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   Chapter 36 THE OLD LOVERS

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 7896

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

After a little while I went away and left them together.

Uncle Luke came with me to the dining-room door and lit my candle for me as though he had never gone away. When he had lit it he went with me outside the door, and, partly closing it, he said to me-

"Tell me, Bawn dear, did Mary Champion believe those lies?"

"She knew nothing of them," I answered. "They would not tell her the things Garret Dawson had said. But she would not have believed them. She was vexed with them for being afraid, because she said she never would believe that you had done anything which could bring disgrace on any one who loved you."

"My brave girl!" he said softly; and then he said to me with a smile that I had the handsomest and noblest gentleman in the world for a lover, and that my Anthony was coming to me as fast as he could and that they two were sworn brothers.

I ought to have slept the soundest and sweetest sleep in the world, especially as the storm had died down and the ghosts cried no longer and there seemed an atmosphere of peace and happiness over all the house. But I was disturbed in my dreams by the face of Richard Dawson, who had loved me so much to his own hurt and in my dream I was weeping.

The household was barely astir when I awoke next morning and there was a frosty air. I lay watching the window awhile as the dark gave place to dusk. It would be an hour yet before the sun should rise; and a maid came to light my fire and bring me my tea and my bath-water. But I was too excited to sleep, so I got up and dressed myself in the half light, and when I was ready I put on my outdoor things and went down the stairs. I met only a young maid sweeping the stairs with her brush and dustpan, and she looked at me as though she thought the joy had driven me mad.

"I shall be back to breakfast, Katty," I said. "It is a beautiful frosty morning for a walk."

"You're not going to walk in the dark, Miss Bawn?" she said, and stood staring after me over the banisters when I answered her that the sun would soon be up.

I liked the frosty keenness of the air, and this morning my heart was very light. Although it had rained so heavily in the night the frost had turned everything hard and stiff; but as I ran on my way down the long avenue, and heard the sleepy twittering of the birds, I could have sung for the new, healthy life that was in my veins. I had not gone far before the sun sent his golden rays above the horizon, and the blue came out in the sky overhead and it was day, and all at once the robins began to sing.

The early walk gave me a pleasant sense of adventure. I was on my way to Castle Clody, and was wondering if I should find my godmother up and how I would tell her the good news.

By the time I arrived there the whole lawn and the hedges were shining with the diamonds of the frost in the good golden light, and glancing up at my godmother's window I saw that her blind was up, and said to myself that she must be awake and about. Of course she was always an early riser, though she would have me lie late a-bed when I stayed with her, saying it was good for young people to sleep.

The doors and windows of Castle Clody were always open to the fresh air; and as I went in by the open hall door I saw my godmother coming down the stairs.

"Why, bless me, it is Bawn!" she said. "What brings you so early, child? There is no bad news, I trust. Your grandmother?"

"Was never better in her life. Godmother dear, so many things have happened that I do not know where to begin."

"Begin somewhere," she said, after one quick look at me, and led the way into the little room where we usually had our meals together. The fire was lit and the table set for breakfast, and the room looked very pleasant. "Dido is not with you," she said, closing the door behind us.

"No," I returned.

"And how is that, Bawn? How did she let you come alone?"

"As I came down the stairs in t

he dusk of the morning she lay on the mat outside Uncle Luke's door, and when I called to her to come she wagged her old tail and would not come. For the first time she would not follow me. Godmother dear, isn't it a strange thing that Maureen should have prepared his room yesterday, saying that he would be with us before night?"

"Bawn, Bawn," cried my godmother, very pale, "if you do not mean that Luke L'Estrange has come home I can never forgive you."

"And I should deserve not to be forgiven," I said. "He has come home."

"I knew he was not dead."

"He is alive and well, and one of the first inquiries he made was for you."

"Now they shall see," she said exultantly, and her lips curled, "how much truth there was in those slanders of Garret Dawson's. Dear old souls! why were they afraid? Why would they not let me challenge him?"

"They were not so foolish," I said. "He held papers. If Uncle Luke had not come home we could not have disproved them."

"And there is an end to your marriage?" she asked breathlessly.

I held out my hand to her. It no longer carried Richard Dawson's ring.

"He set me free last night," I said, "before we knew who was coming home. You must clear him in your thoughts, godmother. He never knew how his father had obtained our consent to the marriage. He was furious when he knew and he set me free. I wish I knew what had become of him."

"Don't trouble about him, child. Presently you will find a lover worthy of you."

I said nothing, but my heart leaped. I was a proud woman to think that Anthony Cardew loved me, and still I was grieved for the others.

"You will breakfast with me, child?" she went on.

"I am furiously hungry," I replied. "And afterwards-will you come back with me to Aghadoe?"

"I think not. If your uncle wants me he will find me here."

"I think he will see Garret Dawson first. He will not come to you till all that is cleared up."

"It need never be cleared for me. Whatever the story was, it is for me as though it never existed."

I made a most prodigious breakfast. I had no anxiety as to what they might think about my absence at Aghadoe; I felt they would know where I was.

I said no more to my godmother about returning with me. I felt she was right in waiting for Uncle Luke where she was, and I was sure he would go to her when he had confronted Garret Dawson and wrung the truth from him. But after breakfast, lest they should be waiting for me at Aghadoe, I returned home the way I had come, feeling as though I walked on air. I could have run and leaped, except when a thought came to me of Richard Dawson, and then my heart was suddenly heavy.

I entered the woods by the postern gate, and hurried along with a heart full of gratitude to the kind God who had brought good out of evil and had delivered us from our troubles.

Just at the edge of the wood some one stepped from one of the side paths full in my way. It was Richard Dawson, and I was amazed at the havoc the sufferings of one night had wrought in him.

"Don't be afraid of me, Bawn," he said. "I'm not here to trouble you, only there is something I want to give you. Here are those precious papers my father held. I have been waiting here for some chance messenger to take them. They are my gift to you. Let Lord St. Leger see that he has everything and then destroy them."

He held out a sealed packet to me and I took it.

"Everything is there," he said. "Henceforth we are as harmless as a snake that has had its poison-bag out. Think kindly of me, Bawn. I am going a long journey. I have had a scene with my father. He swears that not a penny of his money shall come to me. What matter? I shall do without it very well. Good-bye, Bawn."

"God-speed," I said, altering the word of farewell.

He turned round and came back to me.

"Nay, not God-speed," he said harshly. "God has little to do with such as I am."

And then he was gone.

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