The Story of Bawn
by Katharine Tynan
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At last the welcome signal was given for the ladies to leave the table.

When we had returned to the drawing-room the smart London ladies flocked together in a bevy and began chattering like a field of starlings. Their talk seemed to be altogether of their male acquaintances, whom they called by their names—Jack and Tom and Reggie and Algy, and so on.

Lady Ardaragh sat down by my grandmother and talked to her in a low voice. After the excitement of the dinner she seemed to have become pale and quiet. I could hear that she was talking about her boy, who was a great pet with Gran. I heard her say that he was growing too fast and had been languid of late.

Mrs. Dawson came and sat by me. She sighed with quiet satisfaction as she subsided into her chair.

"It all went off very well, dear," she said, "didn't it? Dawson was very anxious that it should; and I couldn't eat a bit for thinking of what would happen if it didn't go off well."

I answered her that it had gone off very well. It was impossible to dislike her, poor soul; and it was easy to see that she had a wretched life between her husband who was an intolerant tyrant to her and the fine folk he liked to see about him now that his money was made, who were rude and neglectful to her.

"I'm glad you think that, my dear," she said. "Indeed, I think Dawson looked quite cheerful. And I was very glad to see that you and Rick were making friends. He's a very good boy, my dear, although he's a bit wild, having plenty of money and nothing to do but spend it. But he's a very kind boy to his mother. I assure you, dear, there have been times when I wouldn't have cared much to live if it hadn't been for my Rick."

It was a pitiful confession for the mistress of all this splendour; and now that the anxiety and excitement were to some extent over she looked pale and old and tired.

"I'm very glad you liked Rick," she said, "very glad. It isn't like those who would care for him for his money." She nodded her head in the direction of the chattering group. "I should be so glad to see my Rick married to a nice, innocent, good girl. I haven't been so happy this many a day as I've been since I've seen you and him making friends."

I could not bear to tell her that I did not like her son and that nothing on earth would induce me to make friends with him, so I sat silent and said nothing; and I think it did her good to talk, for she prattled on in a gentle, monotonous way about her son's childhood and school-days and of the kindnesses he had done her. Apparently she thought him the finest, handsomest, best person in the world, and apparently his father thought likewise, which was a much stranger thing. She seemed to have no reticence at all, or I had unlocked her heart.

"When Rick is at home," she said, "Dawson is good-tempered, and is often even kind to me. And Rick knows that, and has promised me not to go away any more. I should be so glad if he would marry and settle down, and so would Dawson. There's nothing Dawson wouldn't give him if he'd marry according to his wishes."

At this moment some of the gentlemen arrived, and the group of ladies broke up to admit the black coats. One man passed by and came on towards the end of the room where we were. It was Richard Dawson.

I saw Lady Ardaragh suddenly move her skirt so as to leave a vacant place on the sofa upon which she was sitting; but he disregarded the invitation, if such it were, and came on towards us.

I saw him stoop to kiss his mother and the lighting up of the plain, elderly face, and it came into my mind that however intolerable he was to me, there must be another side of him for her.

For the remainder of that evening he never left my side, and no one could dislodge him, to my great vexation. I thought he was doing it only to annoy me. But I kept close to his mother, so that there was less chance of his making me conspicuous, none at all of his whispering and languishing as he had done at the dinner-table.

I could not see how my grandmother was taking it, since she sat at the same side of the room as I did; but I was glad that Mr. Dawson kept my grandfather in conversation so that he could not see what was going on, for I felt sure that however much he might wish to be civil to the Dawsons, he could not have endured Richard Dawson's attentions to me, since he was very proud.

I have always been one to act on impulse, and of a sudden it occurred to me that it might be possible to make Richard Dawson let poor Nora alone. I suppose it must have been because his mother praised him so much that I should have thought such a thing possible, for up to this I would have believed nothing good of him.

And presently we were alone to all intents, for Mrs. Dawson dropped off to sleep, and the party at the end of the room was playing some noisy round game in which Lady Ardaragh had joined, and Sir Arthur had taken her place beside Gran and they were talking together.

"Mr. Dawson," I said suddenly, "there is something I should like to say to you."

"What is it?"

"Something I should like to ask you."

"Will you come out here on the balcony and ask me what it is? I promise you I shall do it if it be within my power."

The promise determined me. All the windows were wide open, so that to go on the balcony was not to be solitary. As I went out with him I noticed that my grandmother looked after me with an amazed air. Well, I might be mad to believe good of Richard Dawson on his mother's report, but it was worth a trial. I went out on the balcony with him; and noticed that he drew the curtains to after us. It was a thing a gentleman would not have done and I detested him for it. But there was my poor Nora to be thought of, so I endured it.



"Now, what is it?" he asked. "Half of my fortune if you will, fair lady, so that you forgive that blunder of mine and look kindly on me."

"It is about a girl in whom I am interested—Nora Brady." I felt him start at my side. "I saw you together in our woods the other day. She is a good girl. Mr. Dawson, will you let her be and not make her unhappy?"

"Why," he said, "I have never meant to make her unhappy. I'm sorry for what I did. It was only idle love-making. But she's fond of me, poor child. And she'd be just as fond of me if I wore a ragged coat and earned a shilling a day. I've always pleased myself, and I don't like giving up Nora. By the way, she has rather given up me. She is keeping out of my way. Her keeping out of my way has been more likely to inflame me than the other thing. But, if you'll forgive me and be a little kind to me, I promise you that I won't seek her out."

"What do you want me to do?" I asked.

"More than I dare tell you at present. But for the present—shake hands and say you forgive my rudeness in the wood."

I put my hand in his, and felt his lips upon it, but I bore it.

"Then it is a bargain," he said. "We are enemies no longer, and I promise to let Nora alone. If only the women would always let me alone! What, are you going back to that hot room? And the May moon in the sky, the lovers' moon! Stay with me a little while, because I've been a good boy and promised you what you asked. You could wind me round your little finger. There's nothing I wouldn't do to please you."

The end of his protestations fell on empty air, for I had lifted the curtain and re-entered the drawing-room.

When I came in, with Richard Dawson following me, I was annoyed to find that my grandfather and Mr. Dawson had come into the drawing-room, and were standing near the fireplace. Both looked round, and I thought my grandfather's face wore a startled look, while Mr. Dawson's for an instant beamed excessive gratification.

I hoped that Lord and Lady St. Leger could not think that I tolerated with any patience the attentions of Richard Dawson. Seeing that they believed me bound by some childish promise to my cousin Theobald that was not very likely. And I could not explain to them why I had gone out on the balcony alone with Richard Dawson.

My memory of the time after that seems to consist of nothing but a string of Dawsons coming and going. I did not know what to make of it. Surely the propitiation of the Dawsons did not mean that we should see so very much of them. They were alone now, their fine friends having gone back to London, and their being alone involved an intimacy which need not have been if there were a crowd.

My godmother at this time was much occupied, her cousin, Miss Joan, having developed a disease which in time was to prove mortal, so she knew less of how much the Dawsons came and went, though she must have known it, for I've no doubt the county talked of it. We had been so sure that we would never admit the Dawsons no matter what any one else did, nor any persons who were merely rich. We had always been very proud and exclusive at Aghadoe.

A little while after that dinner at Damerstown Nora confessed to me with tears that she had stolen out in my absence and had lain in wait for Richard Dawson.

"And after all, Miss Bawn," she said, "I was punished, for he only lifted his hat to me and rode away; and I felt as if I must fall in the track of his horse's feet and implore him to kiss me as he used to. And he never looked back, Miss Bawn."

"I am glad to hear it," I said, feeling that the words were hard and cold.

"I don't know what's come over him," poor Nora said miserably, "unless that, maybe, a good love has come to him at last. I'd just as soon be dead, Miss Bawn."

Soon after that she began talking of going to America, and I used to notice that she looked strangely at me. But I never saw what every one else must have seen; partly, no doubt, because of that old troth between Theobald and me which I thought my grandparents held to be binding. I ought to have mentioned in its proper place that there had been no cause for Theobald's weeks of silence, or but a trifling one, and that his letters came as of old and were very full of gay doings. I noticed that he did not talk now so much of coming back as he had done at first; but at first he had been very lonely for Aghadoe and all of us.

Day by day during that summer the shadow seemed to darken on Lord St. Leger's face, and my grandmother looked no less harassed. It was, indeed, cruel to see the faces which had been placid enough, despite the lines of sorrow, becoming so haggard and careworn. I used to hate to see them so anxiously polite to Garret Dawson, so willing to sit at his table and have him at theirs. I noticed, too, that they looked strangely at me at times; and I found my grandmother in tears more than once. It hurt me that she should weep at her age.

