Julia Frankau.

Full swing online

. (page 5 of 27)
Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 5 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fellows of your own age ! "

"No, I shouldn't!" Desmond said bluntly. "I don't
want to go to school in England."

Agatha had invited her friends' sons to play with him,
the boys from Denham and Amherst. He had nothing in


common "with, these English boys, dressed in black cloth and
Eton collars, from high-class preparatory schools, who talked
of cricket or football, who could not imitate the notes of
birds, or ride bare-backed ; boys as clean as Eunice, unfriendly
to him and curious.

" I am not wanting to be with English boys."

Having thus answered, and shown that her consideration
in providing him with playmates had been wasted, the boy
flushed and glanced at his mother. He had done every con-
ceivable tiling that had been forbidden in the last forty-eight
hours, and now he showed his ignorance and ingratitude. He
was ashamed that there were no consequences to be faced.
Agatha never punished him; she was always pursuing her
extraordinary inoperative methods towards gaining his con-
fidence. He guessed they had been talking about him, that
it was on his account the man was here. He knew that each
visit to Marley Court showed him up more unfavourably. He
told himself he did not care, that his home was in Fermanagh
with his father, the home that was one day to be his own, the
pile of ruins called Languedoc Castle, the uncultivated acres
and wild tenantry, freedom.

" I want to go home ; I don't want to go to school here ! "
he burst out.

" But you know this is your home," Andrew interrupted.
" I think he should fully understand that," he said to Agatha.

" I'm going to live always with my father when I'm grown
up," Desmond answered, flushed and dogged.

" You really want to grow up unlettered, uncultured, igno-
rant? " Andrew ask him satirically.

Desmond had known all this was coming, his father had
prepared him. They wanted to pen him up in a boarding
school, to make him learn Latin and Greek. His father had
incited him to rebellion.

" They want to cheat me of my six months, my boy, that's
what they mean to do; put you in a livery with a high hat on
like a groom ! " For Eton had already been discussed.

The discussion was continued this afternoon. Andrew
wanted to see if Desmond had imbibed anything of the Marley


Court atmosphere, if he had any appreciation of the refine-
ment and beauty of his mother's mode of life. If it were so,
he was unable to elicit it. The boy was armed on all points ;
he spoke in his father's words, or in Biddy's. He thought he
was being loyal, yet watched his mother's face. If he were
defiant there was a strange undercurrent.

All the time the lawyer spoke Desmond was sick with his
own sullen and dogged replies. For somewhere in his secret
heart he did want to go to school and grow up like other
boys, not to be ignorant and rough, so that his mother should
be ashamed of liim.

They let him go presently. If they had to act for his
benefit, they saw they would have to do without any help
from him. Lord Grindelay had used his opportunities well,
apparently better than Agatha had used hers.

" How does he impress you ? " she asked, after Desmond
had left the room, slamming the door behind him, with a nod
for "good-bye," and as if he were glad to be off, and had
settled the question of his future.

" He only wants training/' Andrew answered consolingly.
" You know that as well as I do."

Whatever she felt about him, Andrew could read it was
not quite what she expressed. She was jealous of his father's
influence upon him, although too instinctively reticent to
show or even admit it. She was hurt that he would rather be
at Languedoc than Marley; seeing that now Marley was all
that an estate should be, and Languedoc but a ruin and a


Andrew McKay's efforts were successful. The Court, or
the Judge in Chambers, agreed that the heir to Marley and
Languedoc must certainly be educated. Lord Grindelay could
not seriously oppose it, and there were no Protestant schools
in Ireland whose claims he could reasonably urge. Desmond
was therefore sent to a private tutor, and ultimately to Eton,
where in an astonishingly short period of time he became
completely reconciled not only to what his father had been
pleased to call " the livery,'' but even to the discipline and re-
straints. For this probably the games were responsible. From
the beginning fives and football appealed to the wild little
Irish boy, and the enchanting river. From fives he graduated
to racquets, and from sculling to rowing. At eighteen he had
established an athletic, although not a scholastic, reputa-
tion, was in " Pop," the team for Queen's, and, after having
been for two terms in the boats, had a chance for the boat,
a distinction with a difference that Eunice knew now as
well as himself.

