MoboReader > Young Adult > The Story of Bawn

   Chapter 35 THE MESSENGER

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 9122

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


My grandfather made a step or two towards the door, but my grandmother, who seemed distraught with terror, would not let him go, but clung to him the closer. Dido had gone to the door of the room and was barking to get out. She was running up and down in a frenzy of impatience. The tremendous knocking still went on above the noise of the wind.

"It is absurd," I cried, trying to make my grandmother hear; "did any one ever know the death-coach to come knocking at the door?"

But she was too terrified to hear me. So I let her be, and, snatching one of the candles from the table, I went out into the hall. I knew quite well that I should not be able to draw back the heavy bolts, but, while I looked at them helplessly, half-deafened by the incessant knocking of the great iron knocker on the oak door, old Neil came down the stairs muttering, as was his way.

"First I thought it was a ghost," he said, "but no ghost ever knocked like that. God send he brings good news, whoever he is! Glory be to God, he's in a divil of a hurry to get in."

I held my candle for him to see, and the knocking ceased while he undid the bolts. Dido was whining and running up and down impeding him, and I heard him say that he'd kick her if it wasn't that she was already afflicted with blindness, the creature, and was Master Luke's dog. Now that the silence had come we heard the rain driven in torrents against the fanlight above the hall door.

At the moment the bolt fell I glanced behind me. My grandfather and grandmother had come out into the hall: his arm was about her with a protecting tenderness. There was a huddle of women-servants in all sorts of undress, peeping from the back hall. In front of them, pushing them back, was Maureen, her shoulders covered with a shawl upon which her grey hair fell loosely.

The door burst open as soon as the bolt fell, and there was a rush of wind and rain, and my candle went out. I saw a tall figure against the stormy sky where the moon looked through the fast-driven clouds.

"God save us, what a night!" the new-comer said, entering and closing the door behind him; and it took all his strength to close it.

"Bring lights, bring lights," I cried; and ran to my grandfather to whisper to him to take my grandmother back into the room lest the sudden joy should be too much for her. For I had seen old Dido leap on to the stranger with a frantic joy, licking his face and hands; or I had known that it was so without seeing it, for the hall was in darkness.

Some one brought a light, and I saw old Maureen leap at the tall stranger as Dido had done and fling her arms about him, crying out for her Ladyship, where was her Ladyship, for Master Luke had come home.

And after that everything was confusion for a few minutes, and I can scarcely remember what happened in the babel of voices all crying out and rejoicing at once.

"See that the horse is put up for the night and that the man has food and shelter," I heard Uncle Luke say to Neil.

Then he, Uncle Luke, passed through the affectionate crowd that seemed as if it would eat him with joy. I saw him go to his father and mother, put an arm about each and pass within the little room, and there after a moment I followed them.

They were all three standing on the hearthrug when I came in, and Uncle Luke had one arm about his mother and the other thrown across his father's neck.

"So this is little Bawn," he said, letting them go, and coming forward to meet me. "So this is little Bawn."

I should have known his blue eyes and smile anywhere, I thought, although his hair was as if dust had been sprinkled over it, and there were deep lines in the face I remembered as being very merry. I had a passing wonder that in this moment he remembered my existence or recognized me, for Lord and Lady St. Leger were still dumb or inarticulate with joy, and could not have spoken of me.

"Yes, I am Bawn," I said, lifting my face to kiss him. "I am so glad you have come home, Uncle Luke."

"I should have come long ago," he said. "Yet, thank God, I come in time. I have messages for you, little Bawn, to be delivered later."

So he, he of all people, was Anthony's messenger!

He put his arm about me and we returned to the old couple by the fire.

"We were kept back by the storm," he said. "Oh, how I fretted and fumed lest I should arrive too late! And Mary Champion, how is she? Is she maid or wife or widow?"

"She never married, for your sake, Uncle Luke," I said, speaking up boldly. "You will see her to-morrow morni

ng."

Then I saw that he still wore his heavy cloak, and I made him take it off; and he put his mother in one chair and his father in another and sat down between them, and I came and sat on the rug at their feet.

"We thought you were dead," his father said, looking at him with an air of beatitude.

"I never did," said the mother. "And Maureen did not. Nor did Mary Champion. Luke, Luke, why did you stay away so long?"

"Because I thought I was best dead, little mother. Because I thought I should have to stand my trial for murder if I came back. I have lived in the waste places of the world since I left you, or I must have known. I say waste places, yet they are beautiful, fruitful places of the earth; only there are few white men there and those adventurers. For beauty and kindliness it was the Garden of Eden; but there has never been a day when I was not sick for Aghadoe."

"And how did you know at last?" his father asked. His mother could only look at him with shining eyes.

"Why, some one came from these parts to enlighten my blindness. He was hunting for treasure. I knew where the treasure lay, twenty fathoms deep, in a little bay of an island in the South Seas. What use was treasure to me since I could not come home? I have known murder and worse done over treasure. I knew it was there, and I let it be. The gentle, brown people of the islands had no use for it. It would only have brought in lawless and desperate men to disturb the peace of that Garden of Eden. Now it makes me a rich man. It makes him in whose charge I have left it a rich man. He will bring home the treasure. Like me, he thinks of it only as a means to an end."

"You will be able to pay the mortgage," my grandfather said, with an air of immense relief.

Then he seemed to remember something; and he cried out suddenly that Garret Dawson held an I.O.U. which Uncle Luke had given to Sir Jasper Tuite for five thousand guineas.

"He said it would hang you," the poor old man went on, sobbing and stumbling in his speech, "because, of course, it would prove that you had a motive for shooting Jasper Tuite. He said other things, dreadful for a father and mother to hear."

"But you did not believe them!" Uncle Luke said. "You did not believe them! I did owe Jasper Tuite five thousand guineas. It was a card debt. I should have known better than to play with a man of his reputation; but I repaid it, every penny. I have his receipt for it. What else, father?"

"That there was a girl, a girl whom-I should not speak of such things in Bawn's presence and your mother's-whom you had wronged. She had been on the stage in Dublin, and she accounted for your extravagance at that time. He said that Jasper Tuite came between you, tried to save the girl from you. He said it would be a pretty case to go before a jury, that you had cause, even more than the money, to hate Jasper Tuite and wish him out of the way."

"And you believed it?"

I saw Lord St. Leger cower, and I said out of my pity and love for him-

"Uncle Luke, he is old, and you had left him He could not disprove the things even if he did not believe them."

Uncle Luke's face changed. He looked down at his father.

"We will give him the lie together," he said; and then he noticed the blood on the white hair and was terrified, till we assured him it was nothing. "So little Bawn was the price of Garret Dawson's silence," he said; and then added solemnly that he could never have forgiven himself if the price had been paid.

At this point the door of the room was opened, and Neil Doherty, bowing on the threshold, announced that supper was served. And we remembered that Uncle Luke must be hungry, and his mother reproached herself, while he remembered for the first time that he had not eaten for many hours.

I don't know how Neil had managed it in the time, but the house was lit from top to bottom and the servants were standing in a line for us to pass through, all with happy faces. And Maureen stood at the head of them, as though she only had the right.

Uncle Luke gave his arm to my grandmother and I took my grandfather's, and we went up in state, with old Dido following us, to the dining-room, where supper was spread and all the silver plate was set out. There was a roaring fire in the grate and every candle in the big chandelier had been lit, and all was as though the coming of the heir had been long foreseen.

I do not think that in any house in the kingdom there was that night such joy and thanksgiving as in Aghadoe Abbey.

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