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Light O' The Morning by L. T. Meade

Part 4 out of 6

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"Not here very long! Why, you must. What is the use of beginning
school and then stopping it?"

"School or no school, my place is by father's side. It is a long,
long time since we heard from Uncle George. As soon as ever he comes
back I go."

"Father has been a whole month in Ireland now," said Molly. "I
cannot imagine what he is doing. I think mother fidgets rather. She
has very long letters from him, and----"

"And, do you know," said Nora, "that father has not written to me
once--no, not once since Uncle George went over? I am absolutely in
the dark."

"I wonder you stand it," said Molly. "You are so impetuous. I cannot
imagine why you don't fly back."

"I could not," said Nora.

"Could not? What is there to hinder you?"

"I have given my word."

"Your word? To whom?"

"To your father. He went to Ireland to please me."

"Oh, did he? That's exciting," said Molly. "Father went to Ireland
to please a little chit like you. Now, what does this mean?"

"It means exactly what I have said. He went because I begged him to;
because I explained things to him, and he said he would go. But he
made a condition, and I am bound to stick to my part of it."

"And that was----How your eyes shine, Nora!"

"That was, that I am to stay patiently here, and get as English as
ever I can. Oh! I must stick to my part of the bargain."

"Well, I cannot say you look very happy," said Molly, "although you
are such a favorite at the school. If I was not very fond of you
myself I should be jealous. If I had a friend whom I really
worshiped, before you appeared on the scene, it was Stephanotie
Miller, the American girl."

"Oh, isn't she charming?" said Nora. "She makes me laugh. I am sure
she has Irish blood in her."

"Not a bit of it; she's a Yankee of the Yankees."

"Well, she has been sent to school to get tame, just as I have
been," said Nora; "but I don't want you to lose her friendship.
After all, I care very little for anyone in the school but you,
Molly; only Stephanotie makes me laugh."

"We'll have her to tea tomorrow. I'll run in now and ask mother. I
shan't mind a bit if you are not going quite to take her from me.
After all, she can be friends with both of us. I'll run into the
house this moment, and ask mother if we may have Stephanotie to

Molly rushed into the house. Her mother was seated in the morning
room, busily writing.

"Well, my dear, well?" she said. "I hear you--you need not bang the
door. What is it, Molly?"

"Oh, mother! do look up and listen."

Mrs. Hartrick raised her head slowly.

"Yes, dear?" she said.

"I have behaved a great deal better lately--have I not, mother?"

"You certainly have, Molly; and I am pleased with you. If you would
restrain some of your impetuosity, I should be glad to tell you how
pleased I am."

"It is all owing to Nora."

"To Nora, my dear! Nora is as wild as you are."

"All the same, it is owing to Nora; and she is not as wild as I am.
I mean that I have been downright vulgar; but if you think there is
one trace of that in little Nora, it is because you do not know her
a bit."

"What is your special request, Molly? I am very busy just now, and
cannot discuss your cousin's character. You have improved, and I am
pleased with you."

"Then, if you are pleased with me, mother, will you do me a favor?"

"What is that?"

"Stephanotie Miller has never been at our house."

"Stephanotie Miller. What an outlandish name! Who is she?"

"She is a dear, jolly, sweet, handsome American girl. She came to
school last term, and she is in the same form with Nora and me; and
we both adore her, yes we do. Whatever she does, and whatever she
says, we think simply perfection; and we want to ask her here. She
is staying with a rather tiresome aunt, in a little house in the
village, and she has come over to be Englishized. May she have tea
with us tomorrow?"

"I will inquire about her from Miss Flowers; and if she seems to be
a nice girl I shall have no objection."

"But we want her to come tomorrow," said Molly. "It is Saturday, you
know, and a whole holiday. We thought she might come to lunch, or,
if you objected to that, immediately after lunch."

"And what about Linda? Does Linda like her?"

"Holy Moses, no!" said Molly.


"Oh, mother! do forgive me, and don't say she mustn't come because I
said 'Holy Moses.' It's all Linda; she excites the vulgar in me
always. But may Stephie come, mother? You are always having Linda's
friends here."

"I will not be reproved by you, Molly."

"But, please, dear mother, let her come. Nora and I want her so

"Well, dear, I will try and see Miss Flowers tomorrow morning."

"Won't you judge of her for yourself, mother? There never was a
better judge than you are."

This judicious flattery had its effect on Mrs. Hartrick, She sat
quite still for a moment, pondering. After all, to be a pupil at
Mrs. Flowers' school was in itself a certificate of respectability,
and Molly had been very good lately--that is, for her; and if she
and Nora wanted a special friend to spend the afternoon with them,
it would be possible for Mrs. Hartrick quickly to decide whether the
invitation was to be repeated.

