Julia Frankau.

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"By the mercy of God, ])y His great goodness, a mistake has
been made."

" A mistake ! " repeated Jack again, stupidly.

" The child has had the antidote. She was taken into Lady
Grindelay's room this morning, as you know. She was given
her lemonade to drink. There was a morphia cachet dissolved
in. the cup."

" Good God ! "

" One of Lady Grindelay's morphia cachets."

" Good God! " Jack said again, and stared at him. After
a moment's pause he added :

" Then I was right all through." Andrew never knew
how he arrived at that conclusion.

" A quarter of a grain ! I shouldn't have given her quite
so much as that myself, though."

Back to Agatha's room again, and as swiftly as possible,
went Andrew,

" Her vitality is extraordinary," the old doctor whispered
as he met him. " She spoke of the orchid, said a spray was
to be laid on her coffin. * Mind Andrew has a cutting,' she
said twice. She took me for Sanders, I suppose. She spoke
of a magistrate ! Do you think she could want to see Camp-
den ? They are old friends, I know. If so, he should be sent
for without delay ; the end is very near."

" No, she doesn't want to see Campden."

He Avent in, stood again beside the bed Agatha's e^^es
were still alive under the drooping lids.

" Is it Desmond ? "

"It is Andrew."

" What will they do to me ? "

" Nothing."

"Has Desmond married Eunice? I can't remember — I
can't remember anything. Does he think I did it on purpose ?
I wanted him to be happy, to help him ! " She was very rest-
Jess, talking quickly and sometimes incoherently; he had to
stoop to hear her.

" There is nothing between them now. What does it
matter about me? Let Eunice stay with you a little while —


with you and your girls. Then they can get married, and
come back here. She would never have taken him with the
child between them. I am glad I lived long enough to make

everything right " Her voice trailed off. "Is there

blood upon my hands ? Is this the end ? " In her dying eyes
were tears, the saddest, most dreadful sight. " My son, my
little son, my strong, brave son, it was for you. . . ."

" You didn't kill the child, Agatha. Grace has been given

you — ^grace " He wanted to tell her about the goodness

of God, but a sob choked him. "You did not kill her,
Agatha. You saved her life."

t( T »

" The great and wonderful goodness of God saved her
and you. You've no blood upon your hands. These dear
hands have no stain upon them; try to listen, to understand.
He would not let you do this wicked thing. He knew you
were not yourself, dear — not yourself. You, who have been
so good always, and charitable. He would not let you do
this thing."

She said something indistinguishable, and he went on :
"You gave her lemonade, and the morphia was in it. I
know, dear, I know. What you gave her was the antidote —
the antidote to what Biddy had administered in error. The
antidote. You understand, don't you? You saved her life —
under God : in His mercy. You saved her life."

Agatha opened her eyes; and it was upon Andrew they
rested, for the last time.

" Did I ? Another blunder ... the last. . . ."
She spoke her own epitaph. The end had come, although
the breathing went on for a long time. Jack Eeid gave a
name to it, and aired his knowledge. He said it was " Cheyne
Stokes breathing." But it did not matter what he said.
Neither of the old men would let him disturb her. She had
made her last mistake.

When Desmond came back with the medicine he went up
to the nursery in his old way, two steps at a time. He stopped
short when he saw Eunice there with his child in her arms.


The baby was held close in her arms, and she was crying;
they were tears of thanksgiving; a minute ago the baby had
opened her blue eyes, and smiled. Eunice was kissing the
little soft face when Desmond stopped short at the door.

" You're crying ! "

" She is better," she faltered.

He came over to her.

" But, Eunice, Eunice, you can't care "

" I do — I do ! I love her ! " She held the infant closer.

" Then " He fell on his knees beside her. " And the

father of her? " he asked softly.

" You won't send her away ? "

" I'll not take anything from you that you want."

He was kneeling, but the chair on which she sat was a
low one, and he could wipe away her tears with his hand-

"I may, mayn't I?" That, too, he had done before,
when they were children, when she had fallen and hurt her-
self, and at all times of her young, light griefs or disappoint-

" You've forgiven me even this ? "

"I want to be her mother, she shall never know any

And she kept her word in the happy days that came, long
after Agatha had been buried, a spray of the wonderful blue
orchid on her coffin, and, more wonderful still, her memory
for ever emblazoned and irradiated because, as Andrew
McKay told them, at the end, out of the greatness of her love
and generosity, and to crown her beautiful and unselfish life,
she had given the draught that was to .have eased her last
pangs, her death pangs, to quench the baby's thirst, saving it

That was the way Andrew told the story, the way he came
to believe it.

7 000 05^^^^ °

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