding? You may speak candidly. If it has to be
put off, he will face it. He wants to do whatevei* is best for

" I think you ought to have been in bed the last fortnight,"
the old doctor answered gruffly. " You know it as well as I do.
You don't mean to say you've grown sensible at last, that I can
send for Sir Simeon ? "

She silenced him hastily.

" We can talk about Sir Simeon afterwards. I only wanted
to tell you that my son will make the sacrifice. They must
have a quiet wedding later on. Shall I go back to bed again ?
Is that what you advise ? "

" You ought never to have got up."


Desmond thought she was liumbugging tlie doctor. That
is, if he thought ahout her at all,

"Very well, then. Perhaps you are right; even doctors
are right sometimes, I suppose. I Avill give in to you just this
once. And Desmond " — he was leaving the room, but she
called him back — " don't go away for a moment. Don't omit
to wire Andrew McKay to come down. He will help you with
the necessary arrangements for the postponement. And go
up to the station. My niece has gone to London," she said
quite caJmly to the doctor ; for all that her eyes and her face,
to anyone who knew her, belied her calmness. " They missed
each other. My son has only just returned. He caught the
early train."

Desmond thought she was very wonderful; she seemed
to think of everything. All he could do was to follow her
instructions. She had said she was sure it would all come
right, and his misery was a little assuaged by her assurance.

As he came out of the drawing-room, leaving his mother
with the doctor, Reynolds met him.

" Can you come upstairs a moment ? " she asked him
respectfully, a little mysteriously.

" I'm just off to the station. Is it anything special ? I've
got a telegram to send, too."

" It is rather special, if you could spare a minute."

Reynolds was a privileged person.

" What is it ? " he asked as he followed her.

She told him about Biddy and her pertinacity on the
way up.

" She wouldn't go imtil I promised you would speak to
her; it was the only way to quiet her. We don't want to set
the household talking. She is in my room, if you don't mind
stepping up."

" The marriage is to be put off ; I suppose you've heard ? "
His heart was so full that it overflowed.

" It won't be for long, milord ; I'm sure it won't be for
long. Miss Eunice is so attached to you, if I may be allowed
to say so."


" Yfas, you mean. Hallo ! "

Biddy flung her anns about liim and began to pour out a
torrent of half-incoherent Irish.

'^ An' didn't I say you'd never be turnin' me from your
door. An' me with your child in me arms. Carried her in
me arms I did, ivrj- step ov the way, to hould her up so she
should see her Da come back from the wars wid the glory on
him. An' thin I heard you was to be married. I thought at
first it was to the mother ov her, but sorra a bit. The wicked-
ness of ut ! Look at her ! " The baby was crawling on the
floor, and she caught her up. "Whin I saw what was the
truth of ut, that niver a word the young lady knew, nor you
belike, that maybe ye thought they were both dead — is it
dead she looks, the darlint ? An' where's her mother I don't
know. But I brought the child to her Da, so she'll have her
rights ; an' I towld her, the bit ov a pale-faced girl, who ut was
was the feyther ov ut. I towld ut all to her "

" You didn't do me a good turn, Biddy."

" An' didn't I, thin ? But it's sorry I am."

He turned away from her and the child, and she looked
at him anxiously.

" An' will I be goin' away agin', thin, me and her. It's
you that's first wid me, an' what you say I'll do, if it's trampin'
the streets wid her." She was as wily as ever. " Is it goin'
I'll be ? " She made for the door. " An' her Da to niver so
much as look at her," she said to the baby.

"Wait; don't be foolish. Of course you're not to go;
you can't go like that." He was distracted ; tears were not far
from his eyes. "I must get off. Wait until I think. Eeynolds,
can they stay here ? Is there anyAvhere I can put them until
I get back?"

" An' her the image ov you. It's the cowld street he'd be
afther turnin' ye into."


"Of course, milord, if you wish it, if you think it best."
Reynolds was doubtful, anxious to do what she could for him.
" There are the old nurseries."


" The very thing. Take them up there. Let them stay
until I come back, until I've seen my mother again."

Biddy held the child up to him as he moved* to pass.

" An' won't ye take her in yer arms ? "

He took the child hurriedly, and it was true that he was
strangely moved. It was so small and helpless, by the con-
traction of his heart he knew what Eunice must have felt.
Eunice ! He must find her, tell her, explain,

" I must get off. Look after them until I come back," he
said to Eeynolds brokenly. He was not going to abandon them^
to turn them into the streets ; he flushed when he thought of it.

