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Also that he could hardly afford to defend himself.

Agatha Wanstead was not aggressively religious, but she
went regularly to her parish church, and hated Eoman Cath-


olicism traditionally and instinctively. Loyalty to the Crown
was part of the family history of the Wansteads, and since
the Eestoration they had never swerved from their Protes-
tantism. This excuses, if it does not explain, Agatha's interest
in the man who was ready to face imprisonment or impeach-
ment in defence of either.

It does not explain all her blunder, although perhaps the
beginning of it.

For the rest, there was the reasonless reaction from
Andrew, who had predicted her betrayal and now showed his
readiness to take advantage of it.

"I told you so. Foolish creature, dear foolish creature,
I have told you so often you needed someone to take care of
you. For the future I will do it. You have no excuse now
for not placing yourself in my hands. I don't care for you
as I did when you were a girl, but I will look after you. . . ."

These were the things Agatha heard Andrew say, resent-
ing them in the watches of the night, always.

Lord Grindelay was then fifty, his hair still curly and his
eyes blue. There was no doubt he was a favourite at Court,
and that his misdemeanour made no difference as to his recep-
tion at Marlborough House. Dinah Dacre exploited liis popu-
larity for all and more than it was worth. He went every-
where, and, of course, to the Metherbys. It was in the
brougham, after a dinner-party there, that the great idea
struck Dinah. She hit Mm on the back and said :

" That woman with the short hair, now, Agatha, they
called her, she that talked about loyalty; she's as rich as
Croesus, they tell me. Why don't you go in for her ? " She
doubled herself up with laughter at the idea. " She thinks
you are a hero, that you marched those poor devils to Loekhara
for the Queen and country. She told me any one of her ovm
people would have done the same."

" You think she took a fancy to me ? Did she like me
singing ? "

Pat could sing Irish ballads, besides other songs, but he
sang only Irish ballads at the Metherby dinner-party.

" Of course she did, for all that she's an old maid ; a nice


creature, too. They'll be making you bankrupt, you know,
and wliat will become of you then ? "

" And is it love-making I'm to be at with an old maid ? "

Lord Grindelay was apt with his Irish phraseology, and
he said one or two things about old maids, in the brogue, that
made Dinah laugh. He had buried his first wife long enough
to have forgotten how unfit he was for matrimonial ties.

Dinah Dacre's sense of humour started the scheme, Pat's
vanity made it feasible, the utter incongruity of such a match
presently made them all keen for the fun of it. His family
and his Irish friends applauded and urged him on. Most of
them knew the inconvenience of perpetual bankruptcy. Even
Royalty was understood to express an amused approval.

Pat rushed at his love-making, carrying Agatha off her
feet. At first his wooing was half in fun, just to show what
he could do and to amuse Dinah. He was told that the rent
roll of Marley was large enough to flood the depleted
exchequer of Languedoc.

" It's a great wife she'll make me," lie said, with his
tongue in his cheek. " She'll believe every word I say." And
he told of stories she had swallowed whole.

It was true that Agatha believed everything he said. With
all her disappointment, she was ever conscious of her posi-
tion, and could not conceive that anyone should make fun of
her. She was a new and strange specimen of humanity to the
wild Irish peer, who had not known women with a rare sense
of duty and none of humour.

For the moment Agatha's reasoning powers were at their
lowest ebb. Pain had always that effect on her reasoning
powers, as the strange sequel to her story proved. Now she
was all unused to it. She wanted to get away from herself
and all her associations, to reconstruct her life. There could
not be a greater change than this gay Irishman, who had
made every sacrifice for his country and bore his position,
lightly. His lightness and gaiety were so strange to her ; they
were not among the characteristics of her Buckinghamshire
neighbours. Yet her engagement came upon her as a sur-
prise; he kissed her without asking her leave, and said she


was " the girl for him " before she had time to assert her

" Begod ! she didn't know whether she was standing on
her head or her heels," Pat told his sister. " A few kisses
carried her away. She came fresh to it, too, an' you'd think
she was seventeen from her blushing. I'll be tied up before
I know where I am; an' what'll I do with her, God knows,
for she thinks I'm a saint an' a hero, an' I'll have to be on me
best behaviour all the time."