Another thing I noticed was that they ceased to talk of Theobald; and when his letters came they would read them without comment, or they would take my news of him without an eager stretching forth of their hands for the letter as of old. In those days mysteries seemed to gather thick and fast about me. And I had my own trouble to bear as well. I used to think that Captain Cardew would have made short work of it all. He would have swept away the shadowy terrors. He would have lifted us all into the daylight. But, alas, he was I knew not where; and his name was never mentioned in the hearing of Lord and Lady St. Leger.

Then the blow fell. One afternoon Garret Dawson had been to see my grandfather and talked with him alone; and at dinner my grandmother's face bore traces of tears, and I noticed that my grandfather's hand shook so that he spilt his wine. There was not a word spoken, and after a time the silence got on my nerves, so that I began to dread I knew not what, and could almost have burst into tears from the tension.

We had dined where we often dined when we were alone, in a little room, panelled with black oak, which opens off the hall. It is bright enough when a fire leaps and sparkles in the grate, but it was then too warm for fires, and the room seemed cheerless even while the white cloth was on the table and the lit candles made the silver and glass sparkle.

And presently, when Neil Doherty had taken away the cloth and we sat around the polished black table with nothing on it but a couple of candles and a decanter of port wine and glasses, the room looked very sad.

My grandfather tapped with his hand on the table, a thing I have known him to do when in trouble, and again the tears overflowed my grandmother's eyes and ran down her cheeks. And I felt that something was coming.

Then my grandfather cleared his throat, and leaning his face in his hand so that I should not see it, he said—

"There is something that concerns you, Bawn, which I wish to lay before you. You have been a good child always, kind and obedient to us. And now it is in your power to do more for us than ever you have done before."

He paused, and in the silence I heard the rain falling on the gravel path. It had been threatening all the afternoon. The wind soughed; it was going to be a wild night.

"Mr. Dawson has been with me this afternoon," he went on. "We talked of you, Bawn. Bawn, child, Richard Dawson wishes to marry you. Can you marry him, Bawn? If you can do it Garret Dawson gives up to me on your wedding-day certain documents which hold in them the disgrace of our family. We are old, Bawn, and we have loved you and been good to you. There are some things we could not bear. Child, can you say 'Yes?'"

I felt now as though I had known it all the time. I had a queer memory of a room in which a man lay imprisoned, the walls of which came closer and closer every day till they should press him to death. It was a tale I had read somewhere. So this had been closing in on me all those months. I was to marry Richard Dawson, I who loved Anthony Cardew with all my heart and soul.



"And Theobald," I asked, after that pause—"what about Theobald?"

"Theobald is young. He has a thousand chances of happiness," answered my grandfather, somewhat eagerly. "If he could know he would be the first to sacrifice himself to prevent the disgrace. I tell you, Bawn, that if Garret Dawson publishes the secret he holds it will kill your grandmother and me as surely as though he had shot us through the heart. Child, child, we would have given you the world if we could! Can you do this much for us?"

I looked at his poor old, twitching, grey face, at his hands that worked pitifully. I saw my grandmother lift her streaming eyes to Heaven as though to ask for help. They had been very tender to me, and they were old. God knows no woman ever shrank more from a lover than I from Richard Dawson. But, perhaps, if I sacrificed myself, following the example of our Lord himself, He would take me away from the intolerable marriage. He would let me save them, and then He would take me to himself.

"I will marry Richard Dawson," I said quietly.

I saw an immense relief in the poor old faces, although their cloud barely lifted. They did not thank me. Perhaps they knew I could not have borne it. I saw them creep closer together as though for comfort, as I got up and went away to my own room.

I was as glad as I could be of anything that Nora had gone a day or two earlier to nurse one of her uncle's children who was sick. How could I have borne her presence about me? To think I had saved her and had myself fallen into the net! And at least she had loved the man, incredible as it seemed, while I recoiled from him with loathing, because I loved another man with my whole heart and soul.

Something within me cried out that it would be a wicked marriage. I fell on my knees by my bed, but I could not pray. I felt numb and sick. I stretched my arms out across the little white bed where I had slept so happily, despite the ghosts. I laid my face upon them and stayed there in a trance of misery.

I heard my grandmother pause at the door and listen as she went down the corridor to her bedroom, and I dreaded that she should come in; but, perhaps, thinking from the silence that I was asleep she went on after the pause.

I must have fallen asleep in that comfortless position for when I awoke I was chilled and stiff. There was white moonlight in the room, and I heard, with a sinking of my heart, the crying of the woman in the shrubbery. She always came when there was trouble. Well, God knows, there was trouble enough now, such a coil of trouble for me that death had been an easy way out of it.

I crept into bed and thought miserably of what Anthony Cardew would think of me when he should hear of my disgrace. Of course he would not know why I had married Richard Dawson. He had yielded me up to poor Theobald as he thought, and instead of Theobald, whom I might have loved if I had never seen Anthony Cardew—handsome, generous, of honourable lineage, he would know that I had married Richard Dawson, with his bad traditions behind him, and himself a wild, careless liver, with many sins to his account. He would never know how I loathed it. Perhaps he would even think that I married for money. Even if I were dead, and I felt I must die of marrying Richard Dawson, he could never think of me except with contempt and loathing.

The next morning Maureen came with my tea.

"Why are you looking like alabaster on your pillow?" she asked, with some indignation. "There's good news coming, I tell you. There's good news coming. See how fine the morning is! I never slept a sweeter sleep, and it was in my sleep I had word."

I shrank even from Maureen's half-mad eyes. What would she say when she knew that I was to marry Richard Dawson? She had always loved Theobald and had looked forward to our marriage. I was afraid of Maureen's eyes.

"I'll toss the cup for you," she said when I had drunk my tea. "There's a beautiful fortune in it for you, Miss Bawn. I see a wedding-coach and four horses——"

"Are there plumes on the coach, Maureen?" I asked.

"I'm surprised at you, Miss Bawn." Maureen looked startled and angry. "Why should there be plumes on the wedding-coach that'll bring yourself and the fine husband home? I won't be asking who he'll be. And by-and-by there'll be babies in the nurseries again, and old Maureen'll be as young as ever she was."

The afternoon of that day I was called down to Richard Dawson, and when I went to the drawing-room I found him alone.

He took me in his arms and kissed me, and when I shivered under his kiss it only seemed to make him more ardent. It was a terrible thing to accept his kisses feeling that cold repulsion; and my whole heart and soul another man's. If he had been less ardent it might have been more tolerable. As it was I let him have his will of kissing me till he suddenly put me away from him.

"You do not return my kisses," he said. "Are you afraid of me, Bawn?"

"I am not used to lovers," I said, turning away my head.

"Ah, I frightened you that day in the wood, my bird," he said, "and I suffer for it now. What a brute I was! But you can make me different if you will, Bawn. If you will but love me, my beauty, you can do what you will with me—make a decent fellow of me. I am not such a bad fellow at heart. Come, give me a kiss of your own free will. You would not when I asked you before, but you will now because I am your affianced husband. Come, kiss me, Bawn."

I kissed him, shrinking all the time, and with a dreary wonder as to whether it was always going to be like this, and if so, how I was to endure it.

"Your kiss is as cold as a frog," he said. "But never mind, I wouldn't give a fig for a woman who was too easily won. The time will come when you will beg me for kisses. Till then, why, I shall do the love-making myself."

But presently, seeing I could not endure it, he let me go. It never seemed to occur to him that my aversion could be for him. He took my shrinking as maiden modesty, and vowed that he delighted in it, that I should have been far less desirable if I had not been so coy, and that he would be happier breaking down my barriers than if there had been none to break.

Finally he took a little case from his pocket, and out of it he produced a ring, the beauty of which would have delighted any happy girl. It was set with an emerald of great size and beauty, of a heart-shape, surrounded by diamonds, and at the top a true-lovers' knot in diamonds. He put it on my finger, saying that he had carried it about with him for a month or more, and that he had paid a pretty price for it. It was an antique ring and the workmanship very beautiful, not like those made nowadays.

It occurred to me that he had been very sure of me. But I said nothing while he put on the ring.

"And how soon will you marry me, Bawn?" he asked. "There is nothing I will not give you when we are married. I am going to take you away and show you the beautiful world. There will be nothing you can desire that will not be yours. Oh, you shall see what a lover I will make! Bawn, Bawn, you will adore me."

"It is too soon to talk of wedding-days," I said.

"Not too soon for me," he answered. "I can hardly bear to wait. I would marry you this instant if I could. Will it be in a month's time, Bawn?"

"I could never be ready," I said.

"Not in a month's time! And how do you suppose I am going to endure even that! I shall talk to Lady St. Leger about it. She will be merciful to me."

"I could not be ready," I said. "Not under two months. People are not married in such a hurry. There are so many things to see to."

It was only now that he began to talk of the wedding that I realized how, somewhere at the back of all the misery and shame, I had had a wild hope that Heaven might intervene and save me from the marriage. I had not thought he would be in such a hurry, that he would give me no loophole of escape. I could have cried out for a long day like any poor wretch condemned to the gallows.

