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   Chapter 26 THE TRIBUNAL

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7755

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


After that day there was not a day but rich presents were showered on me by the Dawsons, which reminded me of the decking of a victim led to the sacrifice.

What did I care about the jewels and furs and laces that my bridegroom brought me? About his promise of what he should give me when I was his?

Garret Dawson used to eye me with a grim approval: and I heard him say to my grandfather once that he could have had rank and wealth and beauty for his son, and that I would bring him nothing; but that he and Rick knew a unique thing when they saw it and were prepared to pay any price for it. At which speech my poor grandfather bowed with a look as though he felt it hard to endure.

Mrs. Dawson took me in her kind, old, motherly arms when she came to see me, and said humbly that she could never be grateful enough to me for consenting to marry her son; and what she said afterwards had something significant in it if I had not been too miserable to notice it.

"He'll make you a good husband, dear," she said. "He's a good boy at heart, although he has been a bit wild. And, listen, dear, you may have your feelings about the way Dawson made his money and I'm not saying you wouldn't be right. But, my dear, there's many a thing Dawson did-hard and cruel things, you understand, dear-that Rick never knew of. The love of money's not in him any more than it's in me; and he has done many a kind thing."

I was able to return the poor soul's kiss because I liked her, and always shall, and was sorry for her.

Indeed, I wanted new friends, for the old were angry with me or held aloof from me.

When my engagement was announced my godmother had come in hot haste from her cousin's dying bed, which now she hardly left, to remonstrate with my grandfather and grandmother. She had urged and pleaded with them, had done all she could, seeing that she was, as she said to me, desperately sorry for them, and had finally left them in a coldness.

"You poor child!" she said to me when I met her in the avenue, she driving her fast mare in the smart dog-cart which was her favourite equipage, I on foot. She jumped down and held the reins over her arm while she talked. "What a face for a bride! Why, Bawn, you are older by ten years than the child I used to know. They are mad, mad, poor dear souls, to let Garret Dawson frighten them; and I am helpless, because they will tell me nothing. Couldn't you stand out, Bawn?"

I shook my head.

"If only Theobald were here!" she said, in a helpless passion. "If only Theobald were here! To think that they should rob him of his sweetheart because they are caught in Dawson's spider's web. Their own grandchild! It seems unnatural. And you two lovers from your cradles!"

I don't know what impelled me to tell her the truth, but the words came to my lips and I spoke them.

"I never loved Theobald and he never loved me," I said. "They have not that at their doors. I should not have married Theobald."

"Why, God bless me, child!" she said, staring at me. "You will be telling me next that you are in love with Richard Dawson. But I shall not believe it, not with that face."

She went away with a look of hopeless bewilderment.

I fared less well with Maureen, who was bitterly angry with me and said things to me that I could not have borne if she had been always responsible for what she said.

"A fine husband you'll be getting, Miss Bawn," she said. "There's no accounting for ladies' tastes, and by all accounts there are a good many ladies who are fond of Master Richard. Ask Lady Ardaragh. There isn't much she wouldn't give him, they say. If half the stories are true, there are many that have a better right to him than you, Miss Bawn. And to think you've thrown over my darling boy for Garret Dawson's son!"

I must have looked frightened, for she became suddenly contrite, and, throwing h

er arms about me, rated herself for the things she had said, saying that she knew I wasn't to blame, and that it was only her love for me and Theobald which made her so bitter.

Then her mood changed; and snatching up my hand with Richard Dawson's ring on it she burst into a harsh laugh.

"What was over him at all," she said, "to give you the like o' that? Didn't he know the green was unlucky? Sure, 'tis unlucky for him it'll be, and you'll never marry him. My dream'll come true, and you'll be saved in time, Miss Bawn. The ill luck is for him, not for you."

Indeed, I found it hard in those days to meet the eyes of the neighbours, gentle and simple, who could not know why I had consented to marry Richard Dawson. I felt that the county buzzed with it, castle and cabin alike, and it made me shrink away from those who had always been kind to me. I was ashamed to go down the village street, for I knew the people would come to their doors and look after me, and say, "Isn't it a wonder for Miss Bawn that she'd marry a Dawson? and the family always so proud, too."

I noticed that none of the people who came to call were effusive in their congratulations except Lady Ardaragh, and she congratulated me with a high colour and an exaggeration of speech which did not ring true.

The Misses Chenevix called one day, and, while Miss Henrietta sat unhappily looking down at her lap, Miss Bride congratulated me in a voice which had no congratulation in it.

"I wish you happiness, Bawn," she said. "Not that I ever think marriage a subject for congratulation, but rather for condolence."

A somewhat dreary sense of the humour of the speech made me answer that I thought I agreed with her, whereupon she snapped me up and said that, to be sure, some people must be married, though she for her part thought the world would get on very well without marriage; but then, of course, she was old-fashioned.

"And if you had to marry, Bawn," she went on, "why didn't you wait for your cousin? The county always expected you to marry your cousin; and, if you must be married, Theobald would have suited you better than Mr. Dawson. You're not the girl I thought you, Bawn."

I wondered what Theobald would think of me. I had left it to my grandparents to explain to Theobald, and his letters to me had gone unanswered now for three weeks or more.

But, after all, it was not Theobald who was my tribunal; it was not from Theobald's judgment I shrank.

It was Anthony Cardew I feared most. When I endured the ignominy of Richard Dawson's kisses, when he would hold me in his arms with his face against mine and I felt that nothing worse could happen to me, I used to keep wondering all the time what Anthony Cardew would think of me when he knew.

The thought made me desperate. I could have slit my nose and chin, defaced myself like St. Ursula and her maidens, so that I should cease to be desirable to Richard Dawson. But there were my grandparents, and the disgrace which I must buy back for them by giving myself.

Then one day, being in great misery, it occurred to me that I would write a letter to Anthony Cardew. I was quite sure that I should be dead before he received it, for I knew I should not live long with Richard Dawson as his wife, if indeed I were not saved before that. I was glad to think that I was growing thin; that I was languid on the least exertion, and had no appetite for my food. I hoped that God would be merciful to me, and that I should just save them and die. And presently Theobald would come home to them and they would be happy.

And so I thought that I would write a letter to Anthony Cardew, so that when I was dead he would understand and be sorry for me. And I sat down and wrote it. For I could not bear that he should think me unworthy and shameful, seeing that I loved him with all my heart and soul.

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