Synopsis

My Own Child

15 year old orphan Katharine Arundel elopes with her Irish lover, Hugh Power, despite her spinster aunt’s best efforts to keep her locked in her room. Power’s wealthy family reluctantly agree to the marriage, but do not fully accept their new daughter-in-law. The young couple spend a blissful few months together before Hugh succumbs to typhoid fever and dies. The teenaged widow is inconsolable for weeks, but becomes more positive on receiving the news that she is pregnant. Her joy soon turns to sorrow when her parents-in-law start interfering, asserting their authority over the family heir. When Mary is born, they insist that Katharine brings her to live with them in Dublin, and that she be raised a Catholic. By consenting Katharine rescinds most of her maternal rights. Mary, who her grandparents insist on calling Frances after a wealthy friend, is brought up to recognise herself as the future head of a powerful family. Consequently, she is a strong and wilful character. Although her grandmother, Lady Power, dictates most aspects of her life, she retains a deep bond with her mother, and they are inseparable. Still pining for her late husband, Mary represents all that is precious to Katharine.

When Katharine starts receiving the attentions of neighbour Lord Eustace Annerley, Mary is immediately jealous and makes it clear that she would kill herself if her mother remarried. Katharine, having briefly imagined she could find love again, reluctantly tells Lord Eustace that his suit is unsuccessful, news he receives with exceedingly ill grace. Katharine is distraught at having to forego this chance of happiness and falls into a decline. She visits Paris in order to relive the memories of her honeymoon, where Hugh appears to her as an angel in a powerful vision, telling her that she made the right decision, but warning that a disastrous fate will befall someone close to her.

On her return, she discovers that Mary has been acquainted with the details of her future inheritance, and become obsessed with wealth and status, valuing them above goodness and happiness. Her grandmother is keen for her to make an advantageous match and busily makes plans to introduce her into society. Katharine falls ill just before her daughter’s first ball and is forced to recuperate on the continent. She is alarmed to receive a letter informing her that Mary has received a marriage proposal, and even more alarmed to discover it is from Lord Eustace. She tries desperately to talk her out of the marriage, but Lady Power has done a thorough job of convincing her of its merits. When she encounters Lord Eustace as her future son-in-law, Katharine feels sickened by his over-demonstrative behaviour towards her daughter.

The marriage goes ahead and the couple depart for their honeymoon. On their return, their behaviour indicates that the marriage is not a happy one. Mary confides to her mother that Lord Eustace was unfaithful within days of their wedding and taunted her with the details of his extra-marital liaisons. A furious Katharine confronts him, demanding that he explain his behaviour. He declares that it is all her fault for rejecting his marriage proposal and that his mistreatment of her daughter is an act of revenge. As a parting shot, he adds that she will no longer be allowed to live with her daughter.

Katharine moves to her own cottage, praying that her daughter’s lot will improve. Her prayers are unanswered, however –  a seriously ill Mary appears at the cottage one day and collapses on the hall floor, blood trickling from her mouth. She has walked twelve miles in the pouring rain after Lord Eustace told her the reason why her married her, and then struck her. After thanking her mother for her selfless devotion, she dies in her arms. Lord Eustace turns up the next morning, demanding to reclaim his wife. Katharine shows him her lifeless form and tells him that his desire for revenge has been granted, as he has destroyed her life.

Her remaining years are spent patiently waiting to join her husband and daughter in heaven.