Desmond's first year at Eton had been made remarkable
by the appearance of Lord Grindelay on the fourth of June
in a white hat of astonishing antiquity, a loquacity that defied
even Dr. Warre, and an evening mood after the procession of
boats and fireworks that inclined the boy's housemaster then
and always afterwards to be sympathetic, and as far as pos-
sible even compassionate, to his shortcomings. " He has
had a bad example, poor fellow; we must not be hard on
him," explained "me tutor's" mental attitude after seeing
the effect of a long day's thirst upon the Irish peer.

Desmond had been ordered to pass half his vacation with
one, and the remainder with the other, of his irreconcilable
parents. He and his father remained good friends, and there
was sport enough in Fermanagh with the dogs and the horses
to keep him entertained, even when he grew old enough and
sufficiently sophisticated to miss the physical comforts or ener-
vating luxuries of Marley.



What he missed most at Languedoc, however, as the years
went on, was the devoted service and admiring hero-worship
of the little girl who, from cleaning his gun to disentangling
his fishing lines, was never happier than when waiting upon
him. Between his mother and himself there was the barrier
of his father, although now and again it did not seem insur-

Agatha watched Desmond for hereditary vices, yet always
with a growing anxiety to find him a Wanstead and not a
Foulds. He knew he was watched, feeling sometimes a dumb
resentment. The mothers of his friends loved their sons un-
critically. He felt a mother-want about the world, it brought
him closer to his father, with whom at least he was sure of
his footing.

At the end of his last year at Eton, however, Desmond
had taken on much of the colour, and many of the character-
istics, of the school, toning better, therefore, with the Marley
background. This year, and of his own choice, he lingered
through the Easter vacation at Marley when he should have
been at Languedoc. Biddy could no longer be sent to fetch
him ; he was too old for force, the time had almost come when
he must make a personal selection between his parents.
Agatha, for ever watching him, growing more exacting as she
grew more fond, vexed herself lately over his reports, and
could not understand his lack of ambition, his low place in

"There's no good my swotting," he said easily. "It
isn't as if I was clever." He was quite satisfied to be allowed
to remain on, and not to be superannuated.

" What does she mean with her ^ studying ' ? " he said to
Eunice. " I'm not a tug. Isn't she pleased that I'll have a
chance for the eight ? " He had an almost imperceptible ac-
cent, an occasional turn of phrase or thought that seemed
un-English to his mother. Everything that was Irish held
pain for her; in hiding this pain she hid herself from her son's
eyes, and perhaps a little from her own. But if their neu-
trality flashed sometimes into what looked like antagonism,
many times now it had another aspect.


'Now, sometimes, "when Eunice kissed her, coming to her
for love or mothering, she had a spasm of desire, of heart-
ache that the caress or appeal had not been from him.

Nevertheless, this Easter that Desmond lingered in ]\Iarley
when he should have been at Languedoc was among the hap-
piest times she had ever spent. Unconsciously she began to
build castles. They were children yet, but one day they would
grow up.

But still, true to herself, she would not encourage her
dreams. She reminded herself continually of her promise to
Eunice's mother. This was the first time she began to realise,
however diml}^, that Eunice was her duty, and Desmond her
son. That he had also a father she wished now to be able to
forget, to put away from her whenever possible.

Lord Grindelay had grown worse as the years went on.
Now he was almost a monster in Agatha's eyes; her own
connection with him well-nigh unbearable. Disgusting, but
never incredible, tales surmounted the difficulties of the Irish
Channel, and were wafted to Marley, scandalous tales of
drunken orgies, loose women, looser language, of a mode of
life always more out of date.

Therefore, when the telegram came from Languedoc an-
nouncing that Lord Grindelay was dead, her first emotion
was one of overwhelming relief. It seemed almost too good
to be true; an end of all the scandals. She had lain awake
at nights thinking how to avoid exposing the adolescent lad
to his father's contaminating company; how to prevent his
listening to his dreadful stories, perhaps finding pleasure in
his pleasures.

She was so relieved in knowing there was now no reason
why her son should not grow up into that innocent and
immaculate manhood of which all mothers dream, that she
never paused to think there might be another aspect to the
question. She was glad, thankful. It never struck her that
Desmond might think differently about his father's death.