"Don't you see that I am not ready? I am not used to lovers," I cried, bursting into a paroxysm of tears, when he went on urging a speedy marriage.

At the sight of my tears he seemed dismayed and tried to comfort me, saying that I should have my own time and that I was the more desirable to him because I was not ready to fall into his arms.



After that day there was not a day but rich presents were showered on me by the Dawsons, which reminded me of the decking of a victim led to the sacrifice.

What did I care about the jewels and furs and laces that my bridegroom brought me? About his promise of what he should give me when I was his?

Garret Dawson used to eye me with a grim approval: and I heard him say to my grandfather once that he could have had rank and wealth and beauty for his son, and that I would bring him nothing; but that he and Rick knew a unique thing when they saw it and were prepared to pay any price for it. At which speech my poor grandfather bowed with a look as though he felt it hard to endure.

Mrs. Dawson took me in her kind, old, motherly arms when she came to see me, and said humbly that she could never be grateful enough to me for consenting to marry her son; and what she said afterwards had something significant in it if I had not been too miserable to notice it.

"He'll make you a good husband, dear," she said. "He's a good boy at heart, although he has been a bit wild. And, listen, dear, you may have your feelings about the way Dawson made his money and I'm not saying you wouldn't be right. But, my dear, there's many a thing Dawson did—hard and cruel things, you understand, dear—that Rick never knew of. The love of money's not in him any more than it's in me; and he has done many a kind thing."

I was able to return the poor soul's kiss because I liked her, and always shall, and was sorry for her.

Indeed, I wanted new friends, for the old were angry with me or held aloof from me.

When my engagement was announced my godmother had come in hot haste from her cousin's dying bed, which now she hardly left, to remonstrate with my grandfather and grandmother. She had urged and pleaded with them, had done all she could, seeing that she was, as she said to me, desperately sorry for them, and had finally left them in a coldness.

"You poor child!" she said to me when I met her in the avenue, she driving her fast mare in the smart dog-cart which was her favourite equipage, I on foot. She jumped down and held the reins over her arm while she talked. "What a face for a bride! Why, Bawn, you are older by ten years than the child I used to know. They are mad, mad, poor dear souls, to let Garret Dawson frighten them; and I am helpless, because they will tell me nothing. Couldn't you stand out, Bawn?"

I shook my head.

"If only Theobald were here!" she said, in a helpless passion. "If only Theobald were here! To think that they should rob him of his sweetheart because they are caught in Dawson's spider's web. Their own grandchild! It seems unnatural. And you two lovers from your cradles!"

I don't know what impelled me to tell her the truth, but the words came to my lips and I spoke them.

"I never loved Theobald and he never loved me," I said. "They have not that at their doors. I should not have married Theobald."

"Why, God bless me, child!" she said, staring at me. "You will be telling me next that you are in love with Richard Dawson. But I shall not believe it, not with that face."

She went away with a look of hopeless bewilderment.

I fared less well with Maureen, who was bitterly angry with me and said things to me that I could not have borne if she had been always responsible for what she said.

"A fine husband you'll be getting, Miss Bawn," she said. "There's no accounting for ladies' tastes, and by all accounts there are a good many ladies who are fond of Master Richard. Ask Lady Ardaragh. There isn't much she wouldn't give him, they say. If half the stories are true, there are many that have a better right to him than you, Miss Bawn. And to think you've thrown over my darling boy for Garret Dawson's son!"

I must have looked frightened, for she became suddenly contrite, and, throwing her arms about me, rated herself for the things she had said, saying that she knew I wasn't to blame, and that it was only her love for me and Theobald which made her so bitter.

Then her mood changed; and snatching up my hand with Richard Dawson's ring on it she burst into a harsh laugh.

"What was over him at all," she said, "to give you the like o' that? Didn't he know the green was unlucky? Sure, 'tis unlucky for him it'll be, and you'll never marry him. My dream'll come true, and you'll be saved in time, Miss Bawn. The ill luck is for him, not for you."

Indeed, I found it hard in those days to meet the eyes of the neighbours, gentle and simple, who could not know why I had consented to marry Richard Dawson. I felt that the county buzzed with it, castle and cabin alike, and it made me shrink away from those who had always been kind to me. I was ashamed to go down the village street, for I knew the people would come to their doors and look after me, and say, "Isn't it a wonder for Miss Bawn that she'd marry a Dawson? and the family always so proud, too."

I noticed that none of the people who came to call were effusive in their congratulations except Lady Ardaragh, and she congratulated me with a high colour and an exaggeration of speech which did not ring true.

The Misses Chenevix called one day, and, while Miss Henrietta sat unhappily looking down at her lap, Miss Bride congratulated me in a voice which had no congratulation in it.

"I wish you happiness, Bawn," she said. "Not that I ever think marriage a subject for congratulation, but rather for condolence."

A somewhat dreary sense of the humour of the speech made me answer that I thought I agreed with her, whereupon she snapped me up and said that, to be sure, some people must be married, though she for her part thought the world would get on very well without marriage; but then, of course, she was old-fashioned.

"And if you had to marry, Bawn," she went on, "why didn't you wait for your cousin? The county always expected you to marry your cousin; and, if you must be married, Theobald would have suited you better than Mr. Dawson. You're not the girl I thought you, Bawn."

I wondered what Theobald would think of me. I had left it to my grandparents to explain to Theobald, and his letters to me had gone unanswered now for three weeks or more.

But, after all, it was not Theobald who was my tribunal; it was not from Theobald's judgment I shrank.

It was Anthony Cardew I feared most. When I endured the ignominy of Richard Dawson's kisses, when he would hold me in his arms with his face against mine and I felt that nothing worse could happen to me, I used to keep wondering all the time what Anthony Cardew would think of me when he knew.

The thought made me desperate. I could have slit my nose and chin, defaced myself like St. Ursula and her maidens, so that I should cease to be desirable to Richard Dawson. But there were my grandparents, and the disgrace which I must buy back for them by giving myself.

Then one day, being in great misery, it occurred to me that I would write a letter to Anthony Cardew. I was quite sure that I should be dead before he received it, for I knew I should not live long with Richard Dawson as his wife, if indeed I were not saved before that. I was glad to think that I was growing thin; that I was languid on the least exertion, and had no appetite for my food. I hoped that God would be merciful to me, and that I should just save them and die. And presently Theobald would come home to them and they would be happy.

And so I thought that I would write a letter to Anthony Cardew, so that when I was dead he would understand and be sorry for me. And I sat down and wrote it. For I could not bear that he should think me unworthy and shameful, seeing that I loved him with all my heart and soul.



I made several attempts at the letter, and discarded them all. And at last, lest I should be interrupted and the letter never be written, I wrote in a great hurry.

"Dear Captain Cardew,

"I hope this letter will reach you safely, so that in the days to come you will not misjudge me. You wrote to me that you were giving me up to my cousin. That you could not do, for I loved only you, and did from the hour I first laid eyes on you, and shall for ever. But, loving you, I am going to marry Richard Dawson, the money-lender's son. And I must tell you, lest you should misjudge me, and all women for my sake, that I shall marry him most unwillingly. I do it because Garret Dawson holds a secret of ours which only the sacrifice of myself can buy back. I owe so much to the kind love which has never let me miss the love of father and mother. But I am sure I shall not live long. You should not have gone away and left me.

"Yours always, "BAWN."

When I had written it I did not read it over, lest I should destroy it with the others, but, having found a very strong envelope, I put it within it and sealed it with the impression of my father's ring.

The only way I could hope for it to reach him was by leaving it at his old home, which I knew he loved despite its state of ruin—or perhaps the more because of that—and he was sure to return there some time. So I addressed it to Captain Cardew, Brosna; and then, because I could trust no one but myself to deliver it I stole out of the house.

I was free for a few hours, for my lover was gone to Dublin. He had taken a cottage in the neighbourhood, because he had once heard me express a liking for it. It was a pretty little place, enclosed by high walls which held within them many beauties. It would have been an exquisite place for a pair of happy lovers; and he was making it very fine and dainty for me. It had been unoccupied for some years; and he was having it newly decorated and furnishing it with the prettiest things money could buy. He had said that I was not to see it till it was ready for me; and it occupied as much of his time as he could spare from me. In Dublin he was picking up all manner of pretty things in the way of antique furniture and china and glass and silver and pictures. We were to stay at the cottage a few days after our marriage, before we went abroad; and afterwards it was to be our home till such time as I desired a finer one.

He was so generous that at times I felt ashamed that he should do so much for an unwilling bride; and if I could have felt less aversion for him I would gladly have done so. I used to feel that if I could watch him lavishing everything on another woman—for he squandered his love as well as his money on me—I could have liked and admired him.

