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   Chapter 39 THE BRIDEGROOM COMES

The Story of Bawn By Katharine Tynan Characters: 9164

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


About the last week of February my joy came home. I remember that it was exquisite weather, the blackbird singing his passionate song in the bare boughs fit to break your heart with its beauty. There were high, white, shining clouds on the blue, and the mountains were grey-lavender. The wall-flower clumps were in bloom in the courtyard of the Abbey, and there were many primroses and delicate primulas in the garden; and all the hyacinths were out withindoors, making a delicious smell.

I went to meet my joy with a heart in which there was no sorrow. Richard Dawson was out of danger, and little Robin Ardaragh's case had proved to be merely chicken-pox. I met them out driving, and Robin was on his mother's knee, and his father was looking at the pair as though the world contained nothing else. They pulled up when they saw me; and Lady Ardaragh cried out to me-

"Bawn, Bawn, I am the happiest woman alive."

"And I the happiest man," said Sir Arthur, seriously. "Would you believe it, Miss Devereux, that she thought I cared more for my books than for her? As though anything could give me consolation without her!"

Then Lady Ardaragh cried out that they were a pair of egotists and pulled me down to kiss her, saying that she wished me joy, for every one knew by this time that Anthony Cardew was my lover and was coming home to me.

We were very quiet at the Abbey. A fortnight earlier Uncle Luke and my godmother had been married, and were now spending a quiet honeymoon at Killarney. They were going to live at Castle Clody when they returned; and there was a great ado making preparations for them, and every day I was over there, sometimes with my grandmother, to see that things were going on as they should.

By this time, long before this indeed, my grandparents knew all about Anthony, and were reconciled to the idea of my marrying a Cardew. Indeed, there had never been anything against my Anthony, for he was one of those whom everybody loved and admired. But the shadowy barrier was down, and they had rejoiced that I was to marry the man who had been instrumental in bringing Luke home after all those years. My grandmother said even that she was glad there had been no attachment of the sort between me and Theobald, since she had no liking for a marriage of first cousins.

By this time also we had Miss Travers' portrait, and she and Theobald were engaged. She was a very sweet-looking girl, and so much prettier than I, having delicate little features and beautiful brown eyes and red lips, that I was not surprised Theobald had forgotten his old fancy for me.

She was coming home in the summer and was to stay at Aghadoe, and Theobald was to follow her in the autumn and they were to be married. My grandmother was rather nervous about the prospect of receiving her alone.

"For, of course, you will be on your travels, Bawn," she said; "and although Luke and Mary will be at Castle Clody, it will not be the same thing as if they were here. But I must love her, seeing that she will be Theobald's wife, and, please God, the mother of the heir-that is, after Luke and Theobald, of course."

I was glad my godmother was not there to hear, lest it should hurt her, for she loved children and ought to have been the mother of a houseful of them.

Now that my expectation was to be fulfilled within a few days I became oddly frightened of it. Supposing he found that he did not love me after all, that he had been misled by a fancied resemblance in me to the miniature! Supposing, supposing ... I put away thoughts of calamity from me with both hands. God was too good to let anything happen to him now.

I was so fidgety and restless that I felt I worried the old couple. I could settle to nothing. I could not read, although I had always been a greedy reader. I was living my own love-story too keenly to be put off with imaginary ones. Music held me for a little while; but through it I was listening-listening for his coming, or for the telegram that should announce the arrival of his boat at Southampton. I used to look across at the lighted table by the fire where my grandparents played cribbage night after night, and wonder at the quiet old faces. Would Anthony and I come to be like that? So interested in the chance of a card, so content to sit quietly in a chimney-corner? I could not believe it of Anthony. He would be always like a sword, like a flame.

I went and came now to Brosna as one who had a right. I would come in upon Terence Murphy scrubbing a floor or polishing silver or some such thing, and he would

look up as my shadow fell on him.

"Any news, Miss Bawn?"

"None, Terence, not yet."

"Ah, well; sure, it's on its way. There's nothing like being ready in time."

Day after day now he lit the fires in Anthony's rooms. Day after day I went across and gathered the little lavender primulas, the faint, garden primroses, the crocuses and violets and wall-flowers, and filled bowls and vases with them. I believe Terence Murphy used to wait up till the small hours, lest by chance his master should come unannounced. Always the house stood ready for him, like our hearts. I knew Anthony's faithful servant loved him like a dog, and it endeared him to me. Through February our waiting prolonged itself.

The 28th of February was a day of balmy airs. There was a light mist on the grass, and as you walked it was through a silver web of gossamers. Gossamers hung on every briarbush and floated about the fields. The raindrops of last night jewelled them in the rays of the sun. Dido and I broke whole silver forests on our morning walk to Brosna.

I remember that the blackbird was singing deliciously, yet less poignantly sweet than he should sing at dusk. There was a mysterious stir and flutter of spring in all the coppices. A quiet south wind marshalled the pearly clouds before it as though it were a shepherd driving a flock to the fold.

As I entered Brosna by the garden-way I noticed that Terence had run up the Irish flag on the flagstaff which he had placed on the little lawn outside Anthony's rooms, and I remembered that it was the anniversary of a battle in which my Anthony had covered himself with glory.

In the sheltered garden it was very warm. The sun drew out the aromatic odours from the hedges and borders of box. Terence had been polishing up the dial. It winked in the sun, and as I passed I stopped to read the inscription-

"I count only the golden hours."

There was no stir of Terence about. Usually one heard him singing or whistling or shouting half a mile away. I saw to my vases. I looked into the room which Anthony used as a dining-room when he was at home, and saw the table set, the old damask table-cloth, patched and darned by Terence himself, warmly white, the silver and glass shining. I smiled as I noticed that two places had been set. It was as though Terence anticipated the wonderful days to come.

Anthony's chair was drawn in front of the fire, which had been lately attended to, for the hearth was clean, and a log of cherry-wood burning on the coals sent out a delicious fragrance. Presently Terence would come bustling in to ask, "What news, Miss Bawn?" Sitting in the chair in front of the warm fire, full of beatific dreams, I somehow fell asleep.

I had been dreaming the most wonderful things, and when I started out of my sleep I thought I was still dreaming. Anthony was kneeling by me. His arms were about me.

"I've been watching you for the last half-hour," he said; "and, faith, I couldn't wait any longer for a kiss. Did I frighten you, darling? You looked so much like an angel that you half-frightened me. What have you been doing to yourself? You were round and soft the last time I held you. There is some change."

"You should have seen me two months ago," I said, "when I was going to die of marrying any man but you."

"Ah, Bawn, darling, is it only that you are taking pity on my white head? What is it that you see in me? I am twice your age, child."

"And the finest gentleman in the three kingdoms," I said, stroking his hair. "So fine a gentleman that you are out of date. The commonplace world doesn't grow fine gentlemen like you nowadays."

Afterwards we had our first meal together. They would not expect me back yet to lunch, and Anthony had arrived hungry as a hunter, while he protested that a man as much in love as he had no right to be hungry.

He had walked in unexpectedly, but Terence had not been taken by surprise. Terence had things ready as though he had known the day and hour of his coming. He served us as excellent a meal, according to my Anthony, as had ever been eaten. As for me, I did not know what it consisted of, but only that Anthony and I sat opposite to each other and that Anthony's eyes upon me made me sometimes fain to cover my own with my hands, and that when Terence Murphy went out of the room Anthony would come round the table to kiss me. He said that the meal together was a stolen joy; something he had no right to till after we were married. He said a great many happy, foolish things. As for me, it was a meal in Elysium.

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