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   Chapter 12 THE ENEMY

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7798

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


My grandmother asked me no more of the gentleman who had come to my help in the wood. Being old she forgot easily, and, besides, she was absorbed in these days in the preparations for my going to Dublin.

For the moment my own interest in the great matter had waned. I used to like to slip away from the perpetual fitting on of garments to ride or drive about the roads outside the Abbey. I was afraid now to walk in unfrequented places, lest I should meet with Richard Dawson; and there are few places in the neighbourhood of Aghadoe which are frequented. I grew quite zealous about afternoon calls, and would remind my grandmother of her neglect of her social duties, a matter which had never troubled me before.

"Why, what has come to you, Bawn?" she asked at length. "You have always been unwilling to make calls before, from the time you were a little girl of six, and I thought it would be a fine thing to take you and Theobald in the barouche to call on Mrs. Langdale, but when I looked for you I could find you nowhere and afterwards I discovered that you had both hidden in the loft in the stable-yard. Well, I suppose you are growing up and this is a sign of it."

I did not undeceive her. I had always abhorred the afternoon calls and the dinner-parties, and most of the other social functions to which I had gone; but now it was another matter. To be sure, when I made my calls I had always the dread of meeting Richard Dawson; but then on the other hand there was always the chance that I might meet that other.

Although he had told me nothing it was certain that he must be staying at some of the houses of the neighbourhood. All I wonder at was that I heard nothing of him when I made my various calls, for even very slight matters, very unimportant and uninteresting persons, are the subject of much discussion in our drawing-rooms, since we see so little of the outside world. And he was not unimportant, not uninteresting. I should have thought they would have talked of nothing else.

My grandmother was very busy in these days. All the old friendships which she had let slip were to be taken up again for me. She spent much time at her desk, and the postbag for the Abbey began to contain many delicate, fragrant epistles.

"I am only sorry, Bawn," she said, looking up at me over her shoulder as I stood behind her chair, "that we cannot open the town-house for you and give a ball for you there. It is what ought to be done, but, of course, it is out of the question. But you must go and see the house, child. It has glorious memories. It is very much impoverished now, and it will be all in dust and darkness; but there the best blood and brains, aye, and hearts of Ireland, used to come. There came Grattan, and Burke, and Flood, and Lord Charlemont. And there came poor Pamela Fitzgerald and her Edward. All that was beautiful and witty in the Ireland of those days moved through the rooms which you will find dark and dusty."

She broke off for a moment and looked straight before her, as though she saw visions, and when she looked up at me again her dear eyes were dim.

"If things had been otherwise," she went on, "we need not have shut up the house, with only Maureen's sister, Bridget, to look after it. Still, Mary Champion will see to your enjoyment, Bawn; and I am surprised to find how many people yet remember me in Dublin. You are sure of a hearty welcome for your grandfather's sake and mine from the old friends. You will make your own way with the young. But now, since I have letters to write, Bawn, and they must be long ones, supposing you go yourself this afternoon and call on Lady Ardaragh and the Chenevixes. You can have the phaeton and drive yourself. And you can leave cards for me. My card-case is on the table."

Now, I thought it quite possible that he might be a guest of the Ardaraghs, who had always people staying with th

em. On the other hand, it was a house where I always dreaded to meet Richard Dawson, for I had heard Lady Ardaragh say, when the Dawsons were coming to Damerstown and we were all full of indignation against them, that she for her part was delighted to hear of somebody who had money and that she for one would welcome the Dawsons.

"I think money the one good and desirable thing of all the world," she had said.

I remember that Sir Arthur, who was present, looked at her in some surprise, and that she repeated the speech with greater emphasis and a heightened colour. And afterwards my grandmother spoke of her with a certain pitying tenderness, saying to Mary Champion that she was too pretty and too young to be left so much to her own devices. I overheard the speech by accident, being in the oriel of the library where long ago I had heard my grandmother's speech to my grandfather concerning me. My grandmother was fond of Lady Ardaragh and so was I.

I had taken Mickey, my foster-brother who is devoted to me, to hold the pony when I should alight. Perhaps, also, out of fear that I might meet with Richard Dawson, alone and unprotected.

When we drove up in front of the Ardaraghs' house the hall door stood open. There was not a soul in sight; not even a friendly dog came down the steps to greet us, though usually there were half a dozen of them.

I rang and knocked but no one came. It was five in the afternoon, and I guessed that Lady Ardaragh might be out and the servants at tea somewhere in the back premises.

However, I was not to be put off by an unanswered bell since the door stood open. I knew my way about the house well, and was on terms of sufficient intimacy to announce myself.

I guessed that the most likely place to find Lady Ardaragh would be the little inner drawing-room of which she had made a boudoir, to which were admitted only her favoured and intimate visitors.

I went through the house without meeting any one. There was not a sound. Often at this hour Lady Ardaragh had the boy with her; but if he had been there now I should have heard his shouts and laughter as I had heard them before. However cold and strange she might be to her serious husband Lady Ardaragh was a lovely mother, and she never looked to greater advantage than when she was romping with her boy down on the floor, her beautiful hair pulled about her, flushed, happy, smiling, as I have seen her.

No, certainly the child was not there now. As I crossed the large drawing-room I began to think there was no one there. The pale yellow silk curtains that screened the arch by which one entered the inner room were drawn close. Just outside them I paused for a second; I had almost turned back; then I heard a low laugh and there was the pleasant tinkle of teacups.

I raised the curtain to pass through, and found beyond it a French screen. I was about to pass around it into the room when I glanced up at the wall, on which hung an old-fashioned convex mirror. It reflected the room and its occupants with a minute delicacy. Her Ladyship, more like a Dresden-china figure than ever in a teagown of flowered silk, lolled in a low chair. She was holding a teacup in her pretty beringed hands. In the mirror her colour seemed more than usually high. She was very gay, animated and smiling.

There was a man with her. His back was to the mirror and at first I did not notice him. He was sitting on a tabouret, which must have been an uncomfortable seat for one of his height and length of limb. He had an air of sitting at Lady Ardaragh's feet.

I had an idea that my presence would be an intrusion, even before the man in the mirror turned his head and I recognized him.

My heart gave a great leap. Fortunately they were talking and had not heard me. Once beyond the curtain I fled as fast as my two feet would carry me back to Mickey and the phaeton.

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