The Metherbys were hypnotised by Pat's honhomie.
Young Lady Dorset had a great weakness for her uncle, and
told Agatha what a fine shot he was, and what a great rider,
and how kind he had been to her and her brother when they
were children. Agatha's generosity, no less than her impul-
siveness, helped to her undoing. The inquest on the Lockhara
victims was adjourned and adjourned again. Lord Grindelay's
trial was yet to come.

" I'll not have you make any promise until they've found
whether I'm a murderer or not. Maybe I was responsible for
those poor fellows' deaths, and not the murdering Land
Leaguers at all."

Agatha was not the woman to wait until he was in safety.

On July 27, 1878, without settlements or public announce-
ment, at St. George's, Hanover Square, in the presence of the
Metherbys and a whole crowd of Irish relatives of the bride-
groom, the amazing marriage took place. Andrew knew
nothing about it until it was all over, and he saw it chronicled
in the Morning Post.

" On the 27th inst., at St. George's, Hanover Square, by
the Eight Eev. Bishop of Bath and Wells, assisted by the
Eev. Septimus Black, Patrick Canning Warner Foulds, Lord
Grindelay, of Languedoc Castle, co. Fermanagh, Ireland, to
Agatha, elder daughter of the late Archibald Wanstead, of
Marley Court, Bucks."

He could not believe it at first, although it stared at him
in solid print. Agatha married — Agatha! And not to him!
He knew at once what a bad mistake she had made, and how


chajacteristic. He blamed himself then and often for his
patience with her. He went about for many days with a
heavy heart. She was so sure of her strength, yet no woman
of his acquaintance was more in need of a man to guide her;
and that he should have been the man he had no doubt.
When, for Agatha's sake, he began to collate facts about Lord
Grindelay and to leam his reputation, his heart grew heavier
still. He knew she had blundered again, badly, irretrievably.

At her own liome in Marley, and in Buckinghamshire
generally, when they read the announcement, they thought
she had done very well for herself, very well indeed.

" She must be forty if she's a day, and no beauty at any
time. And she has married a peer ! " In Buckinghamshire
in 1878 they still thought something of a peer, and the fact
that Agatha would go in to dinner before Lady Campden.

As for Agatha herself, during those few days before her
hurried wedding, and even on her wedding day, she thought
of nothing but that she need not go back yet to the grey,
silent house, to find herself without the footfall beside her
own, or the girlish laughter in her ears, to be haunted by thin
arms about her and light kisses on her cheek. She need not
return so soon to the sympathy of the neighbours and the
talk of the villagers. She was starting on a new life with a
man who adored her; a good man, too, who had served his
country and stood even now in peril for the cause. She could
help him in his campaign, share his danger, find a whole new
set of interests. She even thought vaguely that she might
give up Marley and make Ireland her home. She would do
anything to save herself remembering how Monica had
deceived and run away from her and Andrew McKay been
justified in his prognostications.


The Ireland in which Agatha pictured herself making a new
home was the Ireland of the new Celtic movement, of Clarence
Mangan, and Aubrey de Vere, of William Allingham, and
Sir Samuel Ferguson. The Ireland in which she found
herself was that of Lever's novels. Languedoc was " Castle
Eackrent," but without any quality of romance. She might
have got over that if her husband, if this good man to whom
she had tied herself, this impetuous lover to whose adoration
she had succumbed, had remained on the good behaviour he
had promised his sister, until at least she had acclimatised

As it was, within a week, the dirt and the debt and the
disorder seemed no less part of him than of his castle. To
say he shocked her delicacy every hour she passed with him
in the familiarity of married life is to gloze over the truth.
She knew, as soon as she knew anything at all, into what a
morass she had stepped. " Morass " was the only description
she could apply to Lord Grindelay's mind. She conceived an
absolute horror of liim before, according to his own way of
thinking, he had done anything to deserve it. The stories
he told her — and telling coarse stories was his idea of honey-
moon entertainment — filled her with disgust. He jested with
his servants, and she thought that he drank with them. Cer-
tainly he was on terms of boon companionship with the boorish
neighbours who called upon her, who drove over in side-cars
with their incredible womenkind.

The castle was three parts in ruin, and the very decencies
of life were lacking in its fumishment. She made an honest
effort to put things on a better footing. She did not give in
all at once, nor for many a weary disgusted day. But when
she would have introduced reforms she was met by an opposi-
tion of idleness and inertia, humour and stupidity that proved
completely baffling.


