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   Chapter 17 THE WILL OF OTHERS

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7778

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

He let me go gently just as the old foot touched the top step of the stairs, and Bridget Kelly, a little, fat, rosy, smiling woman, much pleasanter of expression than her sister, Maureen, came into the gallery.

"Why, bless me, Captain Cardew," she said, "who have you found? There is a cabman at the door who would have it that he was waiting for a young lady, although I told him no young lady had come in but only a gentleman."

"Look and see who it is, Bridget," Captain Cardew answered her.

She looked at me in a momentary bewilderment. Then she flung her arms about me.

"Why, it must be Miss Bawn," she cried. "Miss Bawn, and the image of her Ladyship, yet more red in the cheeks than her Ladyship had, except maybe when his Lordship was courting her. And where did you come from at all, Miss Bawn? or did the sky open to let you fall through?"

"I came by the cab, Bridget. I am in Dublin on a visit with Miss Champion. You remember Miss Champion?"

"Is it Miss Mary? Aye, troth, I do remember her. 'Tis mistress of this house she ought to be by rights, leastways when his Lordship and her Ladyship are gone to their rest; and long may it be before they go! So you're here with Miss Mary, Miss Bawn, honey? And wasn't it the quarest thing at all that you should walk into the house and find Captain Anthony in it?"

"I was nearly running out of it," I said. "I was frightened of all the empty rooms. The sound of the hall door shutting frightened me most of all. I was about to run out of the house when I met Captain Cardew."

"Ah, sure, and you weren't frightened then?" the old woman said in a coaxing way. "You wouldn't be frightened with Captain Anthony to take care of you?-no lady would. Sure, dear, I've lived in it many a year my lone self, and worse than myself I've never seen, though they do have quare ould stories about it. I wouldn't be frightened, itself, if I did see anything, only spake bouldly to it and ax it what was keepin' it from its rest."

"My grandmother will be glad to hear you are well, Bridget. She told me to be sure to see you. She sent you some presents. You will find a parcel in the cab at the door."

"Her Ladyship is always kind and good, the Lord reward her! I think I'll be gettin' down to see her and the Abbey and Maureen before the winter comes. And now, Miss Bawn, you'll be seein' the house?"

I felt that it would be the greatest unkindness to refuse her, so we made the journey of all the forty-two rooms, and in every one Bridget had stories to tell, and she pointed to the pictures and the bric-a-brac and the tapestries, and classified the furniture, like any guide-book.

I was not as excited about them as otherwise I might have been. Indeed, I could think of nothing but that Anthony Cardew was beside me, and that he had clasped me in his arms and kissed me and that there was no gentleman on earth his equal.

I knew now how foolish it was about Theobald, and how impossible it was that our brotherly and sisterly intimacy could ever have ripened into love. Indeed, I felt years older than Theobald, and I said to myself that never in any circumstances could I have cared for a boy like him. As we went from room to room my heart felt as though it were on wings. To see Captain Cardew, how polite and kind he was to old Bridget, opening and closing the shutters for her and helping her up and down steps, filled me with pride and joy. Was it possible that he could care for a little ignorant girl like me, this preux chevalier, who had been secretly a hero of romance to me as long as I remembered?

All the time as we went Bridget talked incessantly, although she became scanter and scanter of breath. She had all sorts of reminiscences of my grandfather and grandmother and of the great days in the house; but I noticed that once when she mentioned Uncle Luke's name she coughed to cover her mi

stake, and looked oddly from Captain Cardew to me as though she wondered at finding us together.

And then we were taken down to the drawing-room which opened on the right-hand side of the hall; and she would take off the covers of the old French furniture to show us the beautiful old chintzes with which they were upholstered. Also she would have us admire the Italian mantelpieces inlaid with coloured marble, and the decoration of the walls and ceilings which were very fine indeed, and the picture by Angelica Kauffmann of the Lady St. Leger of that day as St. Cecilia playing on her organ, and the other beautiful things which the rooms contained. All the time she sighed over the years during which the house had been closed up.

"Sure, it's time it was all forgotten," she said, "and that his Lordship and her Ladyship came back to where many a one would welcome them. It was fine, Miss Bawn, when the wax lights were lit in all the chandeliers and the flashing of them was nearly as fine as the ladies' diamonds. There used to be the height of fashion and beauty here but never one that I'd compare to her Ladyship. Ah, sure, they were great days!"

"And who knows but they may come again?" said Anthony Cardew.

We were in the inner drawing-room by this time, and as it happened there was a picture of Theobald as a little boy sitting on his pony, above the fireplace.

A memory came back to me, out of the mists of childhood, of Theobald sitting astride the little shaggy pony. I had quite forgotten it, but now I remembered even the pony's name, which was Orson. And there was a distracted person in a velvet coat, who must have been the artist; and he implored Theobald to keep still, for he would touch up Orson and set him prancing. It was on the lawn near the yew-hedge, and I was standing by my grandmother, while Theobald on the pony was on the gravel-sweep. I knew that he made the pony curvet because I liked it; and presently my grandmother discovered that and took me away.

"Sure, the fine days will come back," the old woman assented hopefully, "and there's the bonny boy'll bring them. Miss Bawn, dear, when is Master Theobald coming home from the wars to marry you? Weren't you promised from the cradle? Sure, old as I am, I'll dance at the wedding."

To my vexation I felt the colour rush to my face and I was conscious that Captain Cardew was looking at me in a startled way.

I tried to say something to the effect that it was an arrangement which we should probably never desire to carry out, but, forcing myself to look at Captain Cardew, I was silenced by the cold and stern expression of his face.

I saw him go up and examine the portrait, and then turn away. I looked at him piteously. In spite of old Bridget's presence I had almost courage to put my hand in his and say to him that he was the only man on earth for me.

But he was holding the door open now for Bridget and me to pass through and he would not meet my eyes. And the old woman was begging me to be seated awhile till she made me a cup of tea and was inviting him similarly. He refused, saying he had business elsewhere. And then he took my hand and lifted it coldly to his lips; and shaking old Bridget by the hand he was gone.

As the door slammed behind him, again the cold chill of the house struck me for the sunshine had gone with him. I realized my own unreadiness too late, and I could have followed him, calling out to him till he should turn round and come back and hear me tell him that it was all foolishness about Theobald and I loved only him. Indeed, I got so far as to run out to the postern gate and look down the street.

But it was as lifeless as when I had come in. There was only my cab, and the driver dozing on the box and the patient horse standing quietly between the shafts to break the dead monotony of the lines of black houses.

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