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   Chapter 9 A ROUGH LOVER

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7644

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


For a second or two we stood staring at each other while Richard Dawson mopped the blood from his hand.

"Don't you see that your damned dog has bitten me?" he shouted, as though my silence infuriated him.

"I see," I said with my hand on Dido's collar to restrain her. "You shouldn't have been rude to me, sir."

He stopped staunching his wound and burst into a great roar of laughter which had no good humour in it.

"Lord, lord!" he said. "That's the best thing I've heard of this many a day. Why a little country hussy like you ought to be honoured by receiving a gentleman's kisses. There, my dear, get rid of your dog. I don't want to kick her brains out as I could easily do, and as she deserves to have done for having bitten me. Send her home with a stone at her heels and come and sit by me on the stile. You shall see how prettily a gentleman makes love."

I suppose I must have looked at him with the horror I felt for him, for he laughed again.

"What," he said, "am I so ugly as all that? I can tell you, my dear, that a good many of your sex, both small and great, regard me as a very pretty fellow. In fact, I'm pestered with the women. I assure you I really am, my dear. And so you won't give me a kiss of your own free will? Why, I could take it if I liked; but I'm not sure that I want to take it till you come and offer it to me of your own free will."

"That I shall never do," I said.

"I'm not so sure of that," he replied. "There aren't many ladies in this county wouldn't give me a kiss if I wanted it, much less a little dairymaid like you."

I thought at the time that it was his egregious vanity and conceit, but in this I was wrong, as events afterwards proved. Indeed, it was a very strange thing how women, both gentle and simple, were in many cases attracted by the coarse good looks and insolent, swaggering way of Richard Dawson-an inconceivable thing to me in the case of a lady, although more easily understood in the case of a poor peasant girl like Nora Brady.

His mood had apparently changed, and I was less afraid of him, although my detestation of him had been deepened by his conduct to me.

He still sat on the stile so that I could not pass him; but all the anger had gone out of his face, although the blood still trickled a little from the back of his hand where Dido had planted her teeth.

"Will you let me pass, please?" said I.

"Presently, my dear." How I hated him for his easy insolence! "I want to hear first what it is you dislike in me."

"Everything," I answered.

"Why," he said mockingly, "it is a thing of spirit, and it will be the more pleasure to tame it. I am tired of birds that come fluttering into my hands and cling to me when I no longer desire them. Upon my word, I like you the better for it. Come, I'm sorry I frightened you. I can say no more than that; it is the fault of your sex, which is so complaisant."

He put his hand into his pocket and drew out a handful of coins.

"Here's a sovereign," he said, "to buy a ribbon. It can't make you prettier, but may it make you kinder when next we meet!"

He flung the coin as though he expected me to catch it, but, of course, I made no effort to do so and it fell on the ground and rolled away into a heap of dead leaves. No matter what happened I could not have kept myself from kicking at it contemptuously with my foot where it lay.

"Not enough, eh?" he asked, his eyebrows raised in amusement. "Would five do?"

I stared at him and the colour flamed in my cheeks.

"Why, you are prettier than ever," he said. "If you look at me like that much longer I shall be obliged to kiss you, although I would rather wait till you came offering me a kiss. Pretty spitfire! Where have they been hiding you? I had no idea, till I saw you the other day at the Creamery

, that there was anything so pretty hereabouts. I generally find out what there is delectable in the way of femininity before I am forty-eight hours in a place. You have no idea of what an adorable little modesty you looked with your white arms plunged in the milk. You took the shine out of the ladies, my dear."

I could only look at him with steady animosity, while my hand on her collar kept poor Dido in check. I saw that he took me for a peasant girl and I was not minded to enlighten him. I was going away; and perhaps before I came back he would be gone again on his travels, for I had always heard that he was wild and a rover and could not be persuaded to settle down and live at Damerstown although his father and mother were most anxious that he should. My heartfelt desire at the moment was that I should never again see Richard Dawson's face, with its insolent and coarse good looks, as long as I lived.

"Yes, you took the shine out of the fine ladies that were with me that day," he went on, "fine a conceit as they have of themselves. They were fine London ladies, my dear, the sort that play cards all night, and motor all day, and have no time to be God-fearing and loving like the women that went before them. You didn't look at them?"

The speech struck me as oddly incongruous in parts of it, yet we had heard-about the one thing we had heard in his favour-that he was fond of his old mother, a good-natured, homely, kindly body, people said, who was rather unhappy among the Dawson riches, rather afraid of her granite-faced, beetling-browed husband.

"No, I didn't look at them," I said.

"And why not, pray?"

"I took no interest in them. I did not like their way of speaking. They seemed vulgar to me."

I hardly knew why I answered him. Perhaps he compelled me. When I had answered he turned round and looked at me with an uproarious delight in his face.

"If Lady Meg could only hear you! Lord! lord!" he said, with infinite gusto. "The daughter of a hundred earls! And Miss Moxon, just as high born and just as fast! How amazed they would be. They would box your pretty ears, my dear; at least Lady Meg would."

"That they would not," I answered him. "And now, please let me pass."

"Without a kiss?" he said mockingly. "Very well, then, I shall let you go. But I feel myself a poor-spirited fellow for it. Do you know that your eyes are like wet violets? And when do we meet again, my dear?"

However, though he mocked he stood aside to let me pass, which at first I hesitated to do, fearing that he might perhaps seize me in his arms as I passed him.

To my great vexation he seemed to guess at this feeling of mine, for he laughed again and said-

"Don't be afraid, pretty one. I promised to let you pass and I shall. No one shall say that Dick Dawson's word isn't as good as his bond; and his bond is worth a good deal. He ought to know something of bonds too, seeing the way the money was made."

So he mocked at himself when he was not mocking at me. I did not altogether trust him, but I made up my mind that if he was rude to me again my poor dog should protect me as she had done before. But after all there was no necessity, for with a sudden movement my enemy lifted his hat, turned away and walked down the road, smiling at me, as he went, over his shoulder.

Never was any one so glad of a place of refuge as I was when I went in at the postern gate in the wall and was within our own woods. I tried to shoot the rusty bolt into its place, but it had been unused for years and I could not move it, so I let it be. And now it was twilight in the dark woods but I felt at home, and letting Dido go, she bounded on before me as though she were young again, and I followed more sedately, with an occasional glance back to see I was not followed.

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