Desmond was out when the telegram came. He and
Eunice had gone together to a tennis tournament at Denham


Agatha thought of sending for him, but it was a long way
off, and they might have already started for home ; it was only
an afternoon affair. She felt extraordinarily content as she
waited to tell Desmond that his father was dead, quite obliv-
ious of any point of view but her own. She really felt that
Lord Grindelay had been an encumberer of the ground. She
did not know that her ever-growing abhorrence for his views
had been deepened by their dual proprietorsliip in their son.
She did not know how the slow growth of her feelings was
rooting them.

Desmond had put off his visit to Languedoc, trying to
explain himself in his letters to that ever-indulgent father
with whom he was so much more intimate than with the mother
he always, in some curious and unacknowledged way, felt him-
self unable to satisfy.

*' Dear Dad, do you mind if I don't come for a few days
yet? Marley is so wonderful just now. You may be guessing
why I can't tear myself away ; it's not because I don't want to
be with you. . . ."

His father knew more about him and Eunice than he did
himself, although they had hardly spoken of it. Desmond
was only at the beginning of things, inarticulate.

" Dear laddie, the houri before the horses for sure," Pat
wrote cheerfully, " and haven't I been there myself ? " Larry-
told Desmond later on what Lord Grindelay had said when
the letter came.

" He said he wasn't forcin' you to come over, although you
were the light of his eyes, much more to him than you iver
was to your foine English mother who had Marley and the
gurl and her blarmed orchids.'^

" Please yourself when you come," wrote his father, when
again Desmond postponed his return. " I can guess well
enough what's keeping you, but don't let it be too long, don't
throw me over altogether. It's longing to see you we are here,
and I've a hunter ready for you that will take you all you
know to get over the fences. He is too much for me alto-
gether. . . ."

Poor Pat ! he was going downhill fast, and wanted the boy


badly, but when Desmond asked permission to stay away he
could not bear to say " no " to him. He, too, had his pride.

Desmond never read the note of loneliness in the letters,
nor dreamt his father was missing him. Desmond's feelings
were deepening, but the depths were only in one direction.
Three-fourths of him were still schoolboy. Yet he knew in
these holidays that Eunice was not his sister, and that when
his hands touched the silk of her hair, or she put her sweet
lips to his for the good-night kiae as she had done all her life,
his heart shook, and he was her champion. That was all he
thought, that he must defend her, not yet knowing from what,
and that it was from himself.

This afternoon, as they had driven together in the old-
fashioned family barouche to Denham Place, he sat by her
side hardly speaking. She rallied him on his glumness, and
he gave her the first reason that came into his head. How
could he tell her what he hardly knew himself, that it was
because she was sitting so near to him and his blood was

"It's my father I was thinking of," he answered. "I
ought to be in Ireland now. He wrote I was to take my own
time, but he expected me by the 12th, and now it's the 20th.
I can't think what's keeping me here."

And at that he looked shyly at her, and his heart pounded.
She was quite unconscious of it, being in all essentials still a
child. She gave his arm a little squeeze and said :

" Oh, don't go ! It's so lovely to have you here. I wish
you were here always."

" He looks forward to my coming ; there are few friends
of his own age and standing left now."

Presently he blundered out that he was sorry he was going
away from her, but covered it up with more talk of his father;
all to excuse that he was tongue-tied because he was sitting
beside her and she looked so wonderful in her white dress and
hat with the black ribbon and pink roses. Her hair was un-
plaited to-day, and the scent of it caught his breath.

He talked about his father to cover his silences. Although
he was reluctant to leave Marley just now, it was not for lack


of affection toward him. The drunken old reprobate, so un-
fortunately mated, had won more love from his son than
Agatha had up to the present, more conscious love, at any
rate. The adventurousness of Lord Grindelay's spirit, and
his sense of humour, the never-failing indulgence, had won
him his son in babyhood. Marley had become home too,
now, and about his mother was something that, up to late
this very afternoon, was indefinitely, if reluctantly, calling
to him. But he did not care for her as he did for the old red-
faced father who had taught him to ride when he was four
years old, to shoot before he could hardly carry a gun; who
had always treated him like a man, neither watching nor
doubting him ; incapable of criticising, but not of hugging him.