The woods were full of the yellow leaves of autumn and the wind sighed mournfully in the bare branches as I went on my way to the postern in the wall. Outside it I turned to the left, and walked for half a mile or so along a grassy road, overhung with trees, till I came to the entrance gates of Brosna.

The lodge was empty, and the gate yielded to a push. There was an air of neglect about everything that was very sad. Part of one of the pillars which supported the entrance gate was down. In the avenue some trees that had fallen last winter lay across the way; no one had troubled to remove them.

I knew there was no one in the house but Captain Cardew's soldier-servant, Terence Murphy, whose old mother lived in Araglin village. I did not want to meet Terence; and I had an idea, having heard of the great extent of Brosna—indeed, it was easy to judge of it from the aspect of the place outside—that I might slip in somewhere and leave my letter without meeting with him.

So, without going near the hall door, I passed through a little iron gate in the wall at one end of the house, which I found led to an overgrown garden.

The grass in the garden was as high as my waist, and here and there a rose tree, standing up above the tangle, showed a pale autumn rose; and little old-fashioned chrysanthemum bushes bore their clusters of tawny and lilac flowers. Beyond, I could see a kitchen garden with the apples in the boughs, and, standing up in the midst of it, a projecting part of the house which, to my amazement, was covered with thatch.

I was reassured at the moment by hearing Terence Murphy's voice shouting at a distance. It must have been at the other side of the house, in the stable-yard, I judged, and I thought I should be able to deliver my letter before he could by any possibility reach where I was.

There was a glass door leading from the thatched room into the garden, and I found that it stood open. I noticed that in front of it the grass plot had been cleared and there were flowers in the borders. Within I found a very pretty and comfortable room arranged with unexpected tidiness. As I looked about me I remembered having heard that Terence always kept a place in readiness for the return of his master. All the rest of the place might be in ruin, but this room was pleasant and home-like.

It had once been a woman's room, I thought, from certain prettinesses, the blue, rose-wreathed carpet on the floor, the ceiling groined under its thatch and painted in blue with a crescent moon and stars in gold, the walls covered with silk set in panels.

But now it was a man's room, with the pleasant litter of a man's belongings. There was a square writing-table in the window, with a wooden chair drawn up in front of it. There were many pipes, old and new, and whips and hunting-crops; and a gun-case standing by the wall and some crossed weapons on the wall. I saw a pair of spurs in one corner, and, flung carelessly on the writing-table, as though the owner might return at any moment, there was a glove.

I took up the glove and kissed it furtively. I wished I might have taken it to comfort me, for a sense of the hand it had held seemed to linger about it. As I stood pressing it to my breast my eye fell on a picture that stood on the writing-table—a picture that was like yet unlike myself. It was a reproduction of the miniature I remembered.

There were other pictures and photographs about—men in uniform, women of many ages, horses and dogs: one of Anthony Cardew himself, which made my heart beat to look at it. I wished I might have taken it also, and had the will to do it but I dared not. Besides, what right had I to such things? Already I was trying to steel myself to destroy the one letter he had written me. I should have no right to it when I was Richard Dawson's wife.

A shout somewhere near at hand alarmed me. I slipped my letter under the glove on the writing-table and fled out precipitately. Only in time, as it proved, for Terence Murphy came round the house chasing a refractory hen, which, as luck would have it, flew through the door I had left open behind me.

"I could have sworn I shut that door," I heard Terence shout at the top of his voice. "Bad luck to ye, ye divil"—to the hen—"God forgive me for swearing. Will nothin' contint ye but the master's own room?"

While he dived within the room I got out through the little gate and back into the avenue, where the briars and undergrowth had made hedges behind which one could easily find cover.

Once in safety I stopped to gaze back at the long front of Brosna, looking so sad. It is one of the white stuccoed houses so common in Ireland in the eighteenth century, although much finer and more magnificent than most. At the roof there was a balustrading, and below were long lines of windows of a uniform oblong shape, each with an architrave above it. The rains of our moist climate had wept upon it and there were long green streaks extending down the walls. I saw now that there was a sunken storey with a sort of area that ran all round the house, so that Brosna, except for its thatched summer-room, was a house of three storeys, not of two, as it appeared at first.

While I looked at it the evening shadows crept down upon it and seemed to enfold it in a greater loneliness. But it was dearer to me than the great houses of the neighbourhood which were comfortable and well kept and inhabited. And I was glad to think of the ordered room, with its grass plot before the window, and the fire set in the grate, ready to be lit when the master should come home.



When I reached home I found that my grandmother had been looking for me, and Neil Doherty told me the reason. Word had come from Castle Clody that Miss Champion's cousin was dead.

"You must go to her, Bawn," said my grandmother, sadly. "We must not leave her alone, and she will not want me. You will spend the night with her?"

Yes, I would do that, although I shrank from the prospect of death like any other sensitive girl. It was not likely I would refuse to go to my dear godmother in her hour of need; and I had an unacknowledged hope that she might keep me with her, perhaps, so that I would be free of my lover for a few days.

When she heard that I had come she came down to me where I was standing by the fire in the morning-room warming my hands, for the first frost of the season had come and the night was cold.

"Ah, good child," she said, "to come so quickly! Everything is done, Bawn, and she is at rest. I shall miss her dreadfully. I don't know what I shall do with my empty hands. I am too old to begin to love again."

Every one knew that Miss Joan had been querulous and bitter with her, and it made me love and reverence her more than ever to hear the way she spoke.

"Sit down, Bawn," she said, "sit down. You are going to stay with me, kind child. I shall have the little room off my own prepared for you; and we shall have our dinner here. It will be more cheerful than in the dining-room."

I could not help noticing that though her eyes showed traces of much weeping she yet wore a singularly tranquil and even radiant look, as though good news had come to her. Indeed, the whole atmosphere of the house seemed strangely peaceful.

A servant came in to set the table, and we went upstairs to the little room within her own room where I was to sleep. A bright fire already blazed in the grate, and Louise was busy putting out my things. The room looked so cheerful with its chintz—a green trellis hung with roses on a white ground—that one could not be gloomy and fearful in it, even if I did not know that my dear godmother would leave the door between our rooms open at night and would wake if I but stirred.

Louise helped me to put on the one black gown I possessed, which, as it happened, was patterned with roses, a crepe de Chine fichu about the neck, and I asked Louise to take it off and find me something more becoming; but my godmother would have it so, saying that poor Joan would not grudge me a few roses, having herself found the roses of Paradise.

That quiet radiancy of my godmother seemed to diffuse itself over everything. I know I felt happier than I had felt for a long time, and I tried to put all the trouble, and the thought that I was to marry Richard Dawson the week before Christmas, out of my mind.

Everything about the dinner-table was so pretty. I could not help feeling that my godmother had told them it was to be so; and the wax candles shone on the scarlet berries and russet and orange and crimson leaves, on the delicate napery and glass and silver; and the fire leaped and sparkled in the grate. I had a feeling that I and my godmother were shut in together from the world's trouble, although it waited for us outside the gate.

After dinner we sat by the fire and talked in a low voice, and I could not help commenting on the new serene happiness of my godmother's face. I had always thought it a cheerful face before, although the face of one who had suffered; but now I wondered that I had thought it anything but sad.

"You look happy!" I said.

"And I am happy, Bawn, although I shall miss Joan. But she is at rest with God, and before she died she told me something which set my heart at rest."

"Ah, I am glad of that," I said.

She leant forward and took my hands in hers, making me turn round so as to face her.

"Bawn," she said, "there is nothing worth having in the world but love, nothing but love, nothing but love. I tell it to you, although some people would think that love had wrecked my life. But I have loved greatly, and I have been loved greatly, and I would not change places with any of your wives and mothers of families."

"Yes, I know," I said.

"And if you do, Bawn, why don't you save yourself from this marriage? The money doesn't tempt you, nor Richard Dawson's coarse comeliness. Why don't you save yourself, child?"

I shook my head helplessly.

"If it were anything in which money could help I would sell all I have rather than see you marry without love."

"Money has nothing to do with it. And—it is too late to do anything."

"It would never be too late so long as you were not his wife. They are deceived. Luke L'Estrange was the truest and most candid soul alive. Yet what a web of lies has grown up about him. Shall I tell you, Bawn, what Joan told me before she died?"

"If it eases you."

"I have to share it with some one, and I can trust you not to think hardly of my poor Joan."

I wondered what was coming, but I had not long to wait. My godmother looked at me again, straight into my eyes, as though she would see to the depths of my soul.

"I have forgiven her, poor dear soul, with all my heart," she said. "If I thought you could judge her hardly I would not tell you; but I think you will not judge her hardly. You see, she loved Luke. He had a way with women. She was always delicate and sickly, and he was sorry for her. He used to sit by her and talk to her. She loved him and she thought that he loved her, or would love her if I were out of the way. I had everything, she thought—health and wealth and the world before me, and Luke's love. She thought it unfair that I should have so much. No wonder she wanted Luke for herself."