"Whatever sort of a blackguard I've been, I'm not that
sort of blackguard," he thought, with that sob in his throat
and strange emotion as he hurried down the stairs. How
small it was, and helpless ! His own child ! It seemed

The next hours were spent in sending telegrams and dis-
patching messages in all directions. He went back to the
station, and heard that Eunice had gone to town by the 10.17,
Saying to the stationmaster that there had been a mistake,
that they had missed each other, seemed to make it true, or
possible; seemed to bridge the distance between them. Com-
ing back he met Dr. Reid, and Dr. Reid stopped to speak to

" This is a great blow to you, I am afraid."

" Oh, that's all right," Desmond answered hastily.

" I have just wired for Sir Simeon Greenlees," Dr. Reid
went on.

" For Sir Simeon ? " Desmond stood still, " Whatever

" The symptoms are becoming hourly more serious. The
delay has been most unfortunate. She has been brave — too

Desmond remembered in time that he must not give away
his mother's secret; he must carry out her instructions. She
seemed to have persuaded old Reid without any difficulty that
the wedding was put off because she was ill.


He knew now Eunice had gone to London, that she was
not far away. His mother would know where to look for her,
to which of their friends to apply. But Desmond had a new
twinge of distress in remembering that neither of them had
had any intimate friends ; they had only been really intimate
with each other.

" I must get back, I suppose I can go up to her? "
" She ought not to be left alone. I shall send in a nurse
for to-night. Eeynolds can't be in attendance night and day."
Desmond was fidgeting to get away, hardly listening. Dr.
Eeid thought the young man callous or indifferent. He hoped
his own son, Jack, would have taken the news of his serious
illness differently. He was sorry for Lady Grindelay. " The
war made them callous," was the excuse he found.

"You think I must have acted well?" was Lady
Grindelay's comment when Desmond told her she was to have
a nurse, that Sir Simeon Greenlees had been sent for ! " Never
mind what he said ; I made the most of it. I shall have to
stay in bed a few days, I suppose; I must give some colour
to the story. Now, tell me your news; all you have done.
You have got hold of x\ndrew, I see ; his answer seems to have
come very quickly. Have you had any lunch? "

He had forgotten lunch, but she persuaded him to eat. It
was already late. He forgot also to tell her about Biddy
and the baby, and that they were under the same roof with her.
" Come back to me after you have eaten," she called out
to him. In truth, she could hardly bear him out of her sight.
It seemed there was not so much time before her as she had

When he came up again, two steps at once, and his mouth
still full, she began again about Andrew's telegram.

" What time- did you telegraph to him ? I see tliis was sent
off at eleven."

Andrew had wired : " Coming by two-thirty."
" Have you ordered the carriage ? "

" I told John to meet every train, to stay in Marley, put
up at the Arms. I couldn't bear to think of her finding no
one at the station."


" You did quite right. What time did you send that tele-
gram to Andrew ? "

"You mean — you think " He caught her meaning


" I think he was coming down in any case, it is not your
telegram that is bringing him, he has news for us. . . ." He
sprang to his feet.

" Of course, you're right. What an idiot I am ! Of
course, that's what it is. Eunice went to him, and he's bring-
ing her back. I'll go down and meet them. There's just
time. She'll be here in less than an hour."

" Don't be too sure."

Her warning was in vain ; he was already out of her reach.
There was only the dog-cart in the stables, but he could get
to the station in less than three-quarters of an hour.

He accomplished the task, turning in at the station as
the engine, with its blue smoke, rounded the comer. The
carriage was there, too, and the footman to catch the reins as
they were flung to him. Desmond was on the platform when
the train came in. He had buoyed himself up with hope. He
felt sure Eunice would be there. And once he saw her he
thought he could persuade her; that at least she would not be
so hard on him. He was on fire to see her, to try to put him-
self right in her eyes; or, if not right, at least to make her
think him less black than she thought him now. He had
recovered from her letter a little; he was no longer in utter
despair. He would see her, persuade her, explain.

But the lawyer got out alone. Desmond had a quick, sick-
ening sense of disappointment.

" Eunice ? " Question and answer were quite simul-
taneous :

" Is quite safe."

"She isn't with you?"

" No."

"Where is she?"

" With the girls and Michael at Campden Hill."

Andrew was sorry for the boy; anybody who saw his face


would have been sorry for him. Outside the station he said

" The carriage is here. You don't mind my going in the
dog-cart, do you ? "

" You don't want to hear what I've come to tell you ? "

" Not just now ; not if you don't mind."

