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If she had made a mistake, others must not suffer. Lord
Grindelay was a spendthrift in addition to all his other dis-
abilities, and Marley, if not herself, must be protected. For-
tunately, she had not put it out of her power to do this. She
overcame her reluctance in the end and sent for Andrew.

Perhaps that was one of the worst moments in her life.
His strong sense and warnings, his contempt and love for
her, all he knew and all she had not forgotten, made a meet-
ing between them under these new conditions fraught with
humiliation. But it would be more impossible to talk to a
stranger. Perhaps, too, she felt she had wronged Andrew, or
that he was part of the Marley life to which she had returned.

When Andrew came at her summons he found the way
to make things easy for her. He had gone through his own
bad time and that may have taught him to assuage hers. The
past might never have been; the tender or proprietorial air
no longer existed. He presented himself now only as an old
friend, a middle-aged law}^er here on business. He knew
better than to sympathise with Agatha. In no time at all,
and without a word to establish it, a new understanding was
between them, and she could speak to him more plainly and
undisguisedly than to anyone else.

What Andrew McKay thought of the position can be imag-
ined, and his quick decision as to how it was to be met. Yet
it was doubtful if he could have succeeded in extricating her
but for the elderly scapegrace himself. It appeared that Lord
Grindelay was quite willing to meet their views — would agree
to a separation on terms. By this time Agatha was ready to
give him almost any terms he asked, for the scandal was ever-
growing, destroying her influence, making her a byword. She
was so impatient that Andrew had much trouble to get a
proper agreement drawn up. She would have sacrificed half
her fortane to rid herself altogether of the merry Irishman
with the roving eye. But divorce was out of the question, for
he had neither deserted nor been legally cruel to her.

Lord Grindelay refused to give up his paternal rights.
Andrew McKay had to meet his lawyers, to make conces-
sions. And when he would make no further concessions,


counsel was consulted, and finally the matter went before a
judge in chambers. There the Solomon-like judgment wa^ pro-
nounced that the custody of the child should be vested equally
in mother and father. The boy was nearly a year old before
this decision was arrived at, and already the dual ownership
had offended and estranged the baby's mother. Lord Grinde-
lay came backward and forward to Marley whilst the lawyers
were at work. Perhaps this accounted for her accepting the

Her acquiescence may also have owed something to the
bad news from India that came to hand about the same time.

When once she recovered from the first shock of her anger,
Agatha had found herself unable completely to repudiate the
claims of her runaway step-sister. Marley was not entailed,
but for generation after generation it had descended in the
direct line. After her baby was bom Agatha was the more
sorry for Monica, because she had lost her inheritance. In
fact, she had every excuse but the true one ; the true one being
that her little sister had stood so near her heart that she
could trample upon it, and the footprints were ineradicably

And Monica, as if unconscious of her disloyalty or
duplicity, had never ceased to write. Whether Agatha an-
swered or not, she wrote.

" I wish I had never left Marley," was the beginning of
one of these early letters. And after the first time she wrote
it often and passionately. The marriage, of course, proved a
failure. Two selfish young people, inconsiderate as these had
proved themselves, living in a tropical climate, with limited
means, soon found matrimony anything but an ideal state.

Agatha, after she had made her own inconceivable mar-
riage, softened wonderfully toward the girl. She began to
send her money, clothes, and sympathy. Did she not herself
know how unhappy an unhappy marriage could be? Monica
had been little more than a child when she made her mis-
take; she herself was nearly forty! She read of broken
health, isolation in the dreadful up-station where Basil's regi-
ment was quartered, the terrible home-sickness that was the


note of all the letters. The last one led to her precipitate
action :

" Darling Sister, — I wish I could feel you forgave
me. Always when I have my worst bouts of malaria, in
the shivering stages, I feel that nothing but your arms
could ever warm me. Do you recollect how often I used
to come into your bed? I know I shall never see you
again, and you can't tell how I long for you. Do the
trees still rustle in Marley Chase, and does the cool
river run? I want the beeches and elms, and to hear
the birds sing after rain. All the vegetation here seems
hot and reeking of the natives. How I hate all their
black faces and the smell of everything. I have had
three disappointments. I don't think I've ever been well
for a day since I've been here. If this baby that is coming
could have been bom at Marley!

