Julia Frankau.

Full swing online

. (page 24 of 27)
Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 24 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Hill presently ; the girls will look after her. They are devoted
to her, you know."


" You left her with Michael ? " Agatha said, her eyes

" She asked for Michael. She didn't come to see me at
all ; she came to see Michael."

*''You had better tell me what you have in your mind,
Andrew; what j^ou have come to tell me? I can see there is

" Don't you think you can guess ? " He spoke quietly.
" After all, it is not quite new to you."

*' Go on, please go on."

" Well, if you will insist, she says that if Michael still
cares for her, if Michael will take her, Desmond and Des-
mond's child can be at home here, where they belong "


" A short time ago you had no objection, you were even
anxious for it. Don't get excited." For he saw how she
flushed. " Michael is the best of sons ; he will make her a
good husband ; he has always cared for her."

" For Marley ! "

" That is not fair, Agatha, not true, and you know it.
What I can give Michael would buy Marley and leave some-
thing over. Besides, Marley is for Desmond, for his chil-
dren. Eunice is full of Desmond's child and her rights. She
knows how greatly Michael has always cared for her; she
offers to marry him without delay. She thinks that will
make the road clear for you, and settle things here."

" You are mad, mad; all of you. Desmond will never
give her up. I am not going to have him disappointed. This
will blow over."

" It will have to be a strong wind to blow away the child.
That's a concrete fact, 3'Ou know."

" When was all this spoken of ? "

" In my office this morning."

" And you have come away and left them together ? "

"It was Michael sent me to you. You can trust him;
he won't let her do anything rash."

*' She does not know what she is contemplating. Mar-
riage — without love ! "


For an instant each of them thought of their own mar-

" When one cannot get cake, bread is very satisfying,"
said Andrew dryly, quietly. " You had no appetite at all "

"Andrew, you are playing me false; you are intriguing
against me, you have always wanted Eunice for Michael."

She was becoming agitated. He could see her laboured
breath, her feebleness and bad colour, that she could hardly
express herself. He turned away from her, speaking huskily.

" I never wanted what you did not."

She was overcome by physical weakness, but her mind re-
mained clear. She began again, with hardly a pause.

" It is quite true, you have been a good friend. You have
been right all through." She found it hard to say it. "I
have not stood alone as well as I thought. If I had only said
' Yes ' to you at the beginning ! But we are old people now.
Andrew; I cannot die before I have seen the boy happy. I
have misunderstood him, not acted in his best interests. I
must make things right before I go. Help me ! You see how
I am, half dead already, unable to act for myself."

" I am here, Agatha," he answered quietly.

" You won't go against me."

" How can you think it ? "

"Bring her back to us. She is for Desmond. Act for
me — help me ! "

He was greatly moved ; she was so much stronger in her
weakness than ever she had been in her strength.

" I will not fail you."

" You have a genius for friendship ; I have always known
it, a genius for friendship. You will not let all my hopes be

"I'll do my best, whatever I may think; hold a brief
against my own son."

" Send for her, make her come back here at once. Michael
is not like Desmond; Michael will get over it. Besides, she
belongs to Desmond ; they have always cared for each other —
always, since they have been little children. If I had not


come between them, putting my duty to her before my duty
to him. . . ."

" As long as you live you will blunder. . . ."
" That is not going to be for very long, Andrew," she an-
swered, with her eyes closed, more quietly. " Not for long."
" Do you think that makes it any better for me ? " he an-
swered harshly.

They began to talk over what was to be done. Andrew
urged that the girl should be allowed to stay at Campden Hill
for the present.

" He must know where she is."
" I've already told him."

"Yes, I know, I had forgotten. I've not been as ill as
this before. I was not telling you the truth when I said I
was feigning, to account for the postponement of the wed-

" I feared it."

" You will make her come back at once ? "
Andrew promised that. The woman he had loved all his
life lay here, old and broken, pleading with him. For her
he disregarded the claims of his own son.

When he went downstairs he told Desmond briefly that
Eunice wished to stay away for a time, to remain with them
at Campden Hill, but that Lady Grin delay would not hear
of it.

" I'll go and fetch her," Desmond answered quickly. " We
can get back to-night."

" No, no ! That would not be at all a good plan."
" She is too angry with me, too bitter against me ? "
" You must give her time."