" An' where'll the hot water be comin' from ? " Biddy
asked her with apparent curiosity. Lord Grindelay had told
her it would be a mistake to bring an English maid with her,
and that Biddy or any of the servants would be glad to wait
upon her. Biddy's own position in the house was never
explained. There seemed to be dozens of servants, no one of
them with defined duties. A greater change from her own
ordered English household it was impossible to conceive.

" Is it a bath yer wantin' ? Sorra fut, but it's in England
ye ought to have stayed. I'll get ye a can of water, maybe,
but not at the early hour ye name. What! an' will ye be
after wasliin' yesilf all over, an' you wid never a spot on ye
that anyone can see ? "

"Is it yer dress I'm to fasten behint, an' me wid me
hands shakin' from carryin' up that great can ? "

Larry, who was Pat's body serv^ant, and Biddy, who was
possibly the housekeeper, had a way of wondering open-
mouthed at her requirements — admiring and wondering.

" It's the gas ye have at home, an' the gutterin' candles'll
be lavin' yez in the dark. I'm tellin' ye we're lucky to git
them candles, forbye they're the same Father Ralph uses."

" Clanin' the room ivry day are ye manin', an' wid visitors
comin' an' all ? "

" It's the cookin' ye're not satisfied wid, an' didn't Norah
kill the best fowls in the run with her own hands, barrin'
one that was a cock, an' that not an hour since ? ' Anythin'
to plaze ye,' she said. Tough was it they were ? Maybe ye're
right, but she's a grand cook for all that, an' her own mother's
cousin an O'Donoghue."

Soon she found herself confronted by an ever-growing,
although subtle and unexpressed, opposition. Her manner
towards Lord Grindelay, her obvious distaste of his coarse
joviality, aroused their antagonism. Agatha could not dis-
guise her feelings, there was not an hour of the day or a
circumstance of her present life in which they were not out-

" It's a squeamish old maid ye are," her husband said to
her within a week of their marriage. He still treated her


with good-humour, and laughed at her flushed remonstrances.
But the time came when she irritated him. He was not used
to criticism, and if she resented his jesting with the servants
or drinking more whisky than was good for him, he would
retort : " Sure a man's master in his own house ? As for
Biddy, Biddy was there before you were, wasn't she? And
what if I did chuck a colleen under the chin or pass her a kiss ?
Do you think you're the soft companion for a man, that he'd
be looking the other way when a pretty wench came in

Things grew worse between them very quickly. Agatha
was horrified to hear that there had never been any real fear
of Lord Grindelay's trial for manslaughter, and that he had
only used it as a lever to hurry on the marriage. He thought
nothing of the deception he had practised upon her, nothing
of telling lies, or drinking too much whisky, or philandering
with the maids. He subjected her to every possible indignity.
So she said when the inevitable end came. He never saw
that she had anything against him but her own. want of
adaptability. " Didn't he live the life of eyerj Irish gentle-
man of his own age and standing ? " he asked. If he did,
Agatha thought it was a dreadful thing for Ireland, and
accounted for the lack of prosperity. She felt the humiliation
of the conditions under which she was placed, was too intel-
ligent, when once her reasoning powers returned, not to
realise them, and too intolerant to submit. Her high recti-
tude and aloofness helped to her ever-growing unpopularity.
She imported English servants, and neither they nor she could
obtain service in Languedoc, More than once she threatened
to leave. But for a few months her strong sense of duty
kept her from carrying out her threat.

When, however, she found she was about to become a
mother she knew she could not face what was before her in
such surroundings. To separate herself for a time at least
from Lord Grindelay became imperative. He let her go
without any opposition. None of her ways or talk suited
him, and he told his friends that he was glad 'Ho see the
back of her." The marriage was a complete failure. He com-


plained that Dinah had landed him with a wife who would
not even sign cheques without exacting absurd promises.
Promises, however, that were broken as easily as made.
Before the end came she would not sign cheques for him at
all. He called her mean, although never had there been a
woman more generous. But she was essentially just. The
tradesmen for whom she had written cheques, poor men who
ought not to have been left without their due, came again
lamenting that nothing had been given to them. She never
arrived at the smallest comprehension of Lord Grin delay's
ways or his carelessness in money matters. To her he was
simply a dishonest person.

