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The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7476

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

"My dearest daughter," the letter began; it was so my grandmother always addressed Mary Champion. "We are pleased with the fine accounts of how Bawn is enjoying herself and your gaieties and the old friends you have met. The house is very lonely without Bawn, and I miss your coming, and there has been no letter from Theobald since you went. Perhaps Bawn has had one. We seem to realize that we are old and our children dead and their children away from us, all at once."

The letter went on to talk of trivial and ordinary things, but my grandmother was bad at deception, and one felt that her thoughts were not in the things she told, but that they were written with an intention to conceal something. And at last the thin deception gave way.

"Mr. Dawson has been to see Lord St. Leger," ran the last paragraph. "He had some astounding news. And Mrs. Dawson has driven over to call, and we are to dine with them next week. I wish you were home, Mary. I want you to lean upon."

When I had read I turned amazed eyes on my godmother.

"The Dawsons!" I said. "And we used always to say that though every other house in the county were opened to the Dawsons, Aghadoe Abbey would shut its door in their faces."

"It shall shut its door," Mary Champion said indignantly. "He is frightening them because they are old and have no son to lean upon. Garret Dawson is an evil plotter and schemer, and there is blood and tears on his money. Aghadoe shall be safe from him."

"How can he have frightened them?" I asked. "They have never borrowed money from him."

The cloud deepened on my godmother's face.

"It must be something about Luke," she said. "But whatever it is, I will swear it is not true. Luke never did anything that would put his old father and mother in the power of Garret Dawson. He has frightened them because I was not there to protect them. I shall tear through his web of lies."

As she said it the light came to her eyes and the colour to her lips, and I wondered that any one could ever have thought her plain.

"So you see, Bawn," she said, as she took the letter from me and folded it up, "there was cause for our return. You know I would not take you away from your enjoyment without cause."

"Yes, I knew that," I said.

Indeed, when we reached Aghadoe my grandmother was so tremulous in her joy at seeing us, and she clung so to Mary Champion, that we might have been away two years instead of two weeks.

It was late when we arrived, and there was supper prepared for us; and while we ate it my grandfather sat in his chair by the window, where we could not see his face, and was silent. There was a gloom over the meal, a sense of trouble impending. It was not at all a joyful occasion as it ought to have been, since we had come back. My grandmother hovered about us uneasily, pressing this and that thing upon us, for she had bidden Neil Doherty to lock up and go to bed, saying that we could wait on ourselves, to his manifest indignation. And presently my grandfather got up, excused himself for being tired, and, having kissed my godmother and me on our cheeks, went away with a tired and uncertain step.

Something had happened. It was obvious that there was a sense of it in the faces of the old servants. Even Dido whimpered uneasily under my caressing hand.

My grandmother remembered to ask me if I had heard from Theobald, and it was only then, with a sense of shame, that I realized the absence of Theobald's letters and the fact that I had not noticed their absence. Why, I had not written to Theobald for several weeks past; but I did not dare to tell my grandmother so. Of course there were many reasons why Theobald should not have written. He was very gay in India, mu

ch in demand in his spare time for all sorts of entertainments.

"If there had been any serious reason for his not writing we should have heard fast enough, Gran," I said.

"Why, that is true, Bawn," she replied. "Still, where one loves one is unnecessarily anxious."

I felt the rebuke of her words, though I knew she had intended no rebuke, and made up my mind with a rush of compunction to write a long letter to Theobald in the morning.

Miss Champion was staying the night at Aghadoe; and I thought it would be well to leave her and my grandmother together that they might talk over things. Besides that, I had not yet read my letter and the moment was approaching when I might do so. And all at once my patience seemed to have given out, to be quite exhausted. So I took my bedroom candle and went.

When I had reached my own room I locked the door lest by any chance I should be disturbed; although that did not seem likely. I lit four candles and made quite an illumination in the great, dim room. Then I took the letter from where it had lain all day over my heart, and I set it on the table in the candle-light. I got into a loose gown and slippers with a kind of painful, yet sweet deliberation. Now that the moment had come for my joy I dallied with it.

My first love-letter! I realized all at once that Theobald's fond, boyish epistles had no real, man's love in them. I was only the dear companion, the sister, to him. I was sure of it, else I had been very unhappy.

Then I took the letter and held it to the candle-light with a throbbing heart. And this is what I read:

"My dear Miss Bawn,

"For a moment I forgot my white head and my years, and for that foolish presumption you must pardon me and never think less kindly of me. From your old servant's lips I learned the truth: that you had a lover of your own age, whom I pray God may be worthy of you. After all, since my dream of treasure here was but a dream, I have reconsidered my refusal, and shall join the expedition in search of mere earthly treasure. If we never meet again, think kindly of him who would die for you.

"Your faithful friend and servant,

"Anthony Cardew."

I was like one who has had a blow and a bad one, and I felt a curious quietness steal upon me and numb me. Despite the sweet, warm air of the summer night I was cold. In the quietness I heard the Abbey clock strike twelve; I heard soft stirrings in the leaves outside; a thousand little sounds which I would not have noticed at another time, that were distinct in the stillness that had come upon me.

I went on making my preparations for bed as though nothing had happened. I omitted nothing, but all the time I felt as though I were somehow outside my body and knew the dull numbness of it as a thing apart.

When I was ready at last I unlocked the door so that the maid who came with my morning tea and my bath-water should not find it locked. Then I blew out the candles, and, taking the letter in my hand, I crept into bed.

That night I was awakened by the crying in the shrubbery outside which I had not heard for a long time, and I listened to it, cold in the darkness, till the cocks began crowing and then it ceased. I knew that the ghosts always came for trouble at Aghadoe, and I prayed hard that the trouble might be only mine and might spare the two dear old people. The thought of Theobald, and that I had not even noticed the absence of his letters, stung me sharply. What if harm should come to Theobald? As the cocks crew and the grey turned to blue and then to gold in the room, I lay staring up at the ceiling, praying that harm had not come to Theobald, that he might be well and happy although I must be miserable for ever.

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