Again her eyes looked into mine, asking a question. Whatever she saw satisfied her, for she went on again with dreamy tenderness—

"I see you can pity her, Bawn. Child, how do you know it if you never loved? He came to this house when he was flying from justice, as he thought, expecting to find me and found her instead. He gave her such messages for me as might make any woman proud. He would release me, but he knew I was too great-hearted to accept the release; he had killed Jasper Tuite in the struggle when he tried to save Irene Cardew from him. He had seen Jasper Tuite strike poor Irene when he was trying to drag her from her carriage to ride with him on his horse. She was screaming, poor girl, and Jasper Tuite struck her on the mouth. And what would my Luke do save spring on to Jasper Tuite and close with him? And Jasper Tuite would have shot him if Luke had not fired in self-defence. No jury would have convicted Luke, for Jasper Tuite died from heart-failure, not from the flesh-wound of Luke's pistol. But if I had only been here when he stole here under cover of the darkness I would have made him hold his ground."

"And he saw Miss Standish instead?"

"Yes, he saw Joan. And she kept his messages all these years. There was more than that. I was to send him a message to where he was in hiding, waiting for a passage to America. I sent him none, but Joan sent him one instead. She was jealous, terribly jealous, or she could not have done it, poor girl. She sent him word that he was not to return, that Jasper Tuite was dead of his wound. Also she sent him word from me that I wanted no more of him. How could he have believed it? Well, the remorse of it has gone far to kill her. If she was ever trying, it was because she had to take benefits from the woman she had wronged. Poor unhappy Joan! She died in great love and peace with me."

Fortunately, this time she did not look me in the eyes. Such magnanimity was beyond me.

"It is very sweet to know," she went on dreamily, "that poor Luke came to me in his need. He knew he could trust my love. But he ought to have known me better than to believe I could send that message. He ought to have known me better."

"Yes," I said, "he ought to have known you better."



It was while I was still at Castle Clody that a message came to me one morning saying that some one desired to speak with me; and when I went out into the hall I found it was Nora Brady. She had a little crimson shawl over her head, and as she lifted her eyes to me her beauty came to me like a new thing. There was dry snow in the wind, and a few flakes of it showed on her dark curls, which lay ring on ring under the shawl. Her face was round and soft as a child's, and the innocence of her blue, black-lashed eyes as she lifted them to me was as unsullied as though she were three years old. She had lost her pretty colour, but the gentleness which made her beauty appealing was, if possible, greater than of old.

"You wanted to speak to me, Nora," I said.

I know I turned red and pale when her eyes met mine; for the moment all social differences and distinctions ceased to be. I was going to marry the man Nora loved, the man I loathed. I had a feeling that it was an intolerable wrong.

"If you please, Miss Bawn," she said.

The servants were passing up and down the staircase. I did not want any witnesses to our interview, nor any eavesdroppers.

"Come in here, Nora," I said, opening the door of the morning-room which I usually had to myself for an hour or so after breakfast. "And how is the child? Better, I hope."

"Little Katty is quite well again, Miss Bawn, and I've come to tell you, please Miss Bawn, that I'd rather not come back. 'Tisn't that I'm ungrateful, Miss. No young lady could be kinder and better than you. But my uncle is going to marry again, and if you please, Miss Bawn, I think I should like to go to America."

"Don't go to America, Nora," I said; "it's a terrible place. I'll look after you. I'll speak to Miss Champion, and we'll see what we can do. Miss Champion has so many friends. She'll easily get you another place, away from this, in Dublin."

Suddenly the large tears filled Nora's eyes and trickled down her cheeks. She wept in rivers as a child does, and as painlessly.

"Don't ask me to stay, Miss Bawn," she said brokenly. "I want to put the ocean between me and him. I've done my best to pull him up out of my heart, and I've prayed my best, but I go on caring for him still. I'd better be away, Miss Bawn."

"Very well, Nora," I said, in a miserable perplexity. If she cared for Richard Dawson so much it was she who ought to marry him, peasant girl as she was. It was a shame that I should step into her place, loathing it. "Very well," I said. "I will do what I can to help you. When do you go, Nora?"

"Not till after Christmas, Miss. There won't be any emigration till the worst of the winter storms are over. Thank you kindly, Miss Bawn, but I don't think there's anything you can do for me. The nuns'll find me an employment while I stay. You're not vexed with me for leaving, Miss Bawn?"

"No, Nora, I quite understand," I said. And then on an impulse I kissed her.

I knew she was fond of me, almost as fond as my old dog; and she did not hate me, although I was going to marry the man she loved. She flushed when I kissed her, and the tears came again to her eyes.

"You are very good to me, Miss Bawn," she said. "Not many ladies would be so good to a poor girl. I hope you'll be happy, Miss Bawn. And I hope you'll make him happy. Don't believe anything the people say about him. He has a good heart, like his mother. He's been good to me. Sure, if he wasn't strong for the two of us, I'd have had no stren'th at all, though I promised you, Miss Bawn. Many a day when I sat by little Katty, and the other children were at school and the place quiet I thought I'd have to run out of it to him. Maybe I'd have done it too, only I knew it was no use, because you had his heart."

She went a little way towards the door. Then she came back again.

"I wouldn't be goin' too much to Araglin, Miss Bawn, if I was you," she said. "There's a deal of sickness there. You wouldn't know what it might be going to be."

Somehow this thought of hers for me touched me more than anything else.

"I'll keep away, Nora," I said, "unless it might be that I ought to go. We weren't afraid of the famine fever in the old times. If there were to be such a thing again we might have to do what we did then."

"Ye died with the people then," she said, pausing with her hand on the door-handle. "But sure, why would there be the fever? Isn't there as fine a crop as ever was seen of potatoes? And Master Richard wouldn't let you put a hair of your head in danger. I'm not sayin' there's anything in the sickness. It's a sick time o' year. But if there was anything you should keep away, Miss Bawn. There's lots to do it without you. You're not looking too well now. Master Richard should be uneasy for you."

I spoke to my godmother about Nora later in the day, keeping back her secret, but only telling her that there were reasons which made her feel she must go. She knew the girl, was interested in her, and as it happened, one of her many friends had written to her that she wanted a young maid to be with two little girls. The situation was in England. Perhaps Nora would be satisfied if the Irish Sea lay between her and Richard Dawson.

I was returning home in the afternoon of the next day. My lover was restive over the loss of so much of my society. But the morning was bright and cheerful, and I thought I would walk over to Araglin and lay the matter before Nora.

It was a most delightful autumn day. There had been a hoar-frost in the night and the dead leaves and twigs had a tracery of silver and crackled under one's foot as one walked. It was a day for exhilaration if one were happy, and, despite the load of care which hung heavy upon me, I found myself walking less languidly than I had done of late. The boughs were now all bare; and where one had only seen leaves one saw a network of trees and branches against a blue sky, and beyond the trees the Purple Hill, which is hidden from one on our tree-hung road so long as the trees are in leaf. The little robins sang cheerfully in many trees, and the air was so still that a beech-nut falling from the tree made quite a great noise.

As I came down the hilly road to where the village smoked in its hollow, I had an idea that a stillness lay upon it like the blue mists of autumn that were over all the countryside. Araglin is usually the noisiest of villages—cocks crowing, hens cackling, dogs barking, children shouting at their play. But this morning it was silent.

Nora's uncle's house lay almost outside the village, quite at its beginning. I thought I should find her there alone, but, as it happened, when I was close to it, she came out carrying a pail, evidently on her way to fetch water from a stream which flowed by the roadside and here and there widened into a little well.

She was close to me before she saw me. When she did at last catch sight of me I was amazed at the swift change in the expression of her face. It had been moody enough when I had had time to observe it in repose. Now something of fear, of horror, leaped into it.

"Go back at once, Miss Bawn, for God's sake!" she cried. "Go back, and don't be coming near me. There's small-pox in the village and I've been in and out with them. Half the village is sickening for it; the doctor's distracted. He's sent word up to Dublin to send nurses and doctors. Thank God, I was able to turn you back. Go home, Miss Bawn, and come here no more."

"And what are you going to do, Nora?" I asked.

"Is it me, Miss Bawn? Sure, I'll stay where I am. I've been in and out with them; and if I'm to get it, I'll get it. Ask some one to take the children away. Then I'll be able to help with the nursing. Maybe 'tis what God meant for me."

We stood and looked at each other across the space. Why, it was what I had desired, that my face should be marred, so that Richard Dawson would turn away from me in disgust. For a moment I had an impulse to cross the line she had set for me, to go as she had gone into infected places. Perhaps she read the thought in my face, for she cried out to me to go away, to remember those who depended on me for happiness and go. She wrung her hands when I did not go.