" If only I had told her myself," he said miserably.
"Your mother wished you to keep silent," Andrew an-
swered briefly.

He, too, had been unable to go against Agatha's wishes;
that was the trouble. Now, notwithstanding he still thought
Eunice would be safer with Michael than with Desmond, he
intended to carry out his promise, he meant to lose no time in
returning to town, have the necessary interview with Michael,


persuade or entreat the girl to reconsider her determination,
and give her aunt the opportunity to speak once more with

But he did not carry out his intention.

Sir Simeon Greenlees came down by the afternoon train,
and Dr. Raid brought him to the Court, Dr, Eeid knew of
the old friendship between Lady Grindelay and the laAryer
and begged him to await the result of the consultation.

" I hear that she has other anxieties now, when her mind
should have been completely at ease."

Dr. Reid was even better informed than Andrew ; he knew,
for instance, that the child was actually in the house. His
son. Jack, was on the staff of the Marley Hospital. In a
small country town news spreads like fire. Jack had told him
of the old Irishwoman and the baby she brought with her, of
Eunice's visit to the hospital and her fainting fit. He had
not to put two and two together to make four; the figures
stared him in the face. Dr, Reid was too old to be curious;
lie remembered Desmond's father, he was neither curious nor
shocked. His patient seemed the only thing that mattered
just now.

" Stay until we hear what Sir Simeon thinks. I'm afraid
it is too late for the operation he advised. She would not
listen to him in London, insisted on waiting until the boy
came home, until she had witnessed his triumphal reception
here, until the wedding was over. Sir Simeon is washing his
hands now; then we are going in to her. But I'm afraid it's
too late," Dr. Reid was nearly eighty, and death was a
familiar sight to him ; but his old eyes were rheumy when he
added :

" She may wish to see you again."

« * H: :|: 4i

The doctors were with Lady Grindelay the best part of an
hour. When they left she asked that Desmond should be
sent up to her. Dr. Reid told her that the lawyer was still
in the house, and she sent down word that she wished him to


remain. The doctors could talk to him, and whilst they were
talking, Desmond was to come up.

" What have they told you ? '' was her first question to
her son.

" That she's at Campden Hill."

" Oh ! "

She had not meant what he had been told about the girl,
but about herself. He added then, a little remorsefully :

" What did the bigwig say ? Did he spot that you were
putting it on a bit ? "

" No — no. He didn't say that exactly. . . ."

"What did he say, then?"

" You need not believe what he says. Doctors often make
mistakes — nearly always."

"He doesn't think there is anything really wrong with
you, does he ? "

She lay quiet a minute, and then answered :

" He thinks my time has almost come ; that I am not going
to get better."

" What — what ? Mother ! It isn't true — say it isn't true !
I can't- bear it; mother!" His voice broke, he forgot his
own trouble.

" Is it such a surprise to you, then ? "

He threw himself on his knees beside the bed. The soft
spot in him, the Irish heart that came from Pat, cried out :

"•I can't do without you ! Say it isn't true ! "

His words were sweet for her to hear; they were like the
scent of flowers in the room, or warm, healing waters. She
heard him sob as he knelt beside the bed.

" I've been such a bad son, I want to be better to you, to
have time. . . ."

" You have not been a bad son. You have been one who
called and had no answer ; you have had a dumb mother, not
deaf, but dumb. Don't cry; you must not grieve, I can't
beajT it; it is all right, everything is coming right for you.
Tell me you know you are going to be happy when I'm gone,
I must hear that. I've wronged you. . . ."
" Mother, it isn't true, mother! "


" Do you care ? How wrong of me to be a little glad that
you care. I am not going to get well, but I am not as bad
as they think. I know much better than they do. I have seen
death so often. This is not death ; it is not very near. Before
then I shall have lost hold. I have seen so many people die,
and it is always the same ; they let go of this world when they
are in sight of the next. I have not come to that yet. I want
to see you and Eunice happy before I die. I want you to go
up to London and fetch her. To-morrow morning will do;
there is no need for you to go to-night. Why should Andrew
put my son before his own ? Why should I ask it of him ? "

Again she lay still. Desmond had risen to his feet; he
was standing beside her now. She opened her eyes and looked
at him. Tall he was, and delectable to her eyes, and the
sound of his sobbing had been like violets in the room; she
saw that his eyes were swollen with crying.

