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   Chapter 18 FLIGHT

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7931

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


I drank Bridget's strong, sweet tea without protest, and ate the thin bread and butter, feeling it taste like sawdust in my mouth.

Meanwhile, the good old soul sat and looked at me with a beaming expression.

"I little thought," she said, "when I rose up this morning, honey-jewel, of who'd be here before the day was over. Sure, you're pale, love! Maybe 'twas tiring you I was, trapesin' through the house. Maureen 'ud have something to say to me. She was always terrible jealous of her babies."

I assured her I was not tired. I tried to talk to her about Maureen and the Abbey and my grandparents, and all the time I felt that she watched me with an anxious and fond gaze.

"I wouldn't be telling her Ladyship, if I was you, Miss Bawn," she said suddenly, "about meeting Captain Anthony Cardew here. 'Twould vex her, so it would. I was surprised to find you talking together. 'Twas the unluckiest thing in the world that you and him should meet."

"I had met Captain Cardew before, Bridget," I said coldly. "He had rendered me a service. I'm sure all that old trouble ought to be forgotten, and I think my grandmother is too good a Christian, and too reasonable to bear Captain Cardew enmity for something which was no fault of his."

"That may be, dearie," old Bridget said, with the fond, coaxing way of our people towards us. "That may be. Still, if I was you, Miss Bawn, I wouldn't think of Captain Anthony, even if he did do you a service. He's a beautiful gentleman, and many a lady was mad for him, I know well, and not his fault either; and many a poor girl, too, because he was so pleasant. And no woman had ever cause to blame him or do anything but love him. Still, dear, Master Theobald's the husband for you. Isn't he young and bonny, like yourself? And Captain Cardew has a white head. He's old by you, Miss Bawn."

I remembered the old, childish days when she had been tenderer to me than Maureen, and she looked at me so wistfully that I could not be angry with her. Indeed, I could have almost wept, like the child of long ago, on her comfortable breast. And I was hardly vexed that she called Anthony Cardew old. What did it matter, since I loved him, and he would always, always be the finest gentleman in the world to me?

I kissed her and left her, promising to come again and to bring Miss Champion with me, and I drove back in the cab to St. Stephen's Green. At one moment my heart was heavy because Captain Cardew was angry with me; and at another it was irrationally light, because he loved me and breathed the same air with me. Was it only a few hours ago since we had been almost strangers and I had believed him far away at the ends of the earth? And how the world had changed for him and for me since! To be sure, I had been unready, and I realized now that I had no address which should find him. But I could find out where he was. Why, any second I might meet him in these streets! And the mere possibility made them blossom like the rose. Men like Anthony Cardew did not easily hide themselves. I would find him, and the foolish misunderstanding would be cleared up. As for the other difficulties-what did they matter since we loved each other? I had that happy confidence in him that he would sweep through obstacles as a bright sword through a maze of thorns.

When I arrived at St. Stephen's Green, expecting to find my godmother sleeping or at least resting, I found her, to my amazement, up and bustling about, and her maid packing our trunks.

"Why, how long you have been, Bawn!" she said; "and I wanted you, child. We are going home this evening. There will be just time to catch the six o'clock express. Louise has packed for you, and we can dine in the train."

"But why, why?" I asked, cold dismay seizing on my heart.

"I will tell you presently. Poor Bawn-what a shame that your gaieties should be interrupted! I would leave you behind me, if I could. But perhaps we shall return."

She drew

me to her and kissed me. Of course she could say no more, since Louise was in the room; but glancing at the dressing-table, which was now stripped of its pretty things in silver and tortoise-shell, a letter addressed in my grandmother's handwriting caught my eye. It must have come since I went out; and there must be something in it to explain our sudden departure.

"There is nothing wrong at Aghadoe, is there?" I asked, in sharp fear.

"I should have told you, Bawn, if there was. They are quite well."

I went out of the room into my own little room, where my trunks stood in the middle, locked and labelled. The letter must have come immediately after I had gone out. What could it contain that necessitated this hurried flight? I looked around the little room where I had been happy for a fortnight, and my eyes filled with tears. I had a feeling that I should not come back to it.

While I stood there, miserably, I heard a knock at the hall door, without attaching any significance to it. There was nothing left for me to do-everything had been done for me; so I sat down in my hat and jacket as I was, and gave myself up to a bitter regret. At the moment it seemed the hardest and cruellest thing in the world that I should be taken away from the place which held Anthony Cardew-where I might meet him at any moment-and, so far as I could see, since my grandparents were well, without adequate cause.

I had a sudden feeling as though they, as though my godmother, must know that I loved Anthony Cardew and that he loved me in return. Of course, it was impossible; but it seemed to be a foretaste of the opposition I should have to face; and, although I could face it for his sake, yet it struck me coldly that I should ever be in opposition to the will of those who loved me so tenderly.

There was a tap at the door, and the little maid of the house came in, with a sad face, to say that the cab was come.

"And, Miss Bawn," she added, "I found this in the letter-box for you, when I went to call the cab."

I took the letter from her hand and my heart gave a great leap. I had never seen my beloved's handwriting, but I had not a doubt that it was his. Ah, so he had not left me in suspense! He had written to me to tell me, surely, that he understood. He was not one to let a misunderstanding come between us. How fortunate it was that I had told him where we were! He must have left the letter himself. He had been so near me, and I had not known.

I put down the letter with an indifferent air till the little maid had left the room. When she had gone I snatched it up and was about to read it, when my godmother called me, and then I thrust it into my bosom unread. I placed it over my heart and it felt warm there. It brought me into touch with him, so that, after all, it was not so bitter to be going since I could write. And the very keeping back the reading of the letter was sweet.

I was able to face my godmother with a smiling face, although I've no doubt my eyes still bore the traces of tears.

"You are a dear child, Bawn," she said, lifting my face by the chin, and looking down into my eyes, "a dear child!"

I felt a hypocrite at her praises, for I had been in flat rebellion a little while before, and it was only the letter that had enabled me to lift up my heart; but her mind was too occupied for her to notice how my eyes fell and the guilty expression I must have worn.

A minute later we were in the cab, and I was watching the stream of people in the street eagerly to see if I might see Anthony Cardew's face among them. But I did not see any one at all resembling him.

And presently we were in the train and had a carriage to our two selves; and when the train had started my godmother took out of her handbag my grandmother's letter.

"I am going to let you read this, Bawn," she said, "for I think you are of an age now to be taken into our difficulties. I confess it puzzles me."

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