"Go away, for God's sake," she cried again, "and don't have the face he cares about destroyed with the small-pox! See now, Miss Bawn, darling, what would his Lordship and her Ladyship do without you?"

But while she coaxed me with their names I could see that she dreaded the small-pox for me lest my face should be spoilt for Richard Dawson, and I thought it one of the greatest things I had known in the heart of a woman.



I remember the weeks after that like a bad dream. The small-pox had spread from Araglin to other villages and to the isolated cabins. No one knew where it had come from, or where it would go next, for it spread like wildfire. And the doctors and nurses had come down from Dublin in a cheerful little band and were fighting it heroically. For some weeks there were only new outbreaks to tell of. For some weeks there were panic and terror everywhere.

My lover wanted to marry me and carry me away out of the danger; but that I would not hear of. It was enough that to please him I must shut myself away in a selfish isolation. If I had been a free woman I would have insisted on going, as my godmother had gone, while yet the help was wanted. During those weeks I was cut off from the comfort of her presence, for even when she was no longer needed she was in quarantine lest she should have taken the infection.

I will say that the Dawsons gave generously of their money for the aid of the people.

When we knew first of the outbreak and heard that Mary Champion was in the thick of it, my lover was moody and silent for a while even when he was with me.

I remember once that he kicked at a coal which had fallen from the fire and lay on the hearth, and he frowned heavily.

"I ought to have been there, Bawn," he said, "and it isn't that I was afraid. Good Lord! I should think not. You would like me just as well with my beauty spoilt in such a cause. But it is that you make a coward of me, little girl. When I think that anything might happen now to prevent our marriage it makes me sweat with fear. Else I would have risked my life over and over again, and not have cared two straws about it."

"I know you are brave," I said, at which he looked pleased and said that it was the first kind word I had given him.

In these days he did not force his caresses upon me as much as he did at first, but used to call me his little nun, and say in his usual boastful way that he would make me in time eager for that from which I turned away now. Every day as our marriage came nearer I dreaded it more, and felt as if I must run away to the ends of the earth rather than endure it; but when I looked at my grandfather's face I knew there was no help for me.

The marriage was fixed for the 20th of December, and I could see that he was nearly as impatient for it as my bridegroom. I could see that on this side of my wedding-day there lay for him the chance that the disgrace might come at any moment. On the other side was peace and safety.

The fear of the secret the Dawsons held possessed him so much that he had no thought for me, as he had had none for Theobald while he still believed that there was some sort of engagement between Theobald and me.

I confessed I had dreaded what Theobald would think of my marriage, not knowing the reason of it. But my anxieties on that score were set at rest, for, as soon as possible after he had heard of the engagement, he wrote a most affectionate letter to me. I could read in its effusiveness that he was so relieved to know of my marriage that he was not disposed to be critical over my bridegroom. He sent me a present of a rug of leopard skins and some fine pieces of wrought silver work, and in a postscript he mentioned that there was some one he wanted us to welcome presently, a Miss Travers, a beauty—young, good, gifted, an heiress.

"She would be the same to me," he added in his round, schoolboy handwriting, "if she hadn't a penny; but I am glad for the sake of Aghadoe that she has money. Dear Bawn, I adore her."

I had guessed it all the time, and remembered that he had mentioned Miss Travers before, and that the manner of it was significant. Dear Theobald, it was easy enough to see through his simple guile!

My grandparents, having ascertained that Miss Travers was a quite unexceptional person, had an access of cheerfulness. I could see that once I was married and the paper in their hands, whatever it was, they would begin to look forward to Theobald's return and his marriage. There would be great days at Aghadoe yet; but I should not be there to see them.

When I came to be measured for my wedding-dress my grandmother discovered how thin I had become.

"You will be all right," she said, "when Richard carries you away from this sad and troubled country to the south and to the sun."

Long before this my lover had taken the alarm and fretted over me with anxious tenderness, saying that they had not known how to take care of me, and that once I was his I should be taken care of as no other woman ever was before.

Fortunately for him he was much at the Cottage in those days, superintending the last arrangements, else I think, ardent as he was, he could hardly have borne with me, for I was alternately listless and bitter, so that I have seen my dear old grandmother look at me in sad wonder; and that always reduced me to repentance.

As the time of my marriage came nearer I felt the ignominy the more. I used to think that the very portraits on the walls looked at me askance because I was going to marry the usurer's son. I was sure the old servants were not the same, any more than the old friends; but, oddly enough, Maureen had forgiven me, had held me to her breast and cried over me. I felt that she knew the marriage would kill me, she only of them all. Every night now the ghosts cried as they had cried when I was a child, when Uncle Luke went away.

It might have been a week from my wedding-day when there lay one morning beside my plate a letter, the handwriting on which made my heart leap up.

Fortunately I was first at the table and I was able to hide the letter. I could not have read it under the eyes of my grandparents, and they must have noticed if I had taken it away unopened, because I had so few correspondents, apart from the wedding-presents and congratulations.

I had barely hidden it when my grandparents took their places, and Neil Doherty set the big Crown Derby teapot before my grandmother and then went round and removed the cover of the silver dish that was in front of my grandfather. I believe the three of us between us did not eat the food of one healthy appetite in those days; but the things appeared all the same, and hot dishes were flanked by cold meats on the side-board as though we had the appetites of hunters.

I heard Neil say as he stood by my grandfather that, glory be to God, the sickness was disappearing, that there hadn't been a new case in Araglin village for more than a fortnight, and the doctors thought that the worst was over. Our servants were on the usual terms of Irish servants with their employers—that is to say, they treated us with a respectful familiarity; and now that owing to the sickness there was little visiting we had to depend upon Neil mostly for our news.

"It will not be the same at Miss Bawn's wedding, Neil," I heard my grandfather say, "as though there had not been the sickness. When I married her Ladyship the whole county came to see it."

"True for you," said Neil. "There's many a one under the sod that looked to dance at Miss Bawn's wedding, and there's many another that their own mothers won't know when they see them."

"The great thing is," said my grandmother, "that the sickness is coming to an end. Please God, we can lift up our hearts towards the New Year."

"And thank God for that," said my grandfather; and I felt that it was not only for cessation of the sickness he gave thanks.

There were, indeed, many new graves, and many, too, whose living or dying yet hung in the balance; and if I had been a happy woman I would have felt it ominous to be married at such a time. But as it was, nothing mattered.

"You are sure Nora Brady has not taken the sickness, Neil?" I asked.

"No, Miss Bawn; she's safe so far. To be sure, she might be inkybatin' it"—Neil, like all our people, loves a long word—"and she'll have to put up a month's quarentine when the last o' the sickness is over. I hear she's been everywhere it was."

After breakfast I escaped to the summer-house in the shrubbery with my letter. The first snow lay on the ground and was white on the dark, shining leaves of the laurels and laurestinus, but my hands trembled and burned as I opened the letter. Why did he write to me now when I had become used to my misery? As the sheet rustled in my hands I felt such a longing and a desire for him that if he called me across the world I must go.



"My dear," the letter began, "I have your letter. Most happily my rascal, Terence, forwarded it; most happily, and by the grace of God, as I think, I thought to leave him the name of a halting-place where I might pick up letters, yet I expected none. What a dullard I was, Bawn, not to have known! I compared my years and sorrows and my white hairs with your youth and beauty, and I thought you must love that golden lad, your cousin. Heart's delight, it will take all the years that are left to me to tell you my gratitude. There will be no sacrifice, child, and I do certainly believe there is no secret that Lord and Lady St. Leger need fear. I should come to you on the wings of the wind if there was not a reason that I must stay a little while, and if it were not that some one is hurrying to Aghadoe whom I can trust to tear the web of lies to pieces. He will come in time, and I shall not long delay to follow. And you are mine and I am yours for ever and ever.

"Your devoted "Anthony Cardew."

The letter at once delighted and bewildered me. For a while I gave myself up to the delight, kissing it and crying over it like a mad creature. Then I came back to the cold light of facts. Just four days now to elapse before my wedding-day. What could happen in those four days to save me? Anthony's messenger, nay, Anthony himself, could do nothing. There was always my grandfather's face of suspense, by which I knew he counted the hours, always my grandmother's piteous air of asking for forgiveness. Not even Anthony Cardew could absolve me from what they bound me to.

I tried to be sorry for having written him that letter. Nothing, indeed, had been farther from my thoughts than that it should be forwarded to him. He wrote from Assumption, an island in the South Seas. If he was by my side he could hardly save me, unless he could prove that Uncle Luke was innocent of the things Garret Dawson attributed to him and could prove it to the world. And how could he do that?

I had never asked what the secret was, feeling that it must be something very terrible indeed when my grandfather would not tell it to Miss Champion. I never meant to ask. Let the proof of it be given up and forgotten. There was even a certain dreary pleasure in feeling that I was going to save the Lord and Lady St. Leger from that disgrace. It was not right the old should suffer and be afraid.