At Marley, back again into the atmosphere of respect,
esteem, ordered ways and appreciation, back to her position
as Lady Paramount and Lady Bountiful, she found no haunt-
ing ghost of Monica in wait for her, but only her renewed
sense of personal dignity and high position. Very quickly
she recovered her equipoise. The future must be faced, of
course. She knew already that she could never return to
Ireland or to Lord Grindelay, although it was not necessary
all the world should be informed of it.

Lady Grindelay kept her own counsel perhaps too well,
and it was Dr. Eeid who, later on, took the responsibility of
telegraphing for her husband. She was not young ; he antici-
pated trouble, and thought her husband should be there.
Dr. Eeid practised in Great Marley, where it was the custom
for husbands to be within call on such occasions, particularly
with a first baby. This was to be more than a baby ; it was to
be an heir.

Lord Grindelay came at the call. The end of the hunt-
ing season left him with time on his hands, and his irritation
against his wife subsided. He was the easiest of men to live
with if one did not question his ways. He said so himself,
therefore it must have been true.

In his cups, the night liis son was bom, he hiccoughed it
all out to Dr. Eeid. He said " she was so damned particular,
nagging me, wanting me to put things in order that never
would be in order, never had been."


" She took against me, doctor ; no reason or rhyme in it.
Wasn't I attentive to my duty to her? " One can leave a little
hiatus there in his talk. " Wouldn't I have kept her amused
if there had been any spirit in her? I'm good company,
doctor; there's not a soul but has always said so — you ask
my sister Dinah. I'm good company, but not a thing could
I say or do to please her. Me singing, now, wasn't it good
enough for Marlborough House and the Prince? Stiff as
buckram she is, more English than you'll find in London."

He trolled out a stave about a noble lord who had taken
advantage of a serving wench:

' He sold her to his servant
An' he gave them twenty pound. . . .'

" The fuss she made about that song, and the moral of
it — ^the moral of it ! When it comes to talkin' of the moral
of a good song ! "

He had his grievances, but he was quite good-humoured
over them, prepared to forgive her. He thought she would
come to a better knowledge of his world in time. " It's a
difficult thing, perhaps, for an old maid," he said in exculpa-
tion of her.

Dr. Eeid already realised he had perhaps made a mistake
in sending for Agatha's husband. "When he came to tell him
that he was the father of a son and heir, he found him asleep
on the sofa, the whisky bottle empty.

Agatha's weary time of convalescence was diversified by
stories of her husband's conduct. Any chance of reconcilia-
tion between them was lost by his behaviour. The neighbour-
hood, hearing Lord Grindelay was at Marley Court, and in
accordance with precedent at such a time, called upon him and
invited him to dinner. He got drunk in their houses, told
his coarse stories, sang his coarse songs, was soon ostracised.
He might have been accepted among sporting men or in a
sporting neighbourhood, although he was so completely out
of date. But among Agatha's friends he had no place at all.
He was horribly bored, too, and took his revenge by shocking
them, exaggerating his brogue and his stories. When he
visited Agatha in her bedroom he upset the nurse and sent


up the temperature of her patient by recapitulating these
exploits. It was difficult to keep him out of the sick-room,
because, strangely enough, and to add to his many incon-
sistencies, he displayed great interest in his son. It was a
red-faced baby with black hair, who screamed a great deal.
'Agatha was unable to nurse it, and it is possible it did not
like the artificial food provided. On the rare occasions when
it opened its eyes, they were seen, to be blue, like Lord Grinde-
lay's own.

"It's the livin' image of me," he said, almost awed.
Agatha thought he spoke the truth. The child made no appeal
to her. If it were possible for so dutiful a woman to be want-
ing in right feeling, one would have to admit that she dis-
liked the child. She said once that '' he screamed in Irish."
But Lord Grindelay would dandle him on his knee, talking
baby talk as to the manner born.

"We'll teach you to laugh, won't we, old man? Is it
dribblin' you are, bad cess to you, though why you shouldn't
dribble if you want to I'm sure I don't know. He's wonder-
fully strong, isn't he, nurse? Listen to the voice of him!
There's lungs for you. He'll sing like his father, won't ye
now, and have all the maids running after you ? "

He could not help being reminiscent. Agatha dreaded
him in her room, dreaded to hear him talk to the baby or the
nurse, was always afraid of what he would say next, and
doubting his complete sobriety.