" I warned your mother, you know."

But Desmond was already out of hearing.


Lady Grindelay bore herself badly when Andrew came to
her in her room. She sent down word that he was to be
brought up directly he came. She had already heard to whom
the girl had gone.

" I suppose you have come to gloat over me, to say ' I
told you so/ to say how wise I should have been to have been
guided by you. That is what you have come to say, isn't it? "
she began. He was shocked at her appearance, and answered
gently, coming up to the bed, standing beside it.

" I've not come to gloat. How could you think it ? I've
come to see what I can do for you."

" What does she say ? She has not come with you, I hear ;
the dog-cart got here first. Wouldn't she listen to reason ? "

Eunice had been waiting in Andrew's office when he ar-
rived that morning, the dingy office in Bedford Eow with its
law books, littered desk and faded Turkey carpet where so
much big business was transacted. Michael had an appoint-
ment to see a client, and was coming down later. For half an
hour Eunice sat with Andrew, telling her story. He was firm
with her, hardly sympathetic, pointing out how foolishly she
had acted in leaving Marley in this way. Then Michael came
in, and she turned from Andrew to him.

" You said if I ever wanted help I could call on you,"
she burst out passionately.

And Michael, guessing at once what had come about, an-
swered soberly but without hesitation:

" I meant what I said. Tell me what you want me to do."

Andrew, after a few words of explanation, went out and
left them together. Half an hour later Michael came to him
again, and, on the strength of what he told him, Andrew lost
no time in looking up a train to Marley, sending his advance

20 305


" You go down, father, and tell them what she wishes."

" It is a sad business," Andrew replied.

" Eunice has appealed to me. I know she is overwrought,
has not given the matter sufficient thought." Michael spoke
as if he were out of breath. " I should not, of course, take
her at her word, take advantage of what may be only a mood,
something said in anger,"

"What she said to me was that she would have nothing
more to do with Desmond, that she would not go back; she
was unpersuadable. Is that what she told you ? "

" One must wait," Michael answered oracularly, but still
in that breathless way, his face a dull red.

" She had found out, after all, that you are more reliable."

" I don't know, I think it is only her anger speaking ; she
is very unlike herself. It has obviously been a great shock to
her. I am not going to take any advantage of it."

" You still care for her? "

" That has nothing to do with it," the dull red deepening.
" All we have to think of is what is best for her. She is very
agitated " His father could see that he, too, was suffer-
ing under a great stress of emotion. " I shall do nothing
hastily, not let her bind herself in any way, I think she
knows what I feel about it. You will telegraph and say you
are starting at once, to relieve their anxiety."

" You want me to tell Lady Grindelay everything you
have just told me? "

" At any rate you must tell Iier that she will not come
back, will not meet Desmond again."

" You'll take her up to Campden Hill when I have gone —
to the girls.''

" Yes."

* * * * *

Here, by Agatha's bedside, Andrew was doubtful how much
or how little he should tell her. He temporised.
" She is very overwrought."
*' How long does she mean to remain away ? "
" I don't know ; I can't say at all."


" I forbid you to harbour her."

" Don't be absurd, Agatha. You had better hear every-

" That is what I am waiting for. The great grievance I
suppose is that she was not told ? She must absolve Desmond
from that; he did it for me."

" That's not the great grievance ; it is one of them, but not
the greatest. He was callous as to the child's welfare; he
made no inquiries "

" How does she know that ? "

" The old woman told her."

" Did you let her know that I paid the child's mother to
look after it?"

" Did you ? " asked Andrew dryly. " Did you ? I thought
you paid her to keep out of the way. But that's not the point,
the main point. Apart from her own personal feelings towards
Desmond, and naturally they are very shaken, quite altered,
she tells me she feels that if she were to put them to one side,
let you persuade her to such a marriage, she would come
between you and your grandchild. She is quite as strong
upon duty as you used to be; she thinks the baby should be

" Doesn't she understand the child is illegitimate? Didn't
you tell her so ? "

" Yes ; I pointed that out to her, and she seemed to' think
it of no consequence. I couldn't press it; she had seen the
baby, and that made all the difference. What we see is so
different from what we hear."

" You ought to have brought her back with you. I could
have talked to her."

*' That's what she fears most, why she came away. She
is so afraid you will talk her over. And she dreads seeing

" That, at least, is a good sign. She cannot stay away
altogether. Where is she now ? "

" I left her with Michael. He will take her up to Campden

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Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 23 of 27)