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   Chapter 20 AN EAVESDROPPER

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 8029

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The morning sun was in my room when I awoke and my godmother was by my bed.

"You have been crying in your sleep, Bawn," she said. "I thought I heard you several times during the night, but was not sure. Are you anxious about Theobald, child?"

"There is some trouble in the air," I said, turning away my head. "But I don't think it was I who cried."

"I would not say that to Lady St. Leger, Bawn," she said, lifting my face and making me look at her.

"It is not for a death," I said, "or we should have heard the coach."

"God forbid!" I noticed that her face had a new look of care since yesterday, that there were rings round her fine eyes as though she had not slept. "Yet it may be bad enough, although not for a death."

"What is it?"

"Why, Bawn, child, that is the strangest thing of all. You are no longer a child, Bawn, and I bring my burden to you to lighten it by sharing. They will not tell me what the trouble is."

"Not tell you!"

I was amazed. For so long I had known Mary Champion as the stay and support of my grandparents that I could hardly believe there was anything they would keep from her.

"They will not tell me," she repeated. "Your grandmother says that it is Lord St. Leger's will that I am not to be told. It is something they must endure together. I know it is something about Luke. If they will not tell me I shall go and ask Garret Dawson why he is frightening them and with what."

"Grandpapa would never forgive you," I said.

The shadow fell deeper on her face.

"I know he would not," she said. "Must I wait for them to speak, then, lest I should do harm?"

"I think you must wait for them to speak."

"If it was a mere matter of money"-she wrung her hands together in a way which in a person of her calm, benignant temperament suggested great distress-"if it were a mere matter of money, I would sell Castle Clody-yes, every stick and stone of it. But I think it is more than money. I shall ask Lord St. Leger to tell me. It is not fair that I, who ought to have been Luke's wife and their daughter, should be kept in the dark."

She went away and left me then, and I got up and dressed with a heavy heart, which all the chorus of the birds and the sweet green of the trees and grass and the delicious scents and sounds outside could not charm from its heaviness.

At breakfast, although my godmother did her best, talking about old friends we had met in Dublin and delivering their messages to Lord and Lady St. Leger, and although I tried to do my part, the gloom was as marked as the gloom last night. My grandfather and grandmother sat side by side at the round table, and now and again they looked at each other like people who were absorbed in grave anxieties to the exclusion of what went on about them.

I thought that my grandfather had, all of a sudden, begun to show his age. He was not so far from eighty, but hitherto he had been hale and active, so that one would have credited him with many years less. But now he seemed shaky and tremulous, as my grandmother had been last night. His blue eyes had a film of trouble over them, as I remembered to have seen them when I was a child and there was the trouble about Uncle Luke. I had noticed it then with a childish wonder, although I had forgotten about it till now.

After breakfast he went out to the garden with my grandmother and walked up and down with her on the terrace in the sun.

"I am going to see if they will not tell me, Bawn," my godmother said presently, standing up. "And I shall not rest till I have found out. Garret Dawson will find it a very different thing to frighten me. Your grandfather is very old, Bawn, or this would not have happened."

She went after them, and I saw her take an arm of each and go down the garden with them, they leaning on her.

When they were out of sight I went into the library to write my letter to Theobald, taking the blotting-pad and pen and ink and paper to my favourite seat in the oriel. There presently my g

odmother found me. I was getting on but slowly with the letter, for my unhappy thoughts were grinding upon each other like the stones of a quern, trying to find a solution of something that could not be solved.

"Lord St. Leger would do everything but tell me the whole truth," she said. "Poor souls! They think I ought not to be told evil of Luke, as though I were not the one to say that I did not believe it. There is something of money in it, but there is worse than money. What is one to do in this darkness? They don't see how cruel it is to me, to keep me in the dark. I have to be patient with them because they are so old."

Then she stooped and kissed me.

"I must go back to Castle Clody now," she said. "I wonder how my baby has done without me? She does worse without me than she thinks."

I had heard her before call her cousin her baby, and indeed it was true that Miss Joan depended on her for everything.

Then her eye fell on my letter, and she asked me if I were writing to Theobald; and when I answered her that I was she put her hand on my head and told me not to be anxious about Theobald, because she was sure he was all right and that a letter was only delayed.

"Don't lose your beauty-sleep any more, Bawn," she said, "for I am sure there is a letter on its way. All this has spoilt your looks since yesterday."

As the day went on it grew very hot. All the windows were open, without making the room cooler; there was a sleepy sound of insects in the grass outside. Bees droned in and out of the window. White clouds sailed across the sky; and a soft, warm wind rustled the leaves with a sound like rain upon them.

I remember closing my eyes and leaning my head against the window-shutter. I suppose I was tired after the wakefulness of the night. Anyhow, I must have fallen asleep and slept a couple of hours.

When I began to wake the sky had become gloomy and overcast, but it was as hot as ever, and there was some one talking close at hand, a low, quiet talking which at first mixed with my dreams and was a part of them.

Presently I recognized the fact that I must have fallen asleep over the letter to Theobald, and also that the voice, the voices, near me were those of my grandfather and grandmother.

I had no intention to eavesdrop, but I was drowsy and for a moment or two I nodded again.

"But why should Luke have borrowed money from Jasper Tuite?" my grandmother said. "He could have had what he liked from us."

"He had as handsome an allowance as I could afford to give him," my grandfather said, "and he knew that he could have come to me in a difficulty."

"And why should Garret Dawson spring it on us at this time of day?" my grandmother went on. "Why should he frighten us with it now that we are old, and have no son to lean upon?"

"Because he wants the money, and I wonder he has gone without it so long. And also because we have not opened our doors to him nor accepted his invitations. He is determined that we shall assist at his triumph."

"And we must do it?"

"We must do it, else he will publish the boy's disgrace."

"And must Bawn go with us, Toby?"

"Yes; we have to do it thoroughly. The invitation included Bawn. She will not feel it as we shall; and she knows nothing of our cause for unhappiness."

"She does not look over-happy," my grandmother said, and sighed. "I wish Theobald were home and that they were married."

"Poor Theobald! poor boy! We have placed him in Garret Dawson's power. When you and I are gone, Theobald and Bawn will be homeless, unless we can propitiate this man to spare them; and I have heard it said that Garret Dawson has as much mercy in his heart as a tiger. But I had to sign, dear; you know I had to sign."

"My poor Toby, I know!"

A silence followed; I did not dare to stir, to betray my presence. But presently they got up and went away, and when I heard the slow steps die away in the distance I went out by the open window to ponder over what I had heard.

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