" My son ! how .good it is to see you there. I have never
told you . . . my son, how much I have cared for you ; heart of
my innermost heart, my son. I have nnade so many mis-
takes. Forgive me, forgive me everything, Desmond ! "

" Mother ! You'll try and get well."

" I must see you and Eunice married before I go. She
is your heart's desire, isn't she ? I must give you your heart's
desire." ^

" It's to see you better," he broke out.

" You must bring her back. Tell her, and that I want to
bid her ' good-bye.' "

" Do you think she will come with me ? "

" Don't leave her too long with Michael."

"With Michael?"

" Michael has always cared for her. In her anger against
you she has gone to him. She must come back."

" She wouldn't look at Michael," he said hastily, as he had
said once before.

" No one can tell what foolishness a girl may commit.
Think what I did !"

" Eunice would never look at Michael," he repeated. He
would have been angry if he had not been too unhappy for

314 FUUj swing

anger. " You don't know Eunice. She may hate me, but she
would never put anyone else in my place."

" So she would have said of you. ' Desmond would never
look at anyone else.' Can't you hear her saying it? That is
the trouble — her faith in you, now yours in her. You must
go to her."

Because she wanted him here she was sending him away.
She went on talking as if she wercfctalking to herself :

"The wheel has come full circle! We women ... so
unfit to stand alone, so quick in seeking to cure one pain with
another. I was forty, forty years of age when I married your
father because Eunice's mother hurt me ! "

" Eunice is different."

"We are all different and all foolish. Go now. Send
Andrew to me. Keep him here to-night. When it is a ques-
tion of our sons we must trust no one. . . ."

Desmond was glad to get out of the room. He thought
nothing of what she told him about Eunice and Michael.
Eunice and Michael ! It was unthinkable. But he wanted to
find someone to tell him his mother was not as ill as she
thought herself, that there were years before her in which he
could show his affection. He had to hope.

To Andrew she began much as she had begun to Desmond.

" They have told you, I suppose."

" They have told me."

" I have refused the operation, or to see anyone else."

« So I have heard."

" And I have told Desmond he is not to leave Eunice to
you or to Michael; he is to fetch her himself; to tell her I
wish to bid her ' good-bye.' "

" You might have trusted me."

" Andrew, are you crying too? "

He had kept his voice under control, but she heard the
tears in his controlled voice.

" Andrew ! "

" Well, well, what's the next ? You wouldn't trust me to
put Michael's, or my own, interests on one side, to act for


"You are hurt?''

" Wasn't that what you intended ? "

" Andrew ! "

" Yes."

He stood beside her now, looking down upon her. She
was not a grey and shrunken oki woman in his eyes, she was
the girl he had asked in marriage, the only woman he had
loved; difficult, impossible, obstinate, the Agatha who should
have been his. And she looked back at him. She knew now
how much his friendship had meant to her, she had ever a
sense lacking, but it was not the sense of gratitude.

" I did not tell Desmond to go because I did not trust you.
I gave him that reason, but it was not the true one. I wanted
you beside me at the end. Will you stay with me, Andrew? "

" Thank you for wanting me."


Lady Grindelay was right and the doctors were wrong. She
was not going to die just yet. But Desmond knew nothing
of that when he went up to town the next day, leaving Andrew
at Marley, and uncertain what he might hear when he got
back. Hopeful, but uncertain. That he was going to see
Eunice again was the principal thing. However she might
greet him, he was going to see her. When he remembered
that but for untoward circumstances she would be already his
wife, he went hot all over; she would remember it too, he knew
that. His mother's illness was no longer in the foreground.
He was going to give her message, tell Eunice she was dying
and wished to say good-bye ; but he no longer quite believed it.
He had seen her this morning, and she looked much as usual.

When he got to Campden Hill he sent up his card, with
the words " / mn^t see you " scored and underlined.