I had to put down my pen when I thought of it;
the wide, welcoming hall, and you; the sunken garden
where the violets grow. I want to lean against the old
sundial, to see the leaden figure of Pan piping — I want
the scent of the roses where we used to sit in the pergola
and look upon the woods, where you told me stories of
the dear dead Wansteads and their worth. I used to be
bored with it then, and your seriousness about the family,
but I wouldn't be bored now with anything you said.
If only I could hear your voice! Every day and hour,
and desperately in the nights, I want you ; your strength
and courage. You don't love me any more, do you?
But I want you to be sorry for me, to forgive me. I
don't believe I'm going to live through it, I am dying
of home-sickness. Be a little sorry for me. — ^Your loving,
loving Monica."

This letter came when Agatha's own baby was but a year
or so old. She had not yet forgotten what she had gone
through, even at Marley, in her large cool bedroom, from
whose windows she could see those green and distant woods.


She had not yet forgotten what she had borne, with all the
alleviations that money and modern science could give her.

She cabled that Monica was to come home at once; no
expense was to be spared. She began to make preparations
without delay. Already she saw herself caring for her; she
would make the girl feel this was indeed home to which she
had come. There must be no scene of reconciliation, but
Monica should understand how welcome she was.

Her own baby had in no way replaced her sister's image.
At present he was no more to her than a tempestuous child
craving violent movement, of a sex toward which her inherent
antipathy had deepened — the heir to Marley. Not at all like
Monica, who had wheedled an irresistible way into her heart.
He was something strange and alien, from which, if the whole
truth were known, she shrank a little. With Monica it had
always been so different. She gave orders which room was
to be prepared, and even talked matters over with Dr. Eeid.

The answering cable upset all her plans, distressed and
disappointed her.

" Doctor forbids travel. Very grateful and lonely.'*

"And lonely!"

It was those two words that did it. She was never at ease
after that. She felt impelled to go, and this although her
own freedom was not complete and the lawyers were still at
work. Lord Grindelay carried his son off triumphantly to
Languedoc when Agatha, hurrying through her preparations,
went out to India. Biddy proved a better nurse to little
Desmond than she had been a maid to his mother, but of this
more presently.

Agatha went out to India, and up to that lonely station.

Monica's trembling impassioned greeting, tears and peni-
tence, the way she clung to her as if she could never let her
go again, broke down utterly in her arms, and said how in-
credible and impossible it was that she was here, and that she
had never thought to see her again, and was dying for the
need of her, made her captive again to the girl.

In India Agatha spent many weary months, fighting
climate and a weakened constitution. In the end she was


worsted by Death. But her own courage came back to her
during those months whilst she fought for her sister's life.
And when slie returned to Marley she had her last gift in her
arms to anchor it.

" Take my baby back to Marley with you, be to her what
you were to me, only that, sister. I know now, if I never knew
before, that I deserve everything that has happened. I give
you my baby for your own — for your very own. Love her for
me as well as for yourself. Take care of her like you did
me — promise, promise."

Dying lips cannot be denied. The promise was given, and
kept rarely. If it was kept mistakenly, that is because it was
ingrain in Agatha Wanstead to do the wrong thing.


Agatha came back to Marley, bringing her sister's legacy
with her. Basil Fellowes made no objection. Unlike Lord
Grindelay, he had no feeling for children, nor had he much
for anything else except "pegs" and polo. He was glad to
be free, and never disputed Monica's right to give away that
which belonged to them in common. Agatha brought the baby
back to Marley, the small pale baby with an Indian ayah. It
needed so much care and nursing, and was so fragile a blossom
that more than once it seemed impossible it could survive the
voyage. The more need it had of Agatha, the stronger became
its claims ; it was as if Monica herself had been restored to her.

When she rea<?hed home, to find her own young son not
there, she almost forgot to miss him, to recall him.

