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   Chapter 32 THE NEW HOME

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 10304

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


I had frightened them all by my fainting-fit, but after all it was nothing. The doctor who had been fetched hastily by my frightened lover reassured them.

"Did you think she was sickening for the small-pox?" he asked, looking from one face to the other with bright intelligence. He was a young doctor not long settled in our neighbourhood, and we used to say among ourselves that he was too clever to stay long with us. "Well, then, she isn't doing anything of the sort. I expect she's been taking the troubles too much to heart. A bit run down and nervous. The honeymoon journey will be the best prescription for that. I should like to see more flesh on her bones."

He patted my hand as he spoke; and I could see the relief in the faces about me. In those days any feverish attack suggested the small-pox.

"Dr. Molyneux should see grandpapa," I said. "Grandpapa is not well."

"You've seen it, Bawn?" my grandmother said. "I thought no one saw it but myself. But it is no use. He refuses to see a doctor. He says he will be all right in a few days."

I knew she had pulled herself up on the point of saying, "after your wedding."

Dr. Molyneux smiled humorously.

"Sure, the world's divided into two classes," he said-"the people who are always wanting to see the doctor, and the people who won't see him at all. Supposing I were to pay my respects to Lord St. Leger-it would be hardly polite to go away without doing it."

"You might be able to judge, perhaps--" began my grandmother.

"Or I might be able to get over his prejudices, Lady St. Leger. He isn't the first that wouldn't see me; and some of them couldn't see enough of me at the end," he said, getting up with that cheery confidence in his face and manner that must have put many a sick man on the road to recovery.

When my grandfather came into the drawing-room before dinner he came and kissed me, and said, "Poor little Bawn!" with an almost excessive tenderness. Afterwards he mentioned that Dr. Molyneux had said that they were not to be anxious about me.

"I didn't think one of the tribe could be so pleasant," he went on. "He is greatly interested in my swords, and knows as much of the history of weapons as I do and more, for he told me where some of them came from about which I was uncertain."

My grandmother told me afterwards with awe that Dr. Molyneux had talked about everything but health, and had had all grandpapa's collection of weapons down from the walls and out of their cases, and had not seemed to look at grandpapa except in the most casual way; but afterwards had startled her by asking, "What's on his mind, Lady St. Leger, when he isn't talking of the swords? Till that is removed I can do little for his body." I saw it was a ray of light to her through the troubles that my grandfather had taken kindly to the doctor, and I was very glad.

The next day was the last but one before my wedding, and at last the Cottage was ready for occupation. So great was my lover's desire to inhabit it that he had already moved his belongings over there from Damerstown and was sleeping there. On the afternoon of that day he came for me to go with him to see and approve of what he had done.

He was so greatly excited about it that he did not notice my reluctance to go, or perhaps he was used to my way with him, which was surely the most grudging that ever lover had to endure.

I rather thought my grandmother might have forbidden it. She had always been so particular about what a girl might not do and had not moved at all with the times in that respect. But of course everything had been altered since Richard Dawson's coming; and she only said to him not to keep me out too late as I was not over-strong.

I had thought we were going to walk, but when we had gone a little way down the avenue I saw drawn up to one side a very smart motor-brougham with a smart chauffeur on the box, and I wondered whose it might be.

"It is for you, darling," my lover replied. "Do you not like it, Bawn? It is a surprise for you."

I wished I could have thanked him better; but nothing gave me any pleasure. He put me in and tucked me up in a warm rug. It was, indeed, a most luxurious carriage, and it went like the wind.

"You give me too much," I said for the thousandth time.

"And you give me too little," he answered. "I suppose you think that is how to keep me. But I should love you just as much-I could not love you more-if you would be warmer to me."

As we went along at a speed which made the familiar roads oddly strange, all the landmarks being slurred by the speed, I looked from one side of the road to the other.

My mind was full of Anthony Cardew's messenger, the one he was so sure would break the web of lies in pieces. I said to myself that of course he could not come in time and that if he could come it would be useless. Even Anthony himself could have done nothing, since the secret was not one that we could bring into the open. Still, the air seemed full of expectation. We met very few vehicles, very few foot passengers, but at those we did meet I looked eagerly. He had been very sure that his mes

senger would arrive in time. And while I thrilled to that sense of expectation I felt guilty towards the man at my side, who was so generous a lover. Even now his nearness to me in the carriage that was his gift filled me with repulsion and a forlorn, shameful sense, as though I had been the wife of one man and had been given to another.

