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   Chapter 6 ONE SIDE OF A STORY

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7861

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


"Tell me now, Maureen," I said, "since you have told me so much. It was Sir Jasper Tuite, was it not, that waylaid Miss Cardew on her way from Kilmany Church, and was killed in the struggle? And what had Uncle Luke to do with it?"

"Ah, that is what only he himself could tell. For the poor young lady, who was never over-strong, went clean out of her wits afterwards: and to be sure Sir Jasper Tuite was dead and cold when they found him. The horses that drew the carriage had taken flight and galloped off home with Miss Cardew, and her cowardly coachman had run away and never came back till the whole thing was over. Miss Cardew, poor thing, never could tell what happened, rightly. And Sir Jasper, if he was dead, he hadn't died of the pistol-shot, but of an old trouble of the heart. The bullet was in the fleshy part of his shoulder, and the doctors would have got it out as easy as possible. And, sure, if he'd lived he'd have been sent to prison. It used to be life for runnin' away with a lady against her will in the old days. Master Luke's pistol was found just as he'd thrown it down, and his name on it. He must have thought he'd killed Sir Jasper. Small wrong, some people say, if he had, for Sir Jasper was bad as many a poor girl knew to her cost."

"Uncle Luke should not have gone away," I said.

"Well, you see, dearie, he thought it the kindest thing to do. And then-there were stories. I never believed them myself. People asked how it was that Master Luke came to be armed. There was reason enough, for the country was disturbed at the time."

"Stories," I repeated after her-"what stories?"

"Why, there were some bad enough to say that it was Master Luke was tryin' to abduct the lady, and that it was Sir Jasper was hinderin' him. I couldn't believe it myself. He cared for none but Miss Mary, although she'd been hard to him. And Miss Irene Cardew would have gone with Master Luke willin' enough. A pretty delicate little lady she was, and 'ud jump if she caught sight of her own shadow. Sure, Master Luke could have nothing but pity for her."

"There seem to have been a great many stories," I said.

"Aye, indeed, so there were, my jewel. There isn't two you'd meet in the county this minute 'ud hold the same opinion about it. Not but that any way the country people are on the side of Master Luke."

I was silent for a few minutes, stroking Dido's silky head, letting her rippled ears fall through my fingers. Her dim eyes were fixed on me with a terrible wistfulness, as though she longed to speak and could not. I felt a great pity for the old dog. What a sad lot is theirs, depending on our presence as they do for the light in their sky, to whom our slightest absence is the absence of death.

"Was nothing ever heard of him?" I asked after that silence.

"Nothing. Some said that he got on board a hooker and was carried to Liverpool and got off to America. Others said the same hooker-she was a stranger in these parts-was swept out to sea and, in the big storm that broke that very week, foundered."

"It is most likely," said I, "for if he were living he would never have left them in suspense all these years."

"There, you're wrong, Miss Bawn. Master Luke is not dead."

Dido stirred uneasily and whimpered.

"He's not dead, Miss Bawn, for if he was dead the banshee would have cried. And the dead coach would have driven up with a rattle and stopped at our door. It never has, Miss Bawn. What you've heard has never stopped at our doors. To hear wheels in the distance is nothing. As for the cryin' in the shrubbery, that is another story. Some day I may tell it to you, child."

"You have not told me yet," I said, "why you blame my godmother."

I had it in my mind that Lord and Lady St. Leger did not blame her, so there could be nothing to blame. It was some stupid and ignorant prejudice of old Maureen's. I knew she had fostered my Uncle Luke, and th

at she loved him, as the foster-mother does, with an unreasoning and jealous passion.

Her old lips met tightly.

"Ask Miss Mary herself about that, Miss Bawn," she said. "No one can say that I am one to talk. After all those years, it would be a pity to spoil all the tellin' for Miss Mary."

She sat smiling to herself, a bitter and mocking smile, when she had finished the sentence. I knew Maureen better than to try to win talk from her when she had once made up her mind to silence, so I let her be, only changing the conversation to another subject.

"What will it be like, Maureen, when I am gone?" I asked.

"It will be lonely, Miss Bawn," she answered; and then, as I had expected, she added, with a little sourness, "Not that you are a patch on Master Luke and Miss Eleanor and your own mother for cheerfulness in the house. Och, the days I could tell of when there was the fine company-keepin', and the divarsion, and the carriages of the quality drivin' up to the doors, and the music and the dancin'! Them were the days that were worth havin', an' not these days when every one is old-every one but yourself, Miss Bawn; and you're that quiet that I wouldn't know you were in the house. Och, the good days! the good days!"

"They were good when Theobald was here," I said. "He made enough noise, Maureen; didn't he? You used to scold then because he made so much."

"I always thought more of a boy than a girl," she answered. "You're bonny enough, Miss Bawn, but you're not to be compared with Master Theobald, let alone them I nursed at my breast-Master Luke and your mother and your Aunt Eleanor."

"Mary Cashel thinks the world of me," I said, with enjoyment. Mary Cashel is my foster-mother, and lives at the head of the Glen.

"She's a poor, foolish, talkative creature," Maureen said. "If her Ladyship had listened to me she'd never have had Mary Cashel in the house."

Just then the setting sun glinted on the windows of Brosna, the great house that neighbours ours, which belongs to the Cardews, and has been empty, as its owner, Anthony Cardew, has been away from it many years. The sun was going down in a great glory, and window after window in the long house-front took fire and flamed like a torch.

"You would think," said I, "that they were lighting fires over there against Captain Cardew's return."

Maureen rose from her place and peered curiously in the direction of my gaze.

"I wonder he doesn't be selling it," she said, "and not be letting it go to rack and ruin and him never comin' home. 'Tis an unlucky country so it is where the houses of the gentry must be all stannin' empty or tumblin' to ruins, or bein' turned into asylums or the like."

"I should like to see the inside of Brosna," I said. "Is it as fine as they say?"

"It is the finest house in this country, Miss Bawn-finer even than the Abbey. But all goin' to rack and ruin for want of an owner to look after it. But as for seein' it, I wouldn't be talkin' about such a thing. It is a long time since his Lordship and her Ladyship could bear to hear the name of Cardew."

"I have heard you say, Maureen," I went on, "that Anthony Cardew was the handsomest young man ever seen in this country, that he had a leg and foot as elegant even as Uncle Luke's, and that to see him dance was the finest sight you could wish for, and that all the ladies were in love with him."

"I never put him before Master Luke. No, no, Miss Bawn, I never put him before my own boy. There, don't be talkin' about the Cardews, child. What are they to you?"

I got up and went out; and while my thoughts were busy with my visit to Dublin there would flash through them like warp and woof the thought of Anthony Cardew, who had gone away before I was born and of whom so many romantic stories were told. I felt that I must hear some of them, even though the name of Cardew was not to be mentioned in our hearing.

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