Desmond loved his father with something of pity and
something of understanding. He knew he drank; if there
were other things he did there was an undefined suspicion in
the boy's mind that the marriage of which he was the issue
might have been responsible for some of them. He felt the
differences between his parents ; reproaching himself now and
again, and calling himself a snob because he liked to bring
his Eton friends to Marley, and never took one to Languedoc,
although he knew their welcome would be warm. He could
see, even if it were dimly, how out of place his mother must
have been at Languedoc. But he, too, was sensitive of criti-
cism about it, could realise his father's irritation with an
English wife there, seeing the unfriendliness of her eyes and
all their cool appraisement.

That afternoon, at Denham Place, Desmond however put
all such thoughts away from him. They had helped to quiet
his heart and to keep him from telling the girl anytliing at
all of the sudden wish he had had to put his arm about her
waist, and explain to her what had come over liim.

He and Eunice carried off all the honours of the tourna-
ment that afternoon. Afterwards they had a gorgeous tea,
all the boy and girl competitors together, chattering like mag-
pies, with their young dignity gone down before the whole-
some excitement of the exercise. When he and Eunice drove
home they were no longer alone; they had Jack Keid and the


Amhurst boys with them, and Desmond's mood was altogether
different. Jack was the son of the Great Marley doctor, already
at Cambridge. He talked animatedly of rowing, and what
he meant to do later ; of Blues and bumps. One Campden boy
was still at Eton, the other was at Sandhurst and urging Des-
mond to follow in his footsteps. They were all full of the
afternoon match, and what a "fluke" the Marley Court
■victory had been. Challenges were laughingly exchanged, and
it was agreed that Jack Reid and the younger Campden
should take on Eunice and Desmond the next day or the day
after. They were very gay and happy. There was nothing
to prepare him for what was immediately in front.

They dropped the three boys at Great Marley. At the
lodge gates of the Court they heard that Lady Grindelay had
sent out a message that they were not to loiter, but to come
straight to the house. They had a habit of avoiding the long
straight drive, and strolling home through the woods. They
wondered perfunctorily what was up, and were disappointed
at the tame end to their afternoon. Of course, they had meant
to walk. Desmond, when they drove up to the door, got out

" Tell her I'll be with her in ten minutes. I must change.
I never can make out how you manage to keep tidy, whatever

" I don't feel tidy."

Desmond, once difficult to persuade to common cleanli-
ness, was now very particular about his clothes, and had a deep
interest in his tailor and hosier and the colour of his ties.

Eunice did not wait to change, but went straight to her

"But it was not you I wanted, it was Desmond," Lady
Grindelay exclaimed.

" You often want Desmond instead of me now, don't you ? "
Eunice pouted. She needed affection as flowers need water,
and bloomed in it.

"Do I ? But Desmond is my son." There was a new
thrill in the word as she said it.

" Well, I am your daughter, aren't I ? " She threw herself


on the stool beside her, fondling her. " Desmond will be here
in a minute. We've had a perfectly lovely afternoon. We
won the tournament, and we've each got a new racquet."

She poured out all her news. Lady Grindelay listened,
keeping back her own. She liked the young confidence, was
fond of the child, very fond, and meant to do well by her.
It had been gradually and imperceptibly that the two had
changed places. Nobody but herself knew, and she only half-
consciously, that Desmond was now in the foreground.

" Oh, auntie, how I wish Desmond need never go away !
It's so different when he is here, going about with him in-
stead of Miss Stacey." Miss Stacey was Eunice's governess;
Eunice was a better pupil than her mother had been, but little
fonder of her lessons. " AVe do have such lovely times. He
was talking this afternoon of going to Ireland again. Do stop

Lady Grindelay answered quickly:

'' Many more impossible things have happened than that
Desmond should remain here altogether."

" Not go to Languedoc at all ! But how ripping ! "

" I would like you to avoid the habit of talking slang."

** But it would be ripping, wouldn't it ? I can't think of
another word. Is it true, is it really true? Needn't he go
at all?"

Desmond's entrance interrupted her questions, but she con-
veyed the news to him instantly.

" You are to stay here."

"What's up?"

Desmond had grown more in height than in muscle, in
grace rather than strength. He was a handsome boy now, with
his blue eyes alive and alert under his dark lashes, and any
mother might have been proud of him. Agatha felt a thrill
of satisfaction in knowing that he had become wholly hers.

