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Lady Bountiful   By: (1865-1950)

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By George A. Birmingham

George H. Doran Company, Copyright 1922



Society in the west of Ireland is beautifully tolerant. A man may do many things there, things frowned on elsewhere, without losing caste. He may, for instance, drink heavily, appearing in public when plainly intoxicated, and no one thinks much the worse of him. He may be in debt up to the verge of bankruptcy and yet retain his position in society. But he may not marry his cook. When old Sir Tony Corless did that, he lost caste. He was a baronet of long descent, being, in fact, the fifth Corless who held the title.

Castle Affey was a fine old place, one of the best houses in the county, but people stopped going there and stopped asking Sir Tony to dinner. They could not stand the cook.

Bridie Malone was her name before she became Lady Corless. She was the daughter of the blacksmith in the village at the gates of Castle Affey, and she was at least forty years younger than Sir Tony. People shook their heads when they heard of the marriage and said that the old gentleman must be doting.

"It isn't even as if she was a reasonably good looking girl," said Captain Corless, pathetically. "If she had been a beauty I could have understood it, but the poor old dad!"

Captain Corless was the son of another, a very different Lady Corless, and some day he in his turn would become Sir Tony. Meanwhile, having suffered a disabling wound early in the war, he had secured a pleasant and fairly well paid post as inspector under the Irish Government. No one, not even Captain Corless himself, knew exactly what he inspected, but there was no uncertainty about the salary. It was paid quarterly.

Bridie Malone was not good looking. Captain Corless was perfectly right about that. She was very imperfectly educated. She could sign her name, but the writing of anything except her name was a difficulty to her. She could read, though only if the print were large and the words were not too long.

But she possessed certain qualities not very common in any class. She had, for instance, quite enough common sense to save her from posing as a great lady. Sir Tony lost caste by his marriage. Bridie Malone did not sacrifice a single friend when she became Lady Corless. She remained on excellent terms with her father, her six younger sisters, and her four brothers. She remained on excellent terms with everyone in the village.

In the big house of which she became mistress she had her difficulties at first. The other servants, especially the butler and the upper housemaid, resented her promotion and sought new situations. Bridie replaced them, replaced the whole staff with relatives of her own.

Castle Affey was run by the Malone family. Danny, a young man who helped his father in the forge, became butler. Sarah Malone, Susy Malone, and Mollie Malone swept the floors, made the beds, and lit the fires. Bridie taught them their duties and saw that they did them thoroughly. Though she was Lady Corless, she took her meals with her family in the servants' hall and made it her business to see that Sir Tony was thoroughly comfortable and well fed. The old gentleman had never been so comfortable in his life, or better fed.

He had never been so free from worry. Bridie took over the management of the garden and farm. She employed her own relatives. There was an ample supply of them, for almost everyone in the village was related to the Ma lones. She paid good wages, but she insisted on getting good work, and she never allowed her husband to trouble about anything.

Old Sir Tony found life a much easier business than he had ever found it before. He chuckled when Captain Corless, who paid an occasional visit to Castle Affey, pitied him.

"You think I'm a doddering old fool," he said, "but, by gad, Tony, the most sensible thing I ever did in my life was to marry Bridie Ma lone! If you're wise you'll take on your stepmother as housekeeper here and general manager after I'm gone... Continue reading book >>

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