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   Chapter 3 THE CREAMERY

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 8052

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


It was through my godmother that I went to learn the butter-making at the Creamery, and since it was strange that my grandparents should have permitted me to go, I must explain how it was that Miss Champion came to have so much influence with them and over our affairs generally, and who the lady was.

She was our nearest neighbour, at Castle Clody, the beautiful old house which stands on the side of the river Clody, overlooking the falls. She had been an orphan almost from her birth, and had grown up as independent and able to manage her affairs as any man.

She was a great sportswoman even in our country of such, and being exposed to all manner of wind and weathers, her face had come to have a weather-beaten look. She had very beautiful grey eyes and a deal of black, silken hair, and she was unusually tall. Even the weather, when it had roughened and tanned her complexion, had but given her a new charm to my mind, for she looked as wholesome and sweet and out-of-doors as the weather itself. Yet people said she was plain. I could not see it, but then she was too good to me and I loved her.

I remember that usually she wore grey tweed tailor-made gowns, in which her beautiful figure showed to advantage, unless she happened to be riding when she wore a dark grey habit. But I have seen her very splendid when she went out in the evening; and I have never seen a woman better fitted to grace splendid garments.

She had taken to herself at Castle Clody, because it was her nature to foster and protect something, a cousin of hers, a peevish, exacting invalid whom we always called Miss Joan, her name being Joan Standish.

If you spent only ten minutes by Miss Joan's bedside you were sure to hear her grumble at her cousin Mary. Since everything was done for her that could possibly be done for an invalid her lot had great alleviations, but she seemed to take it as an offence that my godmother should be so strong and free, should walk with such a swinging stride, and always enjoy her food, and bring that smell of the open air with her wherever she came.

She had an unpleasant flattering way with her at times.

"Come, my dear," she would say, "sit down and talk to me. I live in so dreary an isolation, and my nerves get into that state that I could scream when a harsh voice falls on my ear. Your voice is soft and sweet, but have you ever noticed Mary's? It is as harsh as a crow's, and when she comes in with those strong boots of hers creaking she destroys my peace of mind for an hour."

"She has a beautiful voice," I answered her once, "and there is such assurance in her tread. I should think it would be more trying to the nerves to live where every one went tiptoe."

But no manner of coldness could check Miss Joan's propensity for belittling her benefactress. And I remember that once she had been tittle-tattling as usual, and had said something more indefensible than usual of her benefactress, when looking up suddenly we found Miss Champion in the room.

"Let the child love me, Joan," she said, with the nearest approach to sharpness I ever heard in her speech; but when Miss Joan burst into tears she stooped and shook up her pillows and soothed her in a way that was tender without being attached, and afterwards she said something to me which was a dark saying since I did not know the secret between her and Miss Joan.

"One must needs be good to anything that has hurt one so much," she said.

I had always known vaguely that there was something between Mary Champion and my Uncle Luke, and that explained to some extent her influence with my grandparents. She brought into their shut-up lives, indeed, the open air and the ways of other folk, without which I think we should have all grown too strange and odd and a century at least behind our time. Indeed, even with her, I think we were so much out of date.

"The child grows more and more like a plant which has lived without the light," she said one day of me to my grandmother.

"It is Bawn's nat

ure to look pale," my grandmother said, looking at me in an alarmed way.

"It is her nature to look pale perhaps," my godmother said, while I fidgeted at hearing myself discussed, "but she ought to look no paler than this apple-blossom I am wearing, which at all events dreams of rose-colour. You keep her too much penned. I shall have to carry her off to Dublin for some gaiety. If the season were not nearly over--"

"We couldn't do without Bawn," said my grandmother hastily. "We are too old to live without something young beside us. Besides, she is very happy-aren't you, Bawn?"

"Very happy." I answered the appeal in her dear voice and eyes. And to be sure I was happy, if it were not for the loneliness and the ghosts at night.

"She is always reading," my godmother went on. "Young girls should not be always reading. It bends their backs and dims their eyes and makes them forget their walks and rides. I'll tell you what, Lady St. Leger, you had better let Bawn come and learn butter-making with me at the Creamery. I am going to take a course of lessons and then I can make my own butter. I think Margaret Dwyer is getting past her work. Joan says the butter is rancid, and for once I believe Joan has cause. Every lady ought to at least superintend her own dairy."

"I used to visit mine often," said my grandmother, "before Lord St. Leger needed so much of my time. It was a pretty place, with white walls and a fountain bubbling. It is a long time since I have visited it."

"Let Bawn do it. I went to visit Lady Ardaragh the other day, and she gave me tea in her dairy. It is coming into fashion to be housekeepers and dairymaids once more."

"Would you like to go to the Creamery, Bawn?" asked my grandmother.

"I should love to," said I. "And to have a herd of little Kerries like Lady Ardaragh. The dairy is as pretty as ever, but it wants washing, and the fountain is broken. I believe Michael Friely could mend it."

My grandfather made no objection when he heard of the plan, only saying something with a laugh about fine ladies liking to play dairymaids. So it was settled I should go to the Creamery; and Bridget Connor made gowns of cotton for me to wear at the Creamery, and white aprons to go with them.

I think my grandmother looked on it as a child's play for my diversion, and she would have Bridget make me as pretty as she could. I dare say I did look as though I played at work, for I caught sight of myself in the Venetian mirror on the wall of my grandmother's boudoir as she turned me round about, her maid, Bridget Connor, who learnt dressmaking in Paris, pinching here and letting loose there.

The walls of my grandmother's boudoir are covered with mother-of-pearl which glows splendidly when the lamps are lit.

I glanced at the Venetian mirror and saw myself like a rose in my rosy frock, with the apron of spotless muslin and the mushroom hat with a wreath of pink roses. My grandmother said something about dairying at the Petit Trianon, but indeed my intentions were of the most business-like.

I remember that it was the month of May, and all the pastures were richest gold and snowiest white, drifts of gold and white. The thorn-trees were all in bloom, and the banks were covered with the white stitchwort and blue speedwell. The birds were in full song, and the mornings and evenings were especially delicious.

I was to attend the Creamery for three months, so as to become proficient in dairymaid work, and then I thought I could do some good among our own people who could not afford to send a girl to the Creamery to learn her business. Or it might be where there was no girl, and the vanithee-that is to say, the good woman-did her work in her own way, not half pressing the water out of the butter, so that it became rancid after a few hours, or letting the cream become rancid before she churned it. I had hopes that I could persuade even the most obstinate of them to mend their ways; and that perhaps was an indication of my youth.

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