Eunice sent back her reply verbally. She refused to see
him. Mary and Martha McKay, good girls both of them,
tried to get her to soften the message, to let one of them
be the bearer of it, but she was inexorable. She was also
frightened, but they did not know that. They had not under-
stood why Michael had brought the girl here, or why the
wedding was put off, the wedding for which their new dresses
were already in the house. They were full of curiosity, of
sympathy, of excitement. Eunice had not come down to
dinner, she had stayed in her room until now; they were sit-
ting there with her when Desmond's card was brought up.
Michael had told them not to ask any questions. Neither
Michael nor their father had slept at home last night. It
was very hard not to question, but they were good girls and
devoted to their brother; also to Eunice, of course. Michael
had been there that morning, but he had not asked to see
Eunice. He said she had better be undisturbed; they were
to tell her he was coming home to lunch, that he hoped to see



her then. He showed them a paragraph in the Morning
Post which he thought would be sufficient explanation for
them. It was not, but that is an unimportant detail.

"In consequence of the alarming illness of Lady Grinde-
lay the marriage hettveen Lord Orindelay and Miss Fellowes
is unavoidably postponed."

"But if Lady Grindelay is alarmingly ill, surely Eunice
would be with her ? "

" There are reasons "

But he would not give them. He went away, saying he
would be back to lunch ; they were to tell Eunice so.

When Desmond heard that Eunice would not see him, he
asked if Mr. Michael McKay were at home, and was almost
ashamed of his question, hot for the answer, nevertheless.

" He's coming in to lunch," the maid answered, going be-
yond her instructions.

"Then I'll wait imtil he returns. Perhaps Miss Mary
would see me, or Miss Martha ? Otherwise I'll wait until Mr.
Michael comes back.^'

There was no immediate hurry, for all his quick heart-
beats and overwhelming impatience, Desmond knew there was
no hurry. From Campden Hill to Paddington is only a few
minutes, and there was no train until 2.5. " Tell her I'm not
going away."

The message was brought up to the room where the three
girls were sitting together. Eunice sprang to her feet, paling
and startled, saying:

" Oh, he must go ; tell him he must not stay here."

Martha and Mary exchanged glances.

" Shall I go down to him? "

" Or I ? "

"I don't want him to meet Michael; he mustn't meet
Michael," Eunice answered agitatedly. "Oh, what shall I
do ? Won't he go away ; can't you make him go away ? "

The parlourmaid stared at her; Mary and Martha, with
more delicacy, looked away."


"We'll do anything you wish/' they said almost simul-

" I — I can't see liim."

They had never heard of anything so strange.

" Michael will know what to do when he comes," they said
in chorus. In that house it was an axiom that Michael always
knew what was to be done in any emergency ; there had been
only small emergencies until this one. But Eunice knew that
she did not want the two men to meet. In a sudden and
unexpected revulsion of feeling she felt that she had been dis-
loyal to Desmond. She had asked Michael to marry her, let
him put his arms round her. Her cheeks flamed. All at once
it seemed to her it was a dreadful thing she had done, dread-
ful and inexplicable. Desmond was downstairs and she could
not face him. Just at that moment it was not because of
what he had done, but because of what she had. She was
drawn to him by cords stronger than she could resist ; she had
pulled against them and now fell ])ack, trembling, unnerved.

" Wliat am I to do ? " she said again, despairingly. They
heard a cab in the street; it pulled up quickly; there was the
sound of a key in the latch.

" Here is Michael."

He had been unable to wait until the usual time. He had
not taken her at her word yesterday, when she had thrown
herself on his protection or chivalry. He had kept his self-
control; he must feel sure she would not regret her impulse
to come to him, that she meant she could never forgive Des-
mond, never look at him again. He was a man, but a chiv-
alrous one, and he had lived without hope. He knew what
she felt for her cousin; she had never disguised it from him.
All night he had lain awake, thinking what it would mean
to have her for his wife, to care for her. He wanted to be fair
to lOesmond, but he forgot Desmond once or twice in the con-
templation of what might come. He thought he could make
lier happy; at least he would have no secrets from her. If
she felt the same to-day as sha did yesterday, he would take
her at her word; he* could resist no farther. That is what he
thought when he put his latchkey in the door. She had had


time enough for thinking; he had left her alone on purpose.
If she felt the same to-day he would take her at her word.

Desmond, fuming and on the watch, heard the hansom
drive up as quickly as they did, and he was in the hall when
Michael opened the door. All Michael's dreams were shat-
tered when he saw Desmond. He matched himself against
him in that moment, the choice was for her to make. He was
not unconscious of his worth, and yet his dreams were shat-

" You here ? '^ he said.