"Very well," she said, looking at her daughter, "for this once you
may have her; and as you have wisely expressed it, Molly, I can
judge for myself."

"Oh, thank you, thank you, mother!"

Molly rushed out of the room. She was flying headlong down the
passage, when she came plump up against Linda.

"Now, what is up?" said that young person. "Really, Molly!"

"Oh, hurrah! I have won my way for once," said Molly. "Stephanotie
is coming tomorrow to spend the whole afternoon."

"Stephanotie--that horrid Yankee?" said Linda.

"Horrid Yankee yourself!" was Molly's vulgar retort.

"But she cannot come. I have asked Mabel and Rose Armitage, and you
know they cannot stand Stephanotie."

"Well, you, and your Mabel and Rose, can keep away from
Stephanotie--that's all," said Molly. "Anyhow, she is coming.
Don't keep me. I must tell Nora."

Linda made way for her sister to fly past her, as she afterward
expressed it, like a whirlwind. She stood still for a moment in deep
consideration. Stephanotie was a daring, bright, go-ahead young
person, and had she ever taken, in the very least, to Linda, Linda
would have worshiped her. Stephanotie was extremely rich, and the
bouquets she brought to school, and the bon-bons she kept in her
pocket, and the pretty trinkets she wore, and the dresses she
exhibited had fascinated Linda more than once. For, rich as the
Hartricks were, Mrs. Hartrick had far too good taste to allow her
daughters more pocket-money, or more trinkets, or more bon-bons than
their companions. Linda, in her heart of hearts, had greatly
rebelled against her mother's rule in this particular, and had
envied Stephanotie what she called her free life. But Stephanotie
had never taken to Linda, and she had taken to Molly, and still more
had she taken to Nora; and, in consequence, Linda pretended to hate
her, and whenever she had an opportunity used to run her down.

Linda and her friends, Rose and Mabel Armitage, with several other
girls, formed quite a clique in the school against Stephanotie and
what she termed her "set"; and now to think that this very
objectionable American girl was to spend the next day at The Laurels
because Molly, forsooth! wished it, was quite intolerable.

Linda thought for a moment, then went into the room where her mother
was busy writing. Mrs. Hartrick had just finished her letter. She
looked up when Linda approached.

"Well, darling?" she said. Mrs. Hartrick was very fond of Linda, and
petted her a great deal more than Molly.

"Oh, mother! I am vexed," said Linda. "Is it quite settled?"

"Is what settled, my dear?"

"Is it quite settled that Stephanotie is to come to-morrow?"

"By the way, I was going to ask you about her, Linda. What sort of
girl is she?"

"I do not wish to say anything against my schoolfellows, mother; but
if you could only see her--"

Mrs. Hartrick raised her eyebrows in alarm.

"Molly has taken so violently to her," she answered, "and so has
Nora; and I thought that just for once--"

"So you have given leave, mother?"

"Yes; I have."

"And my friends are coming--those two charming girls, the

"Yes, dear; I greatly admire both the Armitage girls. I am glad they
are coming; but why should not Miss Miller come also?"

"Only, she is not in their 'set,' mother--that is all. I wish--I do
wish you would ask her to postpone her visit. If she must come, let
her come another Saturday."

"I will think about it," said Mrs. Hartrick. "I have certainly
promised and----But I will think about it."

Linda saw that she could not press her mother any further. She went
away in great disquietude.

"What is to be done?" she thought. "If only mother would speak to
Molly at once; but Molly is so impetuous; and once Stephanotie is
asked, there will be no getting out of it. She is just the sort of
girl to tell that unpleasant story about me, too. If mother knew
that, why, I should at last be in her black books. Well, whatever
happens, Stephanotie must not be asked to spend the afternoon here
to-morrow. I must somehow contrive to put some obstacle in the way."



Meanwhile Molly rushed off to Nora. "Linda means mischief, and I
must put my foot down immediately," she said.

"Why, Molly, what is up?"

"Put on your hat, darling, and come with me as fast as ever you

"Where to?"

"Mother has given in about Stephanotie. Linda will put her finger in
the pie if she possibly can. I mean Stephanotie to get her
invitation within the next five minutes. Now, then, come along,
Nora. Do be quick."

