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   Chapter 27 BROSNA

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 8413

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


I made several attempts at the letter, and discarded them all. And at last, lest I should be interrupted and the letter never be written, I wrote in a great hurry.

"Dear Captain Cardew,

"I hope this letter will reach you safely, so that in the days to come you will not misjudge me. You wrote to me that you were giving me up to my cousin. That you could not do, for I loved only you, and did from the hour I first laid eyes on you, and shall for ever. But, loving you, I am going to marry Richard Dawson, the money-lender's son. And I must tell you, lest you should misjudge me, and all women for my sake, that I shall marry him most unwillingly. I do it because Garret Dawson holds a secret of ours which only the sacrifice of myself can buy back. I owe so much to the kind love which has never let me miss the love of father and mother. But I am sure I shall not live long. You should not have gone away and left me.

"Yours always,

"BAWN."

When I had written it I did not read it over, lest I should destroy it with the others, but, having found a very strong envelope, I put it within it and sealed it with the impression of my father's ring.

The only way I could hope for it to reach him was by leaving it at his old home, which I knew he loved despite its state of ruin-or perhaps the more because of that-and he was sure to return there some time. So I addressed it to Captain Cardew, Brosna; and then, because I could trust no one but myself to deliver it I stole out of the house.

I was free for a few hours, for my lover was gone to Dublin. He had taken a cottage in the neighbourhood, because he had once heard me express a liking for it. It was a pretty little place, enclosed by high walls which held within them many beauties. It would have been an exquisite place for a pair of happy lovers; and he was making it very fine and dainty for me. It had been unoccupied for some years; and he was having it newly decorated and furnishing it with the prettiest things money could buy. He had said that I was not to see it till it was ready for me; and it occupied as much of his time as he could spare from me. In Dublin he was picking up all manner of pretty things in the way of antique furniture and china and glass and silver and pictures. We were to stay at the cottage a few days after our marriage, before we went abroad; and afterwards it was to be our home till such time as I desired a finer one.

He was so generous that at times I felt ashamed that he should do so much for an unwilling bride; and if I could have felt less aversion for him I would gladly have done so. I used to feel that if I could watch him lavishing everything on another woman-for he squandered his love as well as his money on me-I could have liked and admired him.

The woods were full of the yellow leaves of autumn and the wind sighed mournfully in the bare branches as I went on my way to the postern in the wall. Outside it I turned to the left, and walked for half a mile or so along a grassy road, overhung with trees, till I came to the entrance gates of Brosna.

The lodge was empty, and the gate yielded to a push. There was an air of neglect about everything that was very sad. Part of one of the pillars which supported the entrance gate was down. In the avenue some trees that had fallen last winter lay across the way; no one had troubled to remove them.

I knew there was no one in the house but Captain Cardew's soldier-servant, Terence Murphy, whose old mother lived in Araglin village. I did not want to meet Terence; and I had an idea, having heard of the great extent of Brosna-indeed, it was easy to judge of it from the aspect of the place outside-that I might slip in somewhere and leave my letter without meeting with him.

So, without going near the hall door, I passed through a little iron gate in the wall at one end of the house, which I found led to an overgrown garden.

The grass in the garden was as high as my waist, and here and there a rose tree, standing up above the tangle, showed a pale autumn rose; and little old-fashioned chrysanthemum bushes bore their clusters of tawny and lilac flowers. Beyond, I could see a kitchen garden with the

apples in the boughs, and, standing up in the midst of it, a projecting part of the house which, to my amazement, was covered with thatch.

I was reassured at the moment by hearing Terence Murphy's voice shouting at a distance. It must have been at the other side of the house, in the stable-yard, I judged, and I thought I should be able to deliver my letter before he could by any possibility reach where I was.

There was a glass door leading from the thatched room into the garden, and I found that it stood open. I noticed that in front of it the grass plot had been cleared and there were flowers in the borders. Within I found a very pretty and comfortable room arranged with unexpected tidiness. As I looked about me I remembered having heard that Terence always kept a place in readiness for the return of his master. All the rest of the place might be in ruin, but this room was pleasant and home-like.

It had once been a woman's room, I thought, from certain prettinesses, the blue, rose-wreathed carpet on the floor, the ceiling groined under its thatch and painted in blue with a crescent moon and stars in gold, the walls covered with silk set in panels.

But now it was a man's room, with the pleasant litter of a man's belongings. There was a square writing-table in the window, with a wooden chair drawn up in front of it. There were many pipes, old and new, and whips and hunting-crops; and a gun-case standing by the wall and some crossed weapons on the wall. I saw a pair of spurs in one corner, and, flung carelessly on the writing-table, as though the owner might return at any moment, there was a glove.

I took up the glove and kissed it furtively. I wished I might have taken it to comfort me, for a sense of the hand it had held seemed to linger about it. As I stood pressing it to my breast my eye fell on a picture that stood on the writing-table-a picture that was like yet unlike myself. It was a reproduction of the miniature I remembered.

There were other pictures and photographs about-men in uniform, women of many ages, horses and dogs: one of Anthony Cardew himself, which made my heart beat to look at it. I wished I might have taken it also, and had the will to do it but I dared not. Besides, what right had I to such things? Already I was trying to steel myself to destroy the one letter he had written me. I should have no right to it when I was Richard Dawson's wife.

A shout somewhere near at hand alarmed me. I slipped my letter under the glove on the writing-table and fled out precipitately. Only in time, as it proved, for Terence Murphy came round the house chasing a refractory hen, which, as luck would have it, flew through the door I had left open behind me.

"I could have sworn I shut that door," I heard Terence shout at the top of his voice. "Bad luck to ye, ye divil"-to the hen-"God forgive me for swearing. Will nothin' contint ye but the master's own room?"

While he dived within the room I got out through the little gate and back into the avenue, where the briars and undergrowth had made hedges behind which one could easily find cover.

Once in safety I stopped to gaze back at the long front of Brosna, looking so sad. It is one of the white stuccoed houses so common in Ireland in the eighteenth century, although much finer and more magnificent than most. At the roof there was a balustrading, and below were long lines of windows of a uniform oblong shape, each with an architrave above it. The rains of our moist climate had wept upon it and there were long green streaks extending down the walls. I saw now that there was a sunken storey with a sort of area that ran all round the house, so that Brosna, except for its thatched summer-room, was a house of three storeys, not of two, as it appeared at first.

While I looked at it the evening shadows crept down upon it and seemed to enfold it in a greater loneliness. But it was dearer to me than the great houses of the neighbourhood which were comfortable and well kept and inhabited. And I was glad to think of the ordered room, with its grass plot before the window, and the fire set in the grate, ready to be lit when the master should come home.

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