With many breaks and pauses my dear old priest told me this story, as if it were something so infamous that his simple and innocent heart could scarcely credit it.
“If I really thought it was true,” he said, “that a man living such a life could come here to marry my little . . . But no, God could not suffer a thing like that. I must ask, though. I must make sure. We live so far away in this little island that . . . But I must go back now. The Bishop will be calling for me.”
Still deeply agitated, Father Dan left me by the bridge, and at the gate of our drive I found Tommy the Mate on a ladder, covering, with flowers from the conservatory, a triumphal arch which the joiner had hammered up the day before.
The old man hardly noticed me as I passed through, and this prompted me to look up and speak to him.
“Tommy,” I said, “do you know you are the only one who hasn’t said a good word to me about my marriage?”
“Am I, missy?” he answered, without looking down. “Then maybe that’s because I’ve had so many bad ones to say to other people.”
I asked which other people.
“Old Johnny Christopher, for one. I met him last night at the ’Horse and Saddle.’ ‘Grand doings at the Big House, they’re telling me,’ says Johnny. ‘I won’t say no,’ I says. ’It’ll be a proud day for the grand-daughter of Neill the Lord when she’s mistress of Castle Raa,’ says Johnny. ‘Maybe so,’ I says, ’but it’ll be a prouder day for Castle Raa when she sets her clane little foot in it.’”
I should find it difficult now, after all that has happened since, to convey an adequate idea of the sense of shame and personal dishonour which was produced in me by Father Dan’s account of the contents of Martin’s letter. It was like opening a door out of a beautiful garden into a stagnant ditch.
That Martin’s story was true I had never one moment’s doubt, first because Martin had told it, and next because it agreed at all points with the little I had learned of Lord Raa in the only real conversation I had yet had with him.
Obviously he cared for the other woman, and if, like his friend Eastcliff, he had been rich enough to please himself, he would have married her; but being in debt, and therefore in need of an allowance, he was marrying me in return for my father’s money.
It was shocking. It was sinful. I could not believe that my father, the lawyers and the Bishop knew anything about it.
I determined to tell them, but how to do so, being what I was, a young girl out of a convent, I did not know.
Never before had I felt so deeply the need of my mother. If she had been alive I should have gone to her, and with my arms about her neck and my face in her breast, I should have told her all my trouble.
There was nobody but Aunt Bridget, and little as I had ever expected to go to her under any circumstances, with many misgivings and after much hesitation I went.