The Cottage and its grounds were enclosed within a high wall. There was a little gravel sweep running round in front of the hall door; but we left the carriage outside the green gates. Within, it was the completest thing, and I had delighted in it when old Miss Verschoyle had lived there with a companion and a cat, a dog, and a cageful of canaries. The Cottage was covered by a trellis. There were half a dozen steps to the hall door, and a window at each side. At one side of the little enclosure there was a trellis concealing, as I knew, a range of out-offices. At the other side was a stable and coach-house.

It was growing dusk now, but the Cottage was lit up. Through the unshuttered windows I could see the light of a fire and the glow of a pink-shaded lamp in the room that used to be the drawing-room. The opposite room was also fire-lit and lamp-lit.

The hall door stood wide open, and Sheila, my lover's spaniel, stood wagging her tail in the doorway.

"Your cook is already installed, darling," my lover said in the low voice which I feared in him "I told her to make herself scarce. It was not likely we should want her at such a time."

He took me in his arms and lifted me across the threshold. The little house glowed warmly, and seemed to invite us to a home. How holy, how beautiful, it would have been if the man by my side had been Anthony Cardew instead of Richard Dawson! He still held me in his arms when he had set me down and pressed me to him. I trembled with repulsion and he felt that I trembled, without understanding. He let me go almost roughly.

"Did I frighten you?" he asked, roughly tender. "You shivered, sweetheart. Oh, to think that in three days more we shall come home here never to be parted any more!"

He was eager as a boy. In the little drawing-room a tea-table was set and a silver kettle sang above a spirit-lamp. Everything was ready for tea. There were little silver-covered dishes with spirit-lamps burning under them, and even at such a moment I could not help noticing the beauty of the Worcester cups and saucers, with pansies and tulips and roses and forget-me-nots in tiny bunches on the white.

"Let us see the rest of the house while the kettle is boiling," he said, and caught at my hand to make me go with him. But I dreaded it, this visiting which ought to have been so tender and holy. I said that I wanted some tea, that I was cold.

He put me in a deep chair and kneeling before me he chafed my hands, now and again stopping to kiss them. I was grateful when the kettle suddenly hissed and he stood up and said that for this once he was going to make the tea. So many days and years I should make it for him, sitting opposite to him and making the place where we were together Heaven by my face.

When it was ready he poured it out and brought it to me. He fed me with little pieces of hot teacake and other dainties. I took as long in drinking the tea as possible, but it could not last for ever, and finally he took the cup from me, put it down, and kneeling before me again he put his arms about me.

Something in my being there alone with him, in his growing excitement, suddenly frightened me out of my wits. With a cry I pushed him away from me with both hands.

"Oh, don't!" I said; "don't you see I can't bear it? I hate it. Let me go, please." And I struggled to be free of him.

He looked up at me with a dazed expression.

"But you are going to marry me in three days," he said. "I shall be your husband. What was it you said? That you hated my caresses? You don't mean it, Bawn?"

"I do mean it," I cried, with a frantic repulsion. "I wish you had not brought me here. Please get up and let me go. I tell you I am frightened of you."

He got up and stood a little bit away from me, looking at me in a shocked bewilderment.

"But you are going to marry me?" he said. "And this is to be our home together. And you accepted me of your own free will. Do girls in love behave like this to their lovers?"

"You should not have frightened me," I cried, bursting into tears. "You should not have brought me here. How can you say I accepted you of my own free will when it is killing me? You know that I accepted you because your father holds a disgraceful secret and has frightened the life out of my grandfather and grandmother. I had to do it for them because they were old and it would kill them if the disgrace were published."

It had never entered into my mind that he could be in ignorance of how his father had constrained us, but now it flashed on my amazed mind that he had not known at all.

"Good God!" he said. "Good God!" and stood staring at me with a grey face.

I was frightened then of the mischief I had done, and sorry for him too.

"I thought you knew," I stammered.

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