At last I put the letter inside my bodice and returned to the house. I got upstairs unobserved and put it away in the tall, spindle-legged Sheraton desk which has held all my girlish treasures. I was going to destroy the two letters from Anthony Cardew presently. Then the old life would be done with indeed.

"Bless me, child," said my grandmother, coming in on me as I closed the desk, "what a colour you have! I have not seen you look so well this many a day. What have you been doing to yourself?"

"Not rouging, Gran, I assure you," I said lightly. "I have been out in the frosty air and it has made my cheeks tingle."

"Your wedding-dress has come home," she said, "and Richard is here. He wants to see you in it, Bawn."

I remembered the superstition and wondered that she should have suggested such a thing. If I had been going to marry Anthony Cardew I should have refused, but since I was going to marry Richard Dawson I was not fearful of omens.

"Very well," I said; "I shall put it on and come downstairs."

I had a young maid from Dublin, newly come to me, and she had not our superstitions, or she was too respectful to oppose her will to mine. Anyhow, she dressed me in my wedding-dress, the fine thing of white silk, veiled with my grandmother's old Limerick lace and hung with pearls. She had dressed my hair high, quickly and deftly, and when I had on my wedding-dress she threw my wedding-veil over my head and fastened it with the diamond stars which were among my lover's gifts to me. When she had dressed me she wheeled the long mirror in front of me that I might look at myself.

I was not the same girl to look on that I had been. There was a bright colour in my cheeks and my eyes were bright; but I had a swimming in my head and I felt hot and cold by turns. I saw that I was splendid, for Margaret had put on me as many as she could of the jewels with which my lover loaded me, which used to lie about so carelessly that my grandmother had rebuked me saying I should be robbed of them one of these days. I hated them as though they had been my purchase-money; and I had scandalized Margaret only the night before by letting my necklace of emeralds and diamonds fall to the floor and lie there.

As I went down the stairs I met one or two of the servants, who drew to one side to let me pass and lifted their hands in admiration. Margaret walked behind me, being fearful, I think, that in my present mood I might let the long train sweep the stairs and corridors instead of carrying it demurely over my arm.

I paused for a moment outside the drawing-room door which stood ajar, and I could hear my lover's deep voice within. Margaret let down my train for me and I went in, up the long drawing-room to where my grandmother sat in her easy-chair by the fire and Richard Dawson stood on the hearthrug with his back to it.

As I came up the room I felt again the swimming of my head and things swayed about me for an instant. Then I recovered myself.

Between the painted panels of the drawing-room at Aghadoe there are long mirrors, in the taste of the time which could imagine nothing so decorative as a mirror. In every one of them I saw myself repeated, a slight, white figure scintillating with gems.

I had thrown back my veil and I saw the proud delight in my lover's face. He advanced a step or two to meet me and I heard my grandmother say—

"What a colour you have, child, and how bright your eyes are!"

He took up my hands and lifted them to his lips. Then he cried out, and I heard his voice as though it was at a great distance.

"She is not well, Lady St. Leger," he said, and there was a sharp note of anxiety in his tone. "Her hands were icy cold and now they are hot."

At the same moment some one came into the room and to my side. It was Maureen, and I saw that she was very angry.

"I didn't believe it when that fool of a Katty told me," she said. "Whoever heard of luck comin' to a bride who wore her wedding-dress before the day? It only needs now for Miss Bawn to go runnin' back for something after she leaves the house a bride. Sure, isn't there misfortune enough without bringin' it on us? Come along with me, my darlin' lamb, and let me get it off you. 'Tis in a fever you are this minute."

Then suddenly I lost consciousness of everything, and would have fallen on the floor in a faint if my lover had not caught me in his arms.

The next thing I knew was that the window-panes were showing themselves as lighted squares in a grey, misty world, and I could hear that somebody was speaking and what was said, even before I was awake.

"I've seen it comin' this long time," said a bitter, querulous voice that was Maureen's. "She'll go through with it, but it'll be the death of her, my darling jewel. If she's married before Master Luke comes, then he'll come too late, after all."

"Haven't I suffered enough, Maureen?" my grandmother asked pitifully—"having lost my one boy, and now to see this child slipping away from me! And there's a change in Lord St. Leger; there is, indeed, Maureen. Am I to lose them all, all?"

"Whisht, honey, whisht!" Maureen said, with sudden relenting in her voice. "God's good. Sure, He wouldn't be so hard on you as to take his Lordship, not at least till Master Luke comes home."

"And that will never be," my grandmother went on. "I've given up hope, Maureen. Luke is dead and gone, and my husband is slipping out of life, and this child is breaking her heart."

And then I opened my eyes, and they saw I was awake.



I had frightened them all by my fainting-fit, but after all it was nothing. The doctor who had been fetched hastily by my frightened lover reassured them.

"Did you think she was sickening for the small-pox?" he asked, looking from one face to the other with bright intelligence. He was a young doctor not long settled in our neighbourhood, and we used to say among ourselves that he was too clever to stay long with us. "Well, then, she isn't doing anything of the sort. I expect she's been taking the troubles too much to heart. A bit run down and nervous. The honeymoon journey will be the best prescription for that. I should like to see more flesh on her bones."

He patted my hand as he spoke; and I could see the relief in the faces about me. In those days any feverish attack suggested the small-pox.

"Dr. Molyneux should see grandpapa," I said. "Grandpapa is not well."

"You've seen it, Bawn?" my grandmother said. "I thought no one saw it but myself. But it is no use. He refuses to see a doctor. He says he will be all right in a few days."

I knew she had pulled herself up on the point of saying, "after your wedding."

Dr. Molyneux smiled humorously.

"Sure, the world's divided into two classes," he said—"the people who are always wanting to see the doctor, and the people who won't see him at all. Supposing I were to pay my respects to Lord St. Leger—it would be hardly polite to go away without doing it."

"You might be able to judge, perhaps——" began my grandmother.

"Or I might be able to get over his prejudices, Lady St. Leger. He isn't the first that wouldn't see me; and some of them couldn't see enough of me at the end," he said, getting up with that cheery confidence in his face and manner that must have put many a sick man on the road to recovery.

When my grandfather came into the drawing-room before dinner he came and kissed me, and said, "Poor little Bawn!" with an almost excessive tenderness. Afterwards he mentioned that Dr. Molyneux had said that they were not to be anxious about me.

"I didn't think one of the tribe could be so pleasant," he went on. "He is greatly interested in my swords, and knows as much of the history of weapons as I do and more, for he told me where some of them came from about which I was uncertain."

My grandmother told me afterwards with awe that Dr. Molyneux had talked about everything but health, and had had all grandpapa's collection of weapons down from the walls and out of their cases, and had not seemed to look at grandpapa except in the most casual way; but afterwards had startled her by asking, "What's on his mind, Lady St. Leger, when he isn't talking of the swords? Till that is removed I can do little for his body." I saw it was a ray of light to her through the troubles that my grandfather had taken kindly to the doctor, and I was very glad.

The next day was the last but one before my wedding, and at last the Cottage was ready for occupation. So great was my lover's desire to inhabit it that he had already moved his belongings over there from Damerstown and was sleeping there. On the afternoon of that day he came for me to go with him to see and approve of what he had done.

He was so greatly excited about it that he did not notice my reluctance to go, or perhaps he was used to my way with him, which was surely the most grudging that ever lover had to endure.

I rather thought my grandmother might have forbidden it. She had always been so particular about what a girl might not do and had not moved at all with the times in that respect. But of course everything had been altered since Richard Dawson's coming; and she only said to him not to keep me out too late as I was not over-strong.

I had thought we were going to walk, but when we had gone a little way down the avenue I saw drawn up to one side a very smart motor-brougham with a smart chauffeur on the box, and I wondered whose it might be.

"It is for you, darling," my lover replied. "Do you not like it, Bawn? It is a surprise for you."

I wished I could have thanked him better; but nothing gave me any pleasure. He put me in and tucked me up in a warm rug. It was, indeed, a most luxurious carriage, and it went like the wind.

"You give me too much," I said for the thousandth time.

"And you give me too little," he answered. "I suppose you think that is how to keep me. But I should love you just as much—I could not love you more—if you would be warmer to me."

As we went along at a speed which made the familiar roads oddly strange, all the landmarks being slurred by the speed, I looked from one side of the road to the other.

My mind was full of Anthony Cardew's messenger, the one he was so sure would break the web of lies in pieces. I said to myself that of course he could not come in time and that if he could come it would be useless. Even Anthony himself could have done nothing, since the secret was not one that we could bring into the open. Still, the air seemed full of expectation. We met very few vehicles, very few foot passengers, but at those we did meet I looked eagerly. He had been very sure that his messenger would arrive in time. And while I thrilled to that sense of expectation I felt guilty towards the man at my side, who was so generous a lover. Even now his nearness to me in the carriage that was his gift filled me with repulsion and a forlorn, shameful sense, as though I had been the wife of one man and had been given to another.