Mrs. Hartrick never allowed the girls to go out except very neatly
dressed; but on this occasion they were seen tearing down the road
with their garden hats on and minus their gloves. Had anyone from
The Laurels observed them, good-by to Molly's liberty for many a
long day. No one did, however. Linda during the critical moment was
closeted with her mother. When she reappeared the girls were halfway
to the village. They reached it in good time, and arrived at the
house of Miss Truefitt, Stephanotie's aunt.

Miss Truefitt was an old-fashioned and precise little lady. She had
gone through a great deal of trouble since the arrival of her niece,
and often, as she expressed it, did not know whether she stood on
her head or her heels; but she was fond of Stephanotie, who,
notwithstanding her wild ways, was very affectionate and very
taking. And now, when she saw Molly and Nora appearing, she herself
entered the hall and opened the door for them.

"Well, my dears," she said, "Stephie is in her bedroom; she has a
headache, and wanted to lie down for a little."

"Oh, just let me run up to her. I won't keep her a minute," said

"Come in here with me," said Miss Truefitt to Nora. She opened the
door of her neat little parlor. Nora entered. The room was full of
gay pictures and gay books, and scattered here and there were very
large boxes of bon-bons.

"How she can eat them all is what puzzles me," said Miss Truefitt;
"she seems to live on them. The quantity she demolishes would wreck
the health of any English girl. Ah, here comes Molly."

But Molly did not come downstairs alone; the American girl was with
her. Stephanotie rushed into the room.

"I am going to The Laurels to-morrow, auntie. I am going quite
early; this dear old Molly has asked me. You guess I'll have a good
time. There will be a box of bon-bons for Nora, sweet little Irish
Nora; and a box for dear little Molly, a true native of England, and
a fine specimen to boot. Oh, we shall have a nice time; and I am so
glad I am asked!"

"It is very kind of Mrs. Hartrick to send you an invitation,
Stephie," said her aunt.

"Oh, bother that, Aunt Violet! You know perfectly well she would not
ask me if Molly and Nora had not got it out of her."

"Well, we did try our best and most conoodling ways," said Nora in a
soft voice.

"Ah, didn't you, you little Irish witch; and I guess you won, too.
Well, I'm going; we'll have a jolly lark with Linda. If for no other
reason, I should be glad to go to upset her apple cart."

"Dear me, Stephie! you are very coarse and vulgar," said Miss

"Not a bit of it, auntie. Have a bon-bon, do." Stephanotie rushed
across the room, opened a big box of bon-bons, and presented one, as
if it were a pistol, full in Miss Truefitt's face.

"Oh, no, thank you, my dear!" said that lady, backing; "the
indigestion I have already got owing to the way you have forced your
bon-bons upon me has almost wrecked my health. I have lost all
appetite. Dear me, Stephie! I wish you would not be so dreadfully

"The process of Englishizing me is a slow one," said Stephanotie.
She turned, walked up to the glass, and surveyed herself. She was
dressed in rich brown velveteen, made to fit her lissome figure. Her
hair was of an almost fiery red, and surrounded her face like a
halo; her eyes were very bright china-blue, and she had a dazzlingly
fair complexion. There were people who thought Stephanotie pretty;
there were others who did not admire her at all. She had a go-ahead,
very independent manner, and was the sort of girl who would be
idolized by the weaker members of the school. Molly, however, was by
no means a weak member of the school, nor, for that matter, was
Nora, and they both took great pleasure out of Stephanotie.

"My bark is worse than my bite," said that young person. "I am
something like you, Molly. I am a bit of a scorcher; but there, when
I am trained in properly I'll be one of the best of good creatures."

"Well, you are booked for to-morrow now," said Molly; "and
Jehoshaphat! if you don't come in time--"

"Oh, Molly!" whispered Nora.

"There, I won't say it again."

Poor Miss Truefitt looked much shocked. Molly and Nora bade her
good-by, and nodded to Stephanotie, who stood upon the doorstep and
watched them down the street; then she returned to her aunt.

"I did think," said Miss Truefitt slowly, "that the girls belonging
to your school were ladylike; but to come here without gloves, and
that eldest girl, Miss Hartrick, to use such a shocking expression."

"Oh, bless you, Aunt Vi! it's nothing to the expressions she uses at
school. She's a perfect horror of a girl, and I like her for that
very reason. It is that horrid little Linda would please you; and I
must say I am sorry for your taste."

Stephanotie went upstairs to arrange her wardrobe for the next day.
She had long wished to visit Molly's home. The Laurels was one of
the prettiest places in the neighborhood, and Molly and Linda were
considered as among the smartest girls at the school. Stephanotie
wished to be hand-and-glove with Molly, not because she was supposed
to be rich, or respectable, or anything else, but simply because her
nature fitted to that of the wild, enthusiastic American girl. But,
all the same, now that she had got the _entree_, as she expressed
it, of the Hartricks' home, she intended to make a sensation.