Lord Grindelay had a way of rocking the baby in his
arms, tossing and talking to him, that drove her almost dis-

Once it was sick over his coat, bringing up that half-
digested artificial milk. Even that failed to upset Lord
Grindelay's good temper.

"Here, take him away and empty him, nurse. Bedad,
but he's his father over again. I'll not think any the worse
of him for that ; he's had a drop more than he can keep down."

Agatha thought the incident quite disgusting; she was
intolerant of both father and son.

The baby's christening kept Lord Grindelay at Marley.


Although it was against her wishes, in the end it was Lord
Grindelay who chose the name. He had his rights, and so far
as his son was concerned it appeared he meant to exercise

" He'll be Desmond O'Rourke Warner, like his grand-

" He should have my father's name."

"An' what might that be?"

" Archibald ! "

"Archibald, now! To think of it! Is it Archibald he
looks like, or Reginald? Is it an Englishman he is at all?
Look at his eyes now, blue as me own, and the black hair of
him. My mother was an O'Rourke, an' I'll give him her
name and Desmond. There were Desmonds at Languedoc
before the flood. It's only meself they called Patrick because
my elder brother was alive when I was bom, and we couldn't
all be Desmonds."

She gave way to liim. The baby was christened before
it was a month old, for Agatha thought Lord Grindelay
would go back to Languedoc or up to London when he had
seen his wishes carried out. But he lingered on, disorganising
her household, disturbing her peace. The baby allured him ;
there was never a day when he failed to ask of his progress,
taking him from the cradle or the nurse's lap; he was very
handy with him, more so than Agatha herself.

" We'll make a boxing man of liim ; see him doubling up
his little fists?"

Agatha's convalescence was a long one, and, of course,
Pat could not sit in her room all day, or with the baby.
He was horribly bored at Marley, although pleased with the
new sensation of fatherhood. He was really not half such
a scoundrel as he appeared in Agatha's eyes. With a woman
like his own sister Dinah, for instance, who would have
laughed with him and drank with him, coaxed and rated him,
understood and managed him, he might have been made into
a tolerable semblance of a husband at tliis juncture. For he
had always been fond of children, as they of him, and to have
one of his own, this one, who held on to his thumb and began


to gurgle and "wriggle and smile crookedly when he tickled or
tossed him, almost made a new man of him. Almost, not quite.

He was over fifty and had been for years a toper. He
could not sit all day long in his wife's bedroom playing with
the baby; he had to find some entertainment for himself.
There was a billiard table at the Court, but he preferred the
one at the " King's Arms " in Great Marley, where his pic-
turesque language drew a whole admiring company about
Mm. He was extraordinarily popular at the " King's Arms,"
and with the London people who lived in the new villas at
Great Marley; which, coming to the ears of his wife, made
matters no better with her. To be popular with billiard-room
loungers, tap-room loafers, and even the wives of stockbrokers,
proud to entertain a peer, who was also the husband of one
of the great local magnates, debased him further in Agatha's
estimation. When she heard that he could tell a good story,
she knew by experience that it was a bad one they meant. He
said openly that her friends were " damned dull and too
strait-laced for him ! " He did unheard-of things, things
unheard of, at least at Marley, inviting people to the Court
to dine or drink with him who should have stood, hat in hand,
in hall or library.

She and her pride suffered from him. It is certain that
he was little more pleased with her. " To hell with changing
my habits ! " was the least of his refusals to see her point of
view. They had no common ground on which to meet.

Although he had a certain insolence of rank, he had no
sense of its duties or responsibilities. "Whatever he does,
he is always a gentleman," said the admiring stockbrokers'
wives to whom he made careless love in his cups. But to
Agatha it seemed he was always a blackguard, and that her
duty to herself, her neighbours, the estate and her son de-
manded that she should rid herself of him.

When she was well again, and went about the house and
village, she found some of the conditions that prevailed at
Languedoc were being reproduced in Marley. Certainly,
Lord Grindelay was no example for a model village. Her
troublesome conscience was brought to bear on the situation.

Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 3 of 27)