The Cottage and its grounds were enclosed within a high wall. There was a little gravel sweep running round in front of the hall door; but we left the carriage outside the green gates. Within, it was the completest thing, and I had delighted in it when old Miss Verschoyle had lived there with a companion and a cat, a dog, and a cageful of canaries. The Cottage was covered by a trellis. There were half a dozen steps to the hall door, and a window at each side. At one side of the little enclosure there was a trellis concealing, as I knew, a range of out-offices. At the other side was a stable and coach-house.

It was growing dusk now, but the Cottage was lit up. Through the unshuttered windows I could see the light of a fire and the glow of a pink-shaded lamp in the room that used to be the drawing-room. The opposite room was also fire-lit and lamp-lit.

The hall door stood wide open, and Sheila, my lover's spaniel, stood wagging her tail in the doorway.

"Your cook is already installed, darling," my lover said in the low voice which I feared in him "I told her to make herself scarce. It was not likely we should want her at such a time."

He took me in his arms and lifted me across the threshold. The little house glowed warmly, and seemed to invite us to a home. How holy, how beautiful, it would have been if the man by my side had been Anthony Cardew instead of Richard Dawson! He still held me in his arms when he had set me down and pressed me to him. I trembled with repulsion and he felt that I trembled, without understanding. He let me go almost roughly.

"Did I frighten you?" he asked, roughly tender. "You shivered, sweetheart. Oh, to think that in three days more we shall come home here never to be parted any more!"

He was eager as a boy. In the little drawing-room a tea-table was set and a silver kettle sang above a spirit-lamp. Everything was ready for tea. There were little silver-covered dishes with spirit-lamps burning under them, and even at such a moment I could not help noticing the beauty of the Worcester cups and saucers, with pansies and tulips and roses and forget-me-nots in tiny bunches on the white.

"Let us see the rest of the house while the kettle is boiling," he said, and caught at my hand to make me go with him. But I dreaded it, this visiting which ought to have been so tender and holy. I said that I wanted some tea, that I was cold.

He put me in a deep chair and kneeling before me he chafed my hands, now and again stopping to kiss them. I was grateful when the kettle suddenly hissed and he stood up and said that for this once he was going to make the tea. So many days and years I should make it for him, sitting opposite to him and making the place where we were together Heaven by my face.

When it was ready he poured it out and brought it to me. He fed me with little pieces of hot teacake and other dainties. I took as long in drinking the tea as possible, but it could not last for ever, and finally he took the cup from me, put it down, and kneeling before me again he put his arms about me.

Something in my being there alone with him, in his growing excitement, suddenly frightened me out of my wits. With a cry I pushed him away from me with both hands.

"Oh, don't!" I said; "don't you see I can't bear it? I hate it. Let me go, please." And I struggled to be free of him.

He looked up at me with a dazed expression.

"But you are going to marry me in three days," he said. "I shall be your husband. What was it you said? That you hated my caresses? You don't mean it, Bawn?"

"I do mean it," I cried, with a frantic repulsion. "I wish you had not brought me here. Please get up and let me go. I tell you I am frightened of you."

He got up and stood a little bit away from me, looking at me in a shocked bewilderment.

"But you are going to marry me?" he said. "And this is to be our home together. And you accepted me of your own free will. Do girls in love behave like this to their lovers?"

"You should not have frightened me," I cried, bursting into tears. "You should not have brought me here. How can you say I accepted you of my own free will when it is killing me? You know that I accepted you because your father holds a disgraceful secret and has frightened the life out of my grandfather and grandmother. I had to do it for them because they were old and it would kill them if the disgrace were published."

It had never entered into my mind that he could be in ignorance of how his father had constrained us, but now it flashed on my amazed mind that he had not known at all.

"Good God!" he said. "Good God!" and stood staring at me with a grey face.

I was frightened then of the mischief I had done, and sorry for him too.

"I thought you knew," I stammered.



I saw in the momentary pause that his dog came up beside him and licked his hand and he did not seem to notice her.

"You thought I knew," he repeated, his colour becoming a dull purple. "You thought I knew. And I thought your shrinking from me was but maiden modesty, and that if you did not love me you were going to love me. Why, when you trembled in my arms as I lifted you through the door I thought it was love; and all the time it was horror and repulsion. What a fool I have been! But, by Heaven—I have been fooled too!"

His expression became so wild and furious that I shrank back in my chair and covered my face with my hands.

"You needn't be afraid of me," he said; "that is all over. Come: there is nothing more to see. You had better go home."

He had regained control over himself, although his features still worked and his eyes were bloodshot. Indeed, he had such a look of suffering that I should have been sorry for him no matter how much I hated him, and now, curiously enough, my hatred seemed to have passed away.

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"Send you home," he replied.

"But you are coming with me?"

"No. I shall not trouble Aghadoe any more by my presence. You will be quite safe with the Chauffeur."

"But what are you going to do?"

"I am not going to cut my throat, if that's what you are afraid of. I am going to—console myself as soon as I can."

I did not dare ask him how. He held his arm to me ceremoniously, and I could not help thinking that he could play the fine gentleman after all. My thoughts were so bewildered that I could not take in yet all that this involved, but seeing that he held his arm to me I took it and went out with him.

The night had come on dark outside. Looking back from the gate, I thought that the little house glowed like a ruby in the darkness.

He put me into the carriage with a careful politeness. As he wrapped the rug about me I had a sudden sense of the finality of it and the trouble that lay before me and the others, and a pity for his disappointment as well that was so poignant as to be almost unbearable.

"Forgive me," I whispered in the darkness. "I would have loved you if I could."

"Was there some one else, Bawn?" he whispered back.

"Yes, there was some one else." I felt he had a right to that truth.

"You ought to have told me," he said. "And you should not have believed that I would win you by blackmail, even though I am Garret Dawson's son."

"I am sorry. Indeed I am sorry."

I clutched at his sleeve as he was stepping out of the carriage.

"What are you going to do?" I asked again.

"Find consolation where I can. There are some ready to offer it, Bawn."

He closed the door, and I heard him telling the chauffeur to drive me to Aghadoe. I put my head out to see the last of him as we drove away, and he was standing in the darkness still looking after me.

My thoughts were in a whirl of confusion. At first I could think of nothing except that Richard Dawson himself had set me free and that his manner showed it was irrevocable. But I could not look beyond that to my Anthony's return, because how was I to tell the old people who looked to me for deliverance that I had failed them? I knew something of Garret Dawson, and that he had never in all his life been known to show mercy. His old granite face with the tight mouth and beetling eyebrows was enough. I quailed in the darkness as a vision of his face rose before me. I had no doubt that, as soon as he knew I was not going to marry his son, he would do his worst. He had been known, people said, to sacrifice business advantages even to obtain revenge.

At the thought of that I stretched out my arms as though I would take the two helpless old heads to my bosom to shelter them from the storm. How was I going to tell them? The carriage went like the wind, and I could hear the clashing of the boughs under which we passed. The stillness of the afternoon had been but the prelude to a storm.

Also the memory of Richard Dawson's face remained with me like a sore. Now that I was free of him and need dread him no more, I remembered that he had been generous and patient, and I was grieved for him. And I was troubled about that consolation which he was on the way to seek. But my own troubles were so imminent and pressing as almost to push that out. How was I going to tell them—at the last hour, too—with my wedding-dress home, and the wedding-breakfast cooking in the big kitchens, with a stir of life we had not had in Aghadoe for many a day?

It was well the journey did not take very long, or I don't know how I should have endured the strain on my nerves.

While my mind was still in confusion the carriage drew up at the front door of the Abbey. I alighted and went up the steps. The hall door stood open, and as I entered Neil Doherty came from the back. I thought he looked pale.

"Miss Bawn," he began; but I could not wait to hear him. I ran up the stairs to the drawing-room. There was no one there. I went back to the library. As I went in my grandmother came to meet me.

"I thought I heard a carriage," she said in a trembling voice. "Did Richard bring you home? What is the matter, Bawn?"

"The matter!" I repeated, "the matter! Why, the matter is that Richard Dawson will have none of me. He knew nothing of his father's bargain. When he found that I had been bought and sold for that he would have none of me. I would have gone through with it, Gran. You must forgive me and ask grandpapa to forgive me."

She stared at me with a pale face. In the pause there was a sound like a heavy sigh; then the falling of a body.

"Bawn, Bawn, what have you done?" she cried, hurrying away from me to the recess by the fireplace. "It is your grandfather. He has fainted once before this afternoon, and the doctor says it is his heart. Oh, my dear, my Toby, you have had too much to bear and it has killed you!"

She was kneeling by my grandfather and had taken his head into her lap. He had struck the fender as he fell, and the blood was flowing from a wound on his head, staining his silver hair.

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