"When I do the thing I may as well do it properly," she said to
herself. "I will make them open their eyes. I have watched Mrs.
Hartrick in church; and, oh dear me! have not I longed to give her a
poke in the back. And as to Linda, she thinks a great deal of her
dress. She does not know what mine will be when I take out my very
best and most fascinating gown."

Accordingly Stephanotie rifled her trunk, and from its depths she
produced a robe which would, as she said, make the members of The
Laurels sit up. It was made of rose-colored silk, and trimmed with
quantities of cream lace. The skirt had many little flounces on it,
and each was edged with lace. The bodice was cut rather low in the
neck, and the sleeves did not come down anything like as far as the
wrists. The rose-colored silk with its cream lace trimmings was
altogether the sort of dress which might be worn in the evening; but
daring Stephanotie intended to appear in it in the morning. She
would encircle her waist with a cream-colored sash, very broad, and
with much lace upon it; and would wear many-colored beads round her
neck, and many bracelets on her arms.

"The whole will have a stylish effect, and will at any rate
distinguish me from everyone else," was her inward comment. She
shook out the dress, and then rang the bell. One of the servants

"I want to have this robe ironed and made as presentable as
possible," said Stephanotie; "see you have it all done and put in my
wardrobe ready for wear tonight. I guess it will fetch 'em," she
added, and then she rushed like a whirlwind into the presence of
Miss Truefitt.

"Auntie," she said, "would you like to see me done up in style?"

"I don't know, I am sure, my dear," said Miss Truefitt, looking at
her with nervous eyes.

"Oh, dear, Aunt Vi! if you were to see mother now you wouldn't know
her; she is wonderfully addicted to the pleasures of the toilet.
There is nothing so fascinating as the pleasures of the toilet when
once you yield to its charms. She rigged me up pretty smart before I
left New York, and I am going to wear my rose-colored silk with the
cream lace to-morrow."

"But you are not going to an evening party, my dear."

"No; but I shall stay all the evening, and I know I'll look killing.
The dress suits me down to the ground. It is one of my fads always
to be in something red; it seems to harmonize with my hair."

Miss Truefitt uttered a deep sigh.

"What are you sighing for, Aunt Vi?"

"Nothing, dear; only please don't offer me a bon-bon. The mere sight
of those boxes gives me a feeling of nausea."

"But you have not tried the crystallized figs," cried Stephanotie;
"they are wonderfully good; and if you feel nausea a peppermint-drop
will set you right. I have a kind of peppermint chocolate in this
box which is extremely stimulating to the digestive organs."

"No, no, Stephie. I beg--I really do beg that you will take all the
obnoxious boxes out of the room."

"Very well, auntie; but you'll come up to-morrow to see me in my

The next day was Saturday, a holiday of course. Stephanotie had put
her hair into Hinde's curlers the night before, and, in consequence,
it was a perfect mass of frizzle and fluff the next morning. Miss
Truefitt, who wore her own neat gray locks plainly banded round her
head, gave a shudder when she first caught sight of Stephanotie.

"I was thinking, dear, during the night," she said, "of your pink
silk dress, and I should very much prefer you to wear the gray
cashmere trimmed with the neat velvet at the cuffs and collar. It
would tone down your--"

"Oh, don't say it," said Stephanotie; "my hair is a perfect glory
this morning. Come yourself and look at it--here; stand just here;
the sun is shining full on me. Everyone will have to look twice at
me with a head like this."

"Indeed, that is true," said Miss Truefitt; "and perhaps three
times; and not approve of you then."

"Oh, come, auntie, you don't know how bewitching I look when I am
got up in all my finery."

"She is hopelessly vulgar," thought poor Miss Truefitt to herself;
"and I always supposed Agnes would have such a nice, proper girl,
such as she was herself in the old days; but that last photograph of
Agnes shows a decided falling off. How truly glad I am that I was
never induced to marry an American! I would rather have my neat,
precise little house and a small income than go about like a figure
of fun. That poor child will never be made English; it is a hopeless
task. The sooner she goes back to America the better."

Meanwhile Stephanotie wandered about the house, thinking over and
over of the happy moment when she would appear at The Laurels. She
thought it best to put on her rose-colored dress in time for early
dinner. It fitted her well, but was scarcely the best accompaniment
to her fiery-red hair.

"Oh, lor', miss!" said Maria, the servant, when she first caught
sight of Stephanotie.