Lord Grindelay did not carry out very honestly the con-
tract into which he had entered. Neither he nor Biddy wanted
to part with the boy, and when, at Andrew's instigation.
Agatha insisted upon her rights, the pleasure proved very
questionable. Biddy brought, him over, and was almost as
distracting to the household as Lord Grindelay himself.
She quarrelled with Eunice's nurse, arguing the superiority
of her own charge. Desmond had grown into a fine sturdy
child, not much better-mannered than his nurse. He refused
his mother's lap, walked about by himself, defied nursery
authority, said his few words in the broadest of brogues.
Biddy was so shrewd and volubly reticent that, to use the
language of the servants' quarters, " no one could come out
with her." When she went back, taking the little boy with
her, it was a relief to everyone. By this time Agatha had
settled down again. This little girl was so like the other little
girl her father's death had left to her, that sometimes it seemed
as if the pendulum had swung back and her youth had been
restored to her.

But when Desmond was in his seventh year Andrew spoke
seriously to her of her duty towards her son.
4 49


" He is having no education, running wild with the ser-
vants, and without any control. The other day, in Dublin,
Lord Grindelay was heard to boast that, although his son
was only seven, he could smoke a pipe without being sick,
and * drink his glass like a man ! ' You have your duty to
him ; you can't let things go ! "

When Agatha knew her duty she did it, however reluc-
tantly. Again she asserted her claim, and again Lord Grinde-
lay complied unwillingly, taking his own measures to circum-
vent her.

" She'll get tired of you ; she likes her own. way, and
mind you don't give it to her. Languedoc's your home, and
don't you forget it! You're an Irishman, it's the fools of
lawyers that send you to Marley. Make her sorry when she
gets you there ! "

The little boy he addressed was devoted to his father,
like all of them at Languedoc. Lord Grindelay roared at
his son's worst misdemeanours, and encouraged him in his
naughtiest exploits. He had his own way in everything, pos-
sessed a pony, and even a gun. He was told that in England
he would have none of these things, but would be expected to
mind his " p's " and " q's," be on his best behaviour. Every-
thing English was represented to him as implying restraint.
He had his hints from Biddy and Larry as well as his instruc-
tions from his father, and these were all to the effect that he
" wasn't to make them anxious to keep him."

This time Lady Grindelay had insisted the little boy was
to come alone, without Biddy or her influence. She agreed
with Andrew when he pointed out to her that she had to
combat his father's influence and exert her own. Andrew
spoke seriously. His own young Michael was a scholar of
Winchester. Agatha's son must not be allowed to run wild
any longer.

The boy came, and proved as amenable as a fox in a farm-
yard. He got into the stables, rode the horses without saddle
or bridle or permission, ran riot in the garden and green-
houses, could not be brought to punctuality at meals, could
not be coaxed or persuaded to cleanliness, while he generally


defied authority. This rough little fellow, with curly black
hair and blue eyes, of whom one heard nothing but com-
plaints, who used bad language, ran away at her approach,
was nothing but a stranger in his mother's house. He was
Lord Grindelay's son. If at this time Agatha had any love for
him at all, the form it took was an unrest which she was
for ever trying to subdue. Her conscience troubled her; she
could never bring herself to punish, hardly even to admonish
him; she felt there was something she had to make up to
him ; that it was not his fault he was as he was. She let him
go with a groom to the local hunt, sent him up to London
one day to see a circus, was half ashamed of herself for want-
ing to conciliate or win him, but made attempt after attempt.

Children have an instinctive sense of justice. This was
not the mother little Desmond had been led to expect. There
were things about her he could not help liking, although he
tried to be loyal to his father. Already in his young groping
way he was trying to reach to some knowledge of her. The
position between them was strange ; he was only a shy young
animal, bolting at her approach, coming back to see what
had alarmed him, sniffing the air about her. And Agatha
was almost as uneasy as he.

All his wild childhood was difficult and distracted by his
ignorance and lack of understanding, of what lay between
his parents. The law was to blame; the position was alto-
gether untenable. After six months as Marley, Lord Grrinde-
lay demanded the boy back. But he had been at Languedoc
five and a half years out of his seven, and Agatha would not
let him go. In the rain of lawyer's letters the boy suddenly
disappeared. In other words. Lord Grindelay, or his myrmi-
dons, abducted him ; he was battledoor and shuttlecock between
his parents. Two long years passed before he was restored
again to Marley.

