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The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7972

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

When I reached home I found that my grandmother had been looking for me, and Neil Doherty told me the reason. Word had come from Castle Clody that Miss Champion's cousin was dead.

"You must go to her, Bawn," said my grandmother, sadly. "We must not leave her alone, and she will not want me. You will spend the night with her?"

Yes, I would do that, although I shrank from the prospect of death like any other sensitive girl. It was not likely I would refuse to go to my dear godmother in her hour of need; and I had an unacknowledged hope that she might keep me with her, perhaps, so that I would be free of my lover for a few days.

When she heard that I had come she came down to me where I was standing by the fire in the morning-room warming my hands, for the first frost of the season had come and the night was cold.

"Ah, good child," she said, "to come so quickly! Everything is done, Bawn, and she is at rest. I shall miss her dreadfully. I don't know what I shall do with my empty hands. I am too old to begin to love again."

Every one knew that Miss Joan had been querulous and bitter with her, and it made me love and reverence her more than ever to hear the way she spoke.

"Sit down, Bawn," she said, "sit down. You are going to stay with me, kind child. I shall have the little room off my own prepared for you; and we shall have our dinner here. It will be more cheerful than in the dining-room."

I could not help noticing that though her eyes showed traces of much weeping she yet wore a singularly tranquil and even radiant look, as though good news had come to her. Indeed, the whole atmosphere of the house seemed strangely peaceful.

A servant came in to set the table, and we went upstairs to the little room within her own room where I was to sleep. A bright fire already blazed in the grate, and Louise was busy putting out my things. The room looked so cheerful with its chintz-a green trellis hung with roses on a white ground-that one could not be gloomy and fearful in it, even if I did not know that my dear godmother would leave the door between our rooms open at night and would wake if I but stirred.

Louise helped me to put on the one black gown I possessed, which, as it happened, was patterned with roses, a crêpe de Chine fichu about the neck, and I asked Louise to take it off and find me something more becoming; but my godmother would have it so, saying that poor Joan would not grudge me a few roses, having herself found the roses of Paradise.

That quiet radiancy of my godmother seemed to diffuse itself over everything. I know I felt happier than I had felt for a long time, and I tried to put all the trouble, and the thought that I was to marry Richard Dawson the week before Christmas, out of my mind.

Everything about the dinner-table was so pretty. I could not help feeling that my godmother had told them it was to be so; and the wax candles shone on the scarlet berries and russet and orange and crimson leaves, on the delicate napery and glass and silver; and the fire leaped and sparkled in the grate. I had a feeling that I and my godmother were shut in together from the world's trouble, although it waited for us outside the gate.

After dinner we sat by the fire and talked in a low voice, and I could not help commenting on the new serene happiness of my godmother's face. I had always thought it a cheerful face before, although the face of one who had suffered; but now I wondered that I had thought it anything but sad.

"You look happy!" I said.

"And I am happy, Bawn, although I shall miss Joan. But she is at rest with God, and before she died she told me something which set my heart at rest."

"Ah, I am glad of that," I said.

She leant forward and took my hands in hers, making me turn round so as to face her.

"Bawn," she said, "there is nothing worth having in the world but love, nothing but love, nothing but love. I tell it to you, although some people would think that

love had wrecked my life. But I have loved greatly, and I have been loved greatly, and I would not change places with any of your wives and mothers of families."

"Yes, I know," I said.

"And if you do, Bawn, why don't you save yourself from this marriage? The money doesn't tempt you, nor Richard Dawson's coarse comeliness. Why don't you save yourself, child?"

I shook my head helplessly.

"If it were anything in which money could help I would sell all I have rather than see you marry without love."

"Money has nothing to do with it. And-it is too late to do anything."

"It would never be too late so long as you were not his wife. They are deceived. Luke L'Estrange was the truest and most candid soul alive. Yet what a web of lies has grown up about him. Shall I tell you, Bawn, what Joan told me before she died?"

"If it eases you."

"I have to share it with some one, and I can trust you not to think hardly of my poor Joan."

I wondered what was coming, but I had not long to wait. My godmother looked at me again, straight into my eyes, as though she would see to the depths of my soul.

"I have forgiven her, poor dear soul, with all my heart," she said. "If I thought you could judge her hardly I would not tell you; but I think you will not judge her hardly. You see, she loved Luke. He had a way with women. She was always delicate and sickly, and he was sorry for her. He used to sit by her and talk to her. She loved him and she thought that he loved her, or would love her if I were out of the way. I had everything, she thought-health and wealth and the world before me, and Luke's love. She thought it unfair that I should have so much. No wonder she wanted Luke for herself."

Again her eyes looked into mine, asking a question. Whatever she saw satisfied her, for she went on again with dreamy tenderness-

"I see you can pity her, Bawn. Child, how do you know it if you never loved? He came to this house when he was flying from justice, as he thought, expecting to find me and found her instead. He gave her such messages for me as might make any woman proud. He would release me, but he knew I was too great-hearted to accept the release; he had killed Jasper Tuite in the struggle when he tried to save Irene Cardew from him. He had seen Jasper Tuite strike poor Irene when he was trying to drag her from her carriage to ride with him on his horse. She was screaming, poor girl, and Jasper Tuite struck her on the mouth. And what would my Luke do save spring on to Jasper Tuite and close with him? And Jasper Tuite would have shot him if Luke had not fired in self-defence. No jury would have convicted Luke, for Jasper Tuite died from heart-failure, not from the flesh-wound of Luke's pistol. But if I had only been here when he stole here under cover of the darkness I would have made him hold his ground."

"And he saw Miss Standish instead?"

"Yes, he saw Joan. And she kept his messages all these years. There was more than that. I was to send him a message to where he was in hiding, waiting for a passage to America. I sent him none, but Joan sent him one instead. She was jealous, terribly jealous, or she could not have done it, poor girl. She sent him word that he was not to return, that Jasper Tuite was dead of his wound. Also she sent him word from me that I wanted no more of him. How could he have believed it? Well, the remorse of it has gone far to kill her. If she was ever trying, it was because she had to take benefits from the woman she had wronged. Poor unhappy Joan! She died in great love and peace with me."

Fortunately, this time she did not look me in the eyes. Such magnanimity was beyond me.

"It is very sweet to know," she went on dreamily, "that poor Luke came to me in his need. He knew he could trust my love. But he ought to have known me better than to believe I could send that message. He ought to have known me better."

"Yes," I said, "he ought to have known you better."

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