(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Angele Maury was an actress, half French, half Irish, who had taken her mother’s name as her stage name in preference to Kernahans, her Irish father’s name. Both her parents were dead. On an impulse, she stopped to visit her father’s people when her company toured Ireland. She found her aunt, Hannah Kernahans, strangely hostile to her and learned that Aunt Hannah had never told her three children of their uncle’s marriage or of his daughter.

It was obvious that Aunt Hannah was fiercely jealous of any intruders from the outside world. She loved all her children, but Tom, the oldest son, was tied to her by a silver cord so strong it seemed unlikely that the bond would ever be broken. Tom had long been loved by Norrie O’Byrne, but he was not sensitive to her love. Martin, the second son, had grown up quite independent. A student, he had traveled all over Europe on scholarships and had lived wildly at times. His mother either could not or did not care to tie him to her so closely.

What none of the children knew, and Angele did not learn, was that her father and their father had both loved Aunt Hannah. She had accepted Angele’s father; but before the wedding, he had discovered her steel will and had asked to be released from the engagement. She then married his brother, giving the impression that it was she who had changed her mind. She had never forgiven Angele’s father for embarrassing her, and she would never forgive Angele for being her father’s child. She sensed in Angele an enemy to the isolated life she lived with Tom.

Soon after her arrival, Martin told Angele that he wanted her and offered her anything but marriage; he was not yet ready for those ties. Angele did not take him seriously and thought that she was only someone new whom he would soon forget. The fact that they were first cousins also stood in the way of a serious proposal. Martin, however, brooded over her treatment of him and also worried about the impending war. Hitler took Czechoslovakia and stood on the threshold of Poland. Ireland was neutral, but Martin knew that he could not stand idly by while the world blew up under his feet. Only Martin and Angele took the war seriously. Knowing that her mother’s people would be deeply affected by the war, she was annoyed to see Aunt Hannah brush aside the whole affair with a shrug. Tom refused to see that no one could remain completely neutral when war finally came.

One day, Tom told Angele that he loved her. Unused to strong emotion, he had not recognized his feelings until they were too intense to ignore. Returning his love, Angele realized that Aunt Hannah would not like their engagement, lest Tom get away from her. Aunt Hannah was clever enough to make Tom believe she was delighted, but she subtly put obstacles in their way. Since they were first cousins, they would have to get special dispensations from Rome. Angele wanted to return to...

(The entire section is 1191 words.)