"You may well say, 'Oh, lor'!' Maria," replied Stephanotie,
"although it is not a very pretty expression. But have a bon-bon; I
don't mean to be cross."

She whirled across the room, snatched hold of one of her boxes of
bon-bons, and presented it to Maria. Maria was not averse to a
chocolate peppermint, and popped one into her mouth. The next
instant Miss Truefitt appeared. "Now, Stephanotie," she said, "do
you think for a single moment--Oh, my dear child, you really are too
awful! You don't mean to say you are going to The Laurels like

"Have a bon-bon?" was Stephanotie's response.

"You are downright rude. I will not allow you to offer me bon-bons

"But a fresh box of them has just arrived. I got them by the eleven
o'clock post to-day," was Stephanotie's reckless answer; "and, oh,
such beauties! And I had a letter from mother to say that I might
order as many as ever I liked from Fuller's. I mean to write to them
to ask them to send me ten shillings' worth. I'll ask for the newest
varieties. There surely must be bon-bons which would not give you
indigestion, Aunt Vi."

"I must ask you to take off that dress, Stephanotie. I forbid you to
go to The Laurels in such unsuitable attire."

"Oh, lor'! and it's lovely!" said Maria, _sotto voce_, as she
was leaving the room.

"What an unpleasant smell of peppermint!" said Miss Truefitt,
sniffing at that moment. "You know, Stephanotie, how I have begged
of you not to eat those unpleasant sweets in the dining room."

"I didn't," said Stephanotie; "it was only Maria."

Maria backed out of the room with another violent "Oh, lor'!" and
ran down to the kitchen.

"I'll have to give notice," she said. "It's Miss Stephanotie; she's
the most dazzlingly brilliant young lady I ever set eyes on; but
mistress will never forgive me for eating that peppermint in her

"Rinse the mouth out, and take no notice," was the cook's somewhat
heartless rejoinder. "How do you say she was dressed, Maria?"

"Pink, the color of a rose, and that ravishing with lace. I never
see'd such a dress," said Maria. "She's the most beautiful young
lady and the queerest I ever set eyes on."

Stephanotie and her aunt were having a battle upstairs, and in the
end the elder lady won. Stephanotie was obliged to take off the
unsuitable dress and put on the gray cashmere. As subsequent events
proved, it was lucky for her that she did do so.



By the post on the following morning there came two letters for
Nora. She hailed them with a cry of delight.

"At last!" she said.

Mrs. Hartrick was not in the room; she had a headache, and did not
get up to breakfast. Terence had already started for town. He had
secured the post he desired in his uncle's office, and thought
himself a very great man of business. Linda did not count for

Nora flung herself into an easy-chair, and opened the first of her
letters. It was from her mother. She was soon lost in its contents.

"MY DEAR NORA [wrote Mrs. O'Shanaghgan]: Be prepared for very great,
startling, and at the same time gratifying, news. Your dear Uncle
George, who has been spending the last three weeks with us, has made
an arrangement which lifts us, my dear daughter, out of all
pecuniary embarrassments. I will tell you as briefly as possible
what has taken place. He had a consultation with your father, and
induced him, at my suggestion, to unburden his mind to him. You know
the Squire's ways. He pooh-poohed the subject and fought shy of it;
but at last I myself brought him to task, and the whole terrible and
disgraceful state of things was revealed. My dear Nora, my dear
little girl, we were, it appears, on the brink of bankruptcy. In a
couple of months O'Shanaghgan would no longer have been ours.

I cannot say that I should ever have regretted leaving this
ramshackle and much-dilapidated place, but of course I should have
shrunk from the disgrace, the exposure, the feeling that I was the
cynosure of all eyes. That, indeed, would have cut me to the quick.
Had your father consented to sell O'Shanaghgan and live in England,
it would have been a moment of great rejoicing for me; but the place
to be sold up over his head was quite a different matter. This, my
dear Nora, seems to have been the position of affairs when your dear
uncle, like a good providence or a guardian angel, appeared on the
scene. Your uncle, my dearest Nora, is a very rich man. My dear
brother has been careful with regard to money matters all his life,
and is now in possession of a very large supply of this world's
goods. Your dear uncle was good enough to come to the rescue, and
has bought O'Shanaghgan from the man to whom your father owed the
mortgage. O'Shanaghgan now belongs to your Uncle George."

"Never!" cried Nora, springing to her feet.

"What is the matter, Nora?" said Linda.

"Don't talk to me for the present, or I'll say something you won't
like to hear," replied Nora.

"Really, I must say you are copying Molly in your manner."

"Don't speak to me," said Nora. Her face was crimson; she had never
felt