All this time Eunice was outgrowing her delicacy, and
developing beauty and charm. She was truly an exquisite
little creature, with the sweetest nature; it had been impos-
sible to spoil her. If she had not entirely taken Monica's
place with Agatha, no one but Agatha guessed it.


Eunice was seven and Desmond was nine when the boy
was again at Marley. Agatha spoke of him to Andrew, again
a constant visitor and now her most intimate friend.

" I feel less able than before to influence him. The long
interval since he was here has been used only to poison his
mind against me. I don't know what is to be done."

The little girl was on Andrew's knee. He pulled her curls
and asked her:

" What do you say, little maiden, is to be done with this
young ' Struwwelpeter ' ? Shall we dip him in the ink ? "

" We mustn't be cwuel ! " the little one answered gravely,

" Well, what are we to do with him if he won't do as he
is told — if he will be a naughty boy ? "

" We must love him and cuddle him, and then he'll be
good," she said confidently, having known nothing but cud-
dling and the smallest of nursery peccadilloes.

" You hear that, Agatha ? What do you think of the pre-
scription ? "

" She will have to do it herself, then," answered Agatha
quickly, with a strangely rising flush. Andrew put the child

" Run and fetch him, I want to see him. We shall have
to go to the court again, I expect," he said to Agatha. " You
say he can barely read and write, and he's nearly nine years
old ! We shall have to get an order to send him to school."

" There isn't a decent school that would take him," Agatha
answered, ""nor keep him if they did take him. He is as
ignorant as a peasant."

And yet with her bitterness was something that made
Andrew look at her keenly.

" You care for him more than you know," he said. And
with more truth than he knew.

4: 4: * 4! *

To find Desmond and bring him into the drawing-room
Eunice went to the edge of the wood, sending her voice before

" Desmond, Desmond ! Where are you, Desmond ? "
She knew most of his haunts; it is harder to keep children


apart than their elders know. He had not been encouraged
in the nursery, for none of his ways were nursery ways, but
he had been there all the same. Eunice knew all his haunts
except a new one he had found only that afternoon, on the
branch of a tree. Save that he became sorry for her searching,
and because his heart was soft, although so few at Marley
guessed it yet, she might never have discovered him.

" Silly Billy ! Where's your eyes ? I've been here all the
time. What's up ? What for are you wanting me ? " he called

" Oh, Desmond, what a lovely new place ! "

" Come along up ; there's room for two ! "

" Me ! "

" Why not ? You're afraid of tearing your muslin pinny.
What a baby you are ! And there's a hole in it already, so
there ! "

But there was no hole, it was white and immaculate as
when she left the nursery. He knew how to tease her.

" Who wants me ? What's afoot now ? Aren't you coming

" I don't know how."

" Don't know how ! " he mimicked her. " Don't know
how to climb a tree, don't know how to sit a horse, don't
know how to drive him, or hold the reins, or set a ferret!
Too nice, how nice, Yewnice! That's the way to say your
silly name. Aren't you ashamed of being only a silly girl?
Listen. I'll pretend I'm a thrush." He mimicked the
long sweet note. " I'm coming down to help you up. Look
out ! I'm going to jump." He swung himself from the
branch and dropped at her feet.

There were less than three years between them, and, of
course, she thought him wonderful. She knew he was a rough
boy, because Nurse said so, but there was no better companion,
and he was never really rough with her. He knew ever}'thing
about animals, could imitate birds, make the hares in the
woods come to him.

" What do you want me for ? " he asked when he stood
beside her.


" Auntie wants you. Uncle Andrew's in the drawing-room
and he wants you. You'll come, won't you ? " For even she
knew how difficult it was to get Desmond to come at a call.

She slipped her small hand confidently in his as he stood
beside her.

" No; I shan't come. Why should I ? He isn't my Uncle
Andrew. I shall stay where I am."

" And auntie would like you to look your best. He hasn't
seen you for such a long time," she coaxed.

"You'd be having me put on a velvet suit and a lace
collar ! " he scoffed.

" Just wash part of your hands." She was coaxing him,
she did not mean to be funny, only to let him down easily.

" I'll race you from here to the end of the lawn ; you can
have three-quarters' start. I'll go in to the old gossoon if you
get there first."

"And if I win, you'll wash?" She was quick to take
advantage of the opening.

