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   Chapter 33 THE END OF IT

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7765

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


I saw in the momentary pause that his dog came up beside him and licked his hand and he did not seem to notice her.

"You thought I knew," he repeated, his colour becoming a dull purple. "You thought I knew. And I thought your shrinking from me was but maiden modesty, and that if you did not love me you were going to love me. Why, when you trembled in my arms as I lifted you through the door I thought it was love; and all the time it was horror and repulsion. What a fool I have been! But, by Heaven-I have been fooled too!"

His expression became so wild and furious that I shrank back in my chair and covered my face with my hands.

"You needn't be afraid of me," he said; "that is all over. Come: there is nothing more to see. You had better go home."

He had regained control over himself, although his features still worked and his eyes were bloodshot. Indeed, he had such a look of suffering that I should have been sorry for him no matter how much I hated him, and now, curiously enough, my hatred seemed to have passed away.

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"Send you home," he replied.

"But you are coming with me?"

"No. I shall not trouble Aghadoe any more by my presence. You will be quite safe with the Chauffeur."

"But what are you going to do?"

"I am not going to cut my throat, if that's what you are afraid of. I am going to-console myself as soon as I can."

I did not dare ask him how. He held his arm to me ceremoniously, and I could not help thinking that he could play the fine gentleman after all. My thoughts were so bewildered that I could not take in yet all that this involved, but seeing that he held his arm to me I took it and went out with him.

The night had come on dark outside. Looking back from the gate, I thought that the little house glowed like a ruby in the darkness.

He put me into the carriage with a careful politeness. As he wrapped the rug about me I had a sudden sense of the finality of it and the trouble that lay before me and the others, and a pity for his disappointment as well that was so poignant as to be almost unbearable.

"Forgive me," I whispered in the darkness. "I would have loved you if I could."

"Was there some one else, Bawn?" he whispered back.

"Yes, there was some one else." I felt he had a right to that truth.

"You ought to have told me," he said. "And you should not have believed that I would win you by blackmail, even though I am Garret Dawson's son."

"I am sorry. Indeed I am sorry."

I clutched at his sleeve as he was stepping out of the carriage.

"What are you going to do?" I asked again.

"Find consolation where I can. There are some ready to offer it, Bawn."

He closed the door, and I heard him telling the chauffeur to drive me to Aghadoe. I put my head out to see the last of him as we drove away, and he was standing in the darkness still looking after me.

My thoughts were in a whirl of confusion. At first I could think of nothing except that Richard Dawson himself had set me free and that his manner showed it was irrevocable. But I could not look beyond that to my Anthony's return, because how was I to tell the old people who looked to me for deliverance that I had failed them? I knew something of Garret Dawson, and that he had never in all his life been known to show mercy. His old granite face with the tight mouth and beetling eyebrows was enough. I quailed in the darkness as a vision of his face rose before me. I had no doubt that, as soon as he knew I was not going to marry his son, he would do his worst. He had been known, people said, to sacrifice business advantages even to obtain revenge.

At the thought of that I stretched out my arms as though I would take the two helpless old heads to my bosom to shelter them from the storm. How was I going to tell them? The carriage went like the wind, and I co

uld hear the clashing of the boughs under which we passed. The stillness of the afternoon had been but the prelude to a storm.

Also the memory of Richard Dawson's face remained with me like a sore. Now that I was free of him and need dread him no more, I remembered that he had been generous and patient, and I was grieved for him. And I was troubled about that consolation which he was on the way to seek. But my own troubles were so imminent and pressing as almost to push that out. How was I going to tell them-at the last hour, too-with my wedding-dress home, and the wedding-breakfast cooking in the big kitchens, with a stir of life we had not had in Aghadoe for many a day?

It was well the journey did not take very long, or I don't know how I should have endured the strain on my nerves.

While my mind was still in confusion the carriage drew up at the front door of the Abbey. I alighted and went up the steps. The hall door stood open, and as I entered Neil Doherty came from the back. I thought he looked pale.

"Miss Bawn," he began; but I could not wait to hear him. I ran up the stairs to the drawing-room. There was no one there. I went back to the library. As I went in my grandmother came to meet me.

"I thought I heard a carriage," she said in a trembling voice. "Did Richard bring you home? What is the matter, Bawn?"

"The matter!" I repeated, "the matter! Why, the matter is that Richard Dawson will have none of me. He knew nothing of his father's bargain. When he found that I had been bought and sold for that he would have none of me. I would have gone through with it, Gran. You must forgive me and ask grandpapa to forgive me."

She stared at me with a pale face. In the pause there was a sound like a heavy sigh; then the falling of a body.

"Bawn, Bawn, what have you done?" she cried, hurrying away from me to the recess by the fireplace. "It is your grandfather. He has fainted once before this afternoon, and the doctor says it is his heart. Oh, my dear, my Toby, you have had too much to bear and it has killed you!"

She was kneeling by my grandfather and had taken his head into her lap. He had struck the fender as he fell, and the blood was flowing from a wound on his head, staining his silver hair.

Neil Doherty came rushing in. He must have been at the door to have heard the fall. He took my grandfather in his arms like a baby-it struck me sharply that he must have grown thin and light for Neil to lift him so easily-and put him on the couch.

"Whisht, your Ladyship, whisht!" he said to my grandmother. "Fetch me a drop o' water and a sponge, Miss Bawn. The cut's not a deep one. There's nothin' wrong with his Lordship, and we needn't frighten the life out o' him, wirrasthruin', when he comes back to himself. Don't tell any of the women, Miss Bawn."

I got him the water as quickly and quietly as I could, and Neil washed the blood away. The cut proved, indeed, not to be serious; but it seemed an age before my grandfather's eyes opened and he looked from Neil's face to my grandmother's.

"Have I been ill?" he asked.

"Just a bit of a wakeness, your Lordship," Neil said. "But sure, you're finely now."

I did not dare come near, but waited out of sight, dreading the time when my grandfather should remember. Presently I heard him ask for me.

"Is Bawn there?" he asked. "Where are you, child?"

I came forward and Neil withdrew. I heard the library door close behind him.

"Poor little Bawn!" my grandfather said tenderly, "poor little Bawn! We must bear whatever there is to come together, we three. God would not have this child sacrificed. I see now what a coward I was."

"Never a coward, Toby, never a coward," my grandmother cried out piteously, kissing his hand.

My grandfather put out his arm and drew me close to him.

"We must bear it together, we three," he said.

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