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   Chapter 16 THE PORTRAIT

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 6512

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


As I came out on to the great landing which had a recess supported by pillars, I saw that a baize door on the other side, corresponding to the one by which I had come was slowly opening. To my excited fancy it opened stealthily, and I stood staring at it, not knowing what might issue from it.

Imagine, then, my joy and surprise when I saw for the second time Anthony Cardew's face. At first I could hardly believe it; and he, on his part, looked equally amazed, and very pleasurably so, I must say.

"Why, where have you dropped from, Miss Bawn?" he asked. "A minute ago I could have sworn I was alone in the house, unless, perhaps, the good old creature who looks after it had come back from her marketing."

"And where have you dropped from?" I asked, suddenly light-hearted. "I thought you were on your way to the South Seas."

"Why so I should have been," he answered, "only for sudden happenings. And how do you come here? To be sure, it is your own house, and I am a trespasser. I little thought when I came who I should find."

"I am in town for a short visit," I said, "with Miss Champion. She was not well to-day so I came to see the house alone."

"And, as luck would have it, I had a fancy on the same day to see a portrait in the picture-gallery here. It is something better than chance, Miss Bawn."

We stood looking at each other with a happy intimacy. And then his mention of the portrait recalled the miniature I had found in the wood. I had had a foolish girl's fancy to hang it about my neck under my dress, and it lay there now, suspended by a slender gold chain which was one of my godmother's gifts to me. I had a shy reluctance to let him know I carried it there.

"By the way," I said, "I believe I have a jewel of yours. I found it in the wood."

His eyes lightened and darkened in a way that was peculiar to him and his cheek flushed.

"You have found the miniature?" he said, in great excitement. "I was heartbroken for the loss of it. Have you got it with you?"

He had stretched out his hand as though he expected his recovered treasure to be handed to him at once, and I could not deny that I had it, so I took it from about my neck, murmuring something about having carried it for safety and that the case was at Aghadoe and should be returned to him.

"I thought you were gone to the ends of the earth," I said lamely; "and I was so afraid that I might lose it before I should have a chance of returning it."

He took it gently and looked at it for a second. Then he kissed it.

"Why, it is warm from its resting-place," he said, "and so the dearer."

And then he took it off from its little chain and placed it in an inner pocket of his coat, handing me back the chain.

"Maybe you'd like to see what picture it was that made me a trespasser," he said, with a suddenly reckless air. "Come, child, and you shall see. Perhaps it was the discovery that the dead was come alive that sent off two decent fellows to find a Spanish galleon without me. There are better things than gold. Aye, faith, the gold on a woman's head, the light in her eye, may be worth many treasure-ships."

We went back through the baize door through which he had come. There was a second door within it which being o

pened disclosed the picture-gallery; that, being lighted from overhead, had not the gloom of the rest of the house.

I looked around me at the ruffled and periwigged gentlemen, the smiling ladies, who were my ancestors and ancestresses, with interest.

"There is a picture of my grandmother here which I am said to resemble," I said, as I looked down the line of pictures, "though I am ashamed to say that I am thought to resemble her, seeing that she is a great beauty, and is, indeed, beautiful in her old age. Perhaps I resemble her without possessing any of her beauty."

"Ah, Miss Bawn," he said, looking at me roguishly, "'handsome is as handsome does.'"

"That is so," I said. "My grandmother has often told me that if I am good and gentle no one will trouble about my looks."

He turned suddenly then and he said in a singularly sweet voice-

"Dear child! dear child!"

Then he took my hand as though I had been indeed a child and led me up to the portrait.

"What do you see?" he asked.

"I never could be like anything so beautiful," "If Gran looked like that she must have been beautiful indeed, and she beautiful indeed, and she must have looked like it."

The young girl in the portrait was wearing a white satin gown. She was painted in the manner of the period, with a lamb beside her which she had wreathed with roses; and she stood in a flowery meadow. She had an armful of roses like Flora's self, and as she stood one or two escaped and fell down her dress. She had the long neck which has come to me, a beautiful small head, golden hair, warm fair colouring and violet eyes.

"I never could be like it," I said again.

Captain Cardew smiled. I saw him take the miniature from his pocket and look at it and again at the portrait as though he compared them.

"You see the likeness, do you not?" he asked.

"Yes, there is a likeness," I acknowledged.

"I came here to feast my eyes upon it," he said. "I was frantic at the loss of the miniature. I had seen this picture before, long ago, when I was a boy. When I first saw ... the original of the miniature I remembered this and thought it the strangest coincidence. I wanted to find out for myself if the likeness was really so strong."

"And it was?" I asked.

"It was. Yet you are more like the miniature than the portrait is."

"Ah, no," I said. "I could not be. The portrait is very beautiful."

"You are more like her," he repeated.

We had left the doors of the gallery ajar, and now we heard plainly a heavy foot coming up the stairs and puffing and wheezing as of a very stout, asthmatic person ascending.

"It is Bridget Kelly," he said, turning and smiling at me. "She was much disturbed that I would not have her as cicerone, but she remembered me from the old days, and, seeing that I would not have her, she left me to mind the house while she did her marketing."

"I found the door open when I came to it," I said.

"Bridget must have left it so. I dare say the house has a ghostly reputation and is shunned. And now, do you know why I did not go treasure-hunting?"

"How should I know?" I answered him.

He caught me suddenly into his arms.

"Because, Bawn, my darling," he said, "the dead has come alive again."

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