" It wasn't likely I'd be anywhere else," Desmond answered.

" She won't see you."

" She will have to see me."

Michael hung up his hat mechanically.

" If she does not wish to see you, you cannot force her."

" Can't I ? You see if I can't." It wa^ not the way he
had meant to speak, but Michael's quietude and assurance
angered liim, and the remembrance of what his mother had
hinted. " I'm going to see her. I'm not going to leave this
house until I have. You don't think you can prevent me, do
you ? " he said, advancing threateningly.

" Don't be childish. You are not a boy. This is not a ease
for fisticuffs. If she does not wish to see you, I shall protect
her from intrusion, this is my father's house; violence will
have no effect on me."

Desmond dropped his hands. He had no quarrel with
Michael, and felt no jealousy now that he stood before him.
Eunice had always laughed at Michael, at his eye-glass and stiff
manner. Michael had looked after him when he was ill,
shown himself a friend. He was ashamed of his first instinct.

" Will you bring her down to me ? Will you tell her that it
is vital I should see her at once ? "

"But is it?"

Michael knew nothing of what had been occurring at
Marley, of Sir Simeon Greenlees and his verdict.

" She has broken off her engagemenfi to you, and does not
wish to be importuned."

" I won't importune her, you can tell her that. I will ncft


even speak of what is between us — at least, not yet. But I
have a message from my mother. I must see her face to face
and give her my mother's message."

" Give it to me."

" No ; I'm going to give it to her. What are you afraid

" Of not carrying out her wishes," Michael answered.

But it was not quite true. Desmond may have looked
little more than a boy, but it was folly to deny that he was a
handsome one, with grace and glamour about him. Michael
stood irresolutely. He did not want them to meet. Yet
if she were not strong enough to resist him now, she would
never be strong enough. It was a test. If she saw him and
said to his face what she had said behind his back — that she
hated him, and would have nothing more to do with him — ;
then — ^then he might dismiss his scruples. Desmond went on :

" I give you my word I won't even talk to her about
myself — not yet, not now. You can be there if you like."
He could afford to be generous ; this could be no rival of his,
this slow, impeccable Michael. " She needn't see me alone if
shei doesn't want to."

" Very well, then. Wait here. I'll go up."

Michael went slowly, deliberately, not as Desmond would
have gone to the girl he loved. All Michael's methods and
his manners were different.

He called his sisters out of the room and said quite calmly
that he wished to see Eunice alone. He even waited to wash
his hands and make his hair smooth before he went to her.

But when he saw her pallor and distress, and noted her
irresolution, liis heart sank. Not like this had she been yester-
day. Yesterday she had clung to him, urged him.

" I don't feel safe without you," she had said. " Michael,
save me, help me ! If you don't marry me, I don't know what
I shall do."

Michael had refrained as far as possible from letting her
know what her appeal to him meant, how it affected him. He
had reassured and soothed her, promised he would stand, if
necessary, between her and Desmond, between her and her


aunt, that nobody should force or over-persuade her. His
heart had swelled with tenderness; he had desired her above
everything. But what was essential was her happiness. In
the night he had thought he could give it to her. This morn-
ing he looked upon her face and his heart sank.

" Do you feel better this morning ? " was the way he began.
Yesterday she had sobbed in his arms — in his arms ! But she
never knew they were around her. He knew even then how
impersonal it had been, that to her he was not a man at all,
only a shelter from this evil thing that had come to her, from
the sight of Desmond's child.

" You know that Desmond is downstairs ? "

" I know."

" He is very urgent about seeing you — insistent. He says
he comes from your aunt."

Her lips trembled. Desmond was downstairs; the cords
were pulling, pulling all the time. Perhaps he could explain.
She felt her owti weakness, and knew that no explanation was
possible. The flush rushed to her face; and the flush heated
Michael's slow blood,

" I — I can't see him," she faltered.

Michael went a step nearer to her.

" You need not, I will take care of you, since you have
given me the right "

Given him the right ! Michael, Michael McKay ! He saw
her eyes dilate. But for the moment he was less master of
himself than usual,

" I have thought it over. I know now there is no other
way, you were quite right, he will never leave you alone ; they

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 26 27

Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 24 of 27)