" What is it ? What's this about not going to Lan-
guedoc ? " He looked from one to another. " Of course I'm
going, I wrote to father yesterday. I only put it off for a
week." Now he forgot what had detained him, and thought
of nothing but Pat waiting for him. " Is he angry ? "


" No/' she answered shortly, with a swift pang of jealousy,
seeing the change in his face, his anxiety.

The boy was quickly apprehensive of disaster, fearing he
knew not what. Behind that low forehead where the dark
hair curled crisply, at the back of the rebellious turmoil of his
childhood and the athletic prowess of his youth, lay an ever-
acute, if hidden, sen»itiveness. Instinctively he braced him-
self. If there was a blow coming he must not show he felt it,
not to his mother, anyway.

" Father isn't ill ? " he managed to ask.

« He is dead."

Agatha held out the telegram. In justice to her it must be
said she never believed anybody could really care for Pat
Grindelay. She could not keep the note of satisfaction from
her voice ; she said it as one who said, " Now you are free."
But Desmond heard the words as a wash of water in his ears,
felt a pain as of drowning, a rush of feeling so strong that it
nearly swept him from his feet. He was conscious of hating
her for telling him, of an overwhelming resentment towards
her. He could not trust himself to speak. The words rushed
about his ears like dead wreckage; he felt utterly forlorn,
drowning. His father was dead, his dear father, who' loved

Eunice saw the dreadful change in his face. She was by
his side in an instant, her soft hand slid into his, he felt the
softness of the hand through his stunned consciousness, and
kept his grip upon it. Agatha knew that she had given her
news too abruptly.

"The telegram says very little. Perhaps you would like
to see it."

She held it out to him, but he made no movement toward
her. He was thinking that he hated her for not caring, and
that he would never forgive her. His father ! He was swim-
ming alone, with the waters rising, dead wreckage beating
about him, an unbearable pain in his heart. Eunice kept tight
hold of his hand ; she understood.

*^ Poor Desmond, poor, darling Desmond ! " Although she
had never seen his father, and knew nothing of him but vaguely


that he had made auntie unhappy, her S5Tnpathetic tears began
to fall. "Don't look like that; we'll comfort you — auntie
and I." Her tears fell, "Won't we, auntie?"

" You had better sit down." Agatha paled at the sight of
his pale face, " I am sorry you are so distressed," she went on
compassionately, " We shall have to think what is to be done.
It may be advisable we should go over."

She did not know what to say. It seemed to her such a
good thing that Lord Grindelay was dead, the unhappiness of
her son's face hurt her,

Desmond did not sit down; he stood still and fought for
his self-command.

" I can catch the night mail," he got out presently,

" To-morrow, or even next day, will be time enough. I
have already telegraphed to Andrew McKay. He will see
that proper arrangements are made."

Desmond felt very cold, and physically a little sick as he
disengaged his hand from Eunice's, The sickness was of
longing for his father, for the red face and Irish accent, for
the warmth of his greeting and the hearty hand upon his
shoulder. Was it true that he would never see him again?
"Father! " And she was glad, glad — he saw it in her eyes.
Resentment swelled in his swelling heart, and pain stifled the
sob in his throat. " Father! " He could have cried the word,
and for all the remembered kindness! He went from the
room quickly, for neither of them must see his eyes. He must
see his father once again, must get to him, and to the warmth
of those Irish servants; to the '^Is it yersilf thin, Mr. Des^
mond ? " of Larry and the rest ; to Biddy's arms and sympathy,
since his mother could only look wonderingly at him.

He was upstairs in his room, flinging his possessions to-
gether, opening disordered drawers, cramming underclothes
and overclothes into one distended trunk, seeing nothing for
the tears that were falling, before Agatha fully realised that
he was suffering.

" Go after him ! " she said to Eunice. " I did not think
he would be so distressed."

Eunice was quick to obey her, quick to understand. After


all, Lord Grindelay ivas Desmond's father, although he wore
a white hat and sometime8 drank more than was good for liim,
and kept Desmond from them.

" He was dreadfully upset."

"I am afraid I broke it to him too abruptly. It never
struck me that he could care."

Online LibraryJulia FrankauFull swing → online text (page 5 of 27)