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   Chapter 10 THE TRAP

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 8563

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The sight of the red sun sinking down a long, green avenue turned my thoughts for a moment from the painful memory of Richard Dawson's rudeness, which, now that I had escaped from him, made me feel sick and ashamed.

It was something I could never tell to anybody, and I felt as though I must carry some shameful secret all my days and that it must appear in my face, and I was glad that I need not meet the eyes of my grandparents by daylight, but could deceive their dear, dim sight in the shaded candle-light and afterwards have the night to recover myself.

With a young girl's extremity of virginal pride and modesty, I hated even myself because he had touched me and could have disfigured the face he had praised.

But the red sun glinting down the long arcades, promising another fine day to-morrow, gave my thoughts a welcome turn. I remembered how it had shone yesterday in the long line of windows at Brosna; and that led me to think of Anthony Cardew.

He had the most romantic stories attaching to him, such stories as were sure to please a young girl's fancy. It was to be sure not a name we mentioned at Aghadoe. Indeed, even before I knew about Uncle Luke there was something that forbade my talking of the Cardews before Lord and Lady St. Leger or before my godmother.

Only old Maureen, who so often mixed up the present and the past, would talk of the Cardews as though their name had never been banned, as though they still came and went as friends and intimates at Aghadoe Abbey as in the days before the trouble came about Uncle Luke.

I knew that Captain Cardew had long since retired from the army, and that one never knew in what corner of the world he might not be, since wherever adventures were to be found he was.

I knew that he had spent many years of his life-he must be now nearly forty, which was a great age to me-in the service of an unhappy great lady whose little kingdom had been unjustly taken from her, and in her cause he had spent his patrimony which had once been great. And now since she no longer lived, having given up her gentle soul some two years after she had sought the shelter of the convent against a rough world, he was free once more to devote his sword of Don Quixote to some other lost cause.

I knew, furthermore, that he was reported to have raised money from Mr. Dawson of Damerstown at ruinous interest to spend it in the service of the Princess Pauline, and that he was now very poor, too poor to keep his old home from going to pieces and being consumed by the damp and by rats and mice and general decay.

People used to wonder he did not try to sell it. Indeed, it was common talk that before Mr. Dawson had bought Damerstown he had tried to obtain possession of Brosna, and that his offer had been refused by Anthony Cardew with contempt. The common talk even found words for the refusal.

"What?" Captain Cardew was reported to have said. "You have plucked me clean enough, God knows, but I keep my honour intact, and that forbids that I should see Dawsons in the house where Cardews lived honourably and wronged none but themselves."

The low sun going down in a blaze behind the trees brought these things into my mind. I remember that the wood was as sweet from the scent of the white-thorn and the lilacs and a thousand other sweet and fresh things as though some heavenly censer swung there. The thrushes and the blackbirds were singing their wildest as is their custom about sunset; and below their triumphant songs you could hear the whole chorus of the little birds' voices as well as the fiddling and harping of the myriad field-crickets and grasshoppers. Then from the field beyond the wood I could hear the corncrakes sawing away in the yet unmown grass, and there were a great many wood-doves uttering their soft laments.

I have always loved the things of nature; but on this evening they had less power than usual to soothe me. The shame of my recent encounter with Richard Dawson kept sending the colour to my cheeks and the little shocks of repulsion through my blood. I felt that if he had really kissed me I must have killed him or myself. My fingers twitched as I thought on a certain dagger, little but deadly, which lay in a glass case in the picture-gallery, and I reso

lved that I would carry it in my breast for the future on my country rambles lest I should meet again with such rudeness as I had met to-day and have nothing with which to defend myself.

I was so engaged in my thoughts as I walked along that I had not noticed how far ahead of me Dido had run. But suddenly she was brought to my mind by the most horrible yelping which made me run as fast as ever I ran in my life.

I came up with her in a little glade away from the main path, a mere gamekeepers' passage, now much overgrown and choked up, for it was long since we had kept gamekeepers. I had to creep on my hands and knees through the briars and undergrowth to reach the place where she was, which was a clear space in the midst of the tangle.

As soon as she saw me she left off yelping and waited for me with an air of expectancy, as though she knew that I would soon put an end to her discomfort.

But alas for the poor thing's faith in me, I saw when I came up to her that her foot was caught in a trap, a horrible iron-toothed thing, the like of which I had never seen before. It must have rusted there from the old days till my poor dog by some accident had released it. I saw that there were bones by it-the bones of some poor wild creature, doubtless, who had perished in it, and the bones had no doubt acted as a warning to the others.

As I knelt down Dido licked my face frantically, being quite sure I was going to release her. But that was not so easy. Pull as I would I could not bring the teeth of the trap apart.

"I shall have to go for help, Dido," I said, after a few minutes, trusting to her sense to understand. But as I rose to go and she saw that I was leaving her, she began immediately a loud, almost hysterical barking, interspersed with little piteous moans and whimpers which were most painful to hear.

I did not know what to do, so I began to cry myself, and then I knelt down beside her and began again my useless effort to release her.

The sun by now was sinking low, although there would be light for an hour or two yet. I guessed that it must be seven o'clock, and I knew that my grandmother would be uneasy about me, and that presently my grandfather would have to be told, and the whole household would be anxious. What was I to do? I could not even think that they would come this way looking for me, since they had not known of my intention of coming home by Daly's Wood and the postern.

I was in the greatest perplexity and distress, and I never was so glad in my life as when I heard a shout close at hand. I believe that if it had been Richard Dawson himself I should have welcomed him at that moment.

"Come this way, please," I called out. "My dog is caught in a trap and I cannot leave her."

I heard some one come as I had come, on hands and knees, through the undergrowth; then he emerged into the little glade and stood upright, the grass and the leaves about his clothing.

He did not look at me at first, but came, with that clucking of the tongue against the palate which we use in Ireland as a sound of pity and concern, to the rescue of the dog. His hands, fine and long and slender, tore the trap apart as though it had been paper.

"Poor beast!" he said, "she is very little the worse. The teeth of the trap had grown blunt, although they were strong enough to hold her."

I thought him the very finest gentleman I had ever seen or ever hoped to see, and that is to say a good deal, since it would not be easy to find a finer gentleman than my grandfather. And I had the portrait of Uncle Luke and my childish memory of him. And Theobald is as fine and gallant a young gentleman as you would wish to see.

But this stranger was finer than any of them.

Suddenly he looked at me for the first time, and I saw his face change. Some wave of emotion passed over it, troubling its gay serenity. His lips trembled. And then he was himself again.

"Pardon me," he said. "For the moment I thought I had seen a ghost-as though ghosts apparelled themselves like the rose! You are very like some one I once knew who is now dead. I am so glad I have been able to help your poor dog."

I stammered like the rustic Richard Dawson had taken me for. Who could this finest of fine gentlemen be?

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