get under sb's skin
to annoy someone:
Jack really gets under my skin - he never buys anyone a drink.
(from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)
Alfred can only lose as the project has no long-term viability but the best part of the story for me was seeing the development of his personal independence. He's a character who gets under your skin. His wife got under my skin, but only to irritate as she seemed to appear only to be disobliging and to be the polar opposite of Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, the land agent whom Alfred comes to love.