" That's for the seeing ; it isn't you that'll be winning.
Start now, and when you get to that copper beech you can
run, I'll call out to you."

Long-legged, slender, her fair, well-tended curls floated
behind her, she ran gracefully and swiftly. More stockily
built, very little taller for all his additional years, he had
over-handicapped himself, and reached the lawn a second
later than she did. She was panting, out of breath, already
almost sorry she had won.

" I believe I began to run before you said ' off ! ' " she said

He was annoyed, but not unfair.

" I'm going round by the stables. Say I'll be there in ten

She knew he would keep' to the terms of the wager although
he had not ratified it, and she went contentedly in search of
Nurse, who would smooth her slightly disordered curls, adjust
the blue bow, and remove the white pinafore in which there
was no hole, uncovering the soft white frock of silk and
Valenciennes lace. Agatha, who disguised her femininity in


tweeds, coats and skirts and felt hats of the masculine shape,
spared nothing in Eunice's adornment. She was dressed like
a young princess.

"It was too bad sending you after Master Desmond. I
suppose he led you a dance ? " Nurse grumbled.

'^ We had a race. And it's all right, he's gone up to dress.
I liked racing with him, he gave me a long start."

Nurse kissed her; it was a way people had with Eunice.
Not only because she was so fair and soft to kiss, but because
even before she could reason she had the instinct to wish every-
one to be happy. From the very first she had that gift of
loving tact. Nurse must not feel her work had been wasted.
Uncle Andrew would see Desmond in the drawing-room look-
ing so that Auntie could be proud of him.

" If only he gets his parting straight ! "

That was the thought in her little mind as she stood before
the drawing-room door.

The large drawing-room, half dark, was full of heavy
walnut furniture, the chair seats were all thickly embroid-
ered, and so were the heavy curtains; the work of dead and
forgotten hands. Great cabinets of china stood like sentinels
against the walls, throwing into shadow the family portraits,
dingy landscapes and religious pictures. On round tables
stood Oriental bowls, full of potpourri. From the conserva-
tory — almost large enough to be called a winter garden, came
the chirping of the varied plumage birds that swung among
the palm trees. This was the right setting for Agatha; her
ancestral surroundings gave her the self-confidence she some-
times lacked.

The little girl went into the room, sure of her welcome, and
stood at Agatha's side, placing a hand on her knee. No one
else put a hand on Agatha's knee, she was not a caressing
woman, and did not inspire demonstration. Andrew McKay
thought that Eunice had taken Monica's' place, keeping the
boy a little out of his own, perhaps.

"Is Desmond coming?"

" He will be here in a minute. You're not going to scold
him, auntie."


" No ; I'm not going to scold Desmond. Has he done any-
thing to deserve it ? "'

"He never means to do anything bad." She hesitated.
" He does just what comes into his head."

" Not unlike his mother/' interposed Andrew quizzically.

Agatha gave a quick gesture of dissent. She saw no like-
ness between herself and her son.

Desmond was a boy of his word. He had washed not only
his hands but his face. But he was not a picture-postcard,
velveteen-and-lace-collar boy. He wore a knickerbocker suit
of worn tweed and a turndown collar in its second stage; his
boots were irregularly laced, and his stockings not properly
pulled up. His hands were rough and ill-kempt; one wash-
ing had been obviously insufficient for them. There was a
watermark between his chin and a red ear that some teased
beast had bitten ; he had what his mother called " a game-
keeper's complexion"; the crooked parting Eunice had feared
showed irregularly in the crisp black of his hair, a front tooth
had been chipped. Only his blue eyes were beyond criticism.

Andrew had a son of his own now, older than this boy,
and being very carefully reared. He had not seen the Marley
heir for nearly two years, and, after greeting, began almost
immediately to question him. Andrew had but one standard
of education, and Desmond fell hopelessly below it.

He had not begun Latin or French ; as for his arithmetic
there was not a question Andrew put to him that he an-
swered correctly. He shuffled on his feet, resented the exami-
nation, became dogged and sullen.

" It is even worse than I anticipated," was Andrew's con-
clusion. " There is no doubt something must be done," he
said to her. " You ought to be at school, you know," he told
the boy. " You would like to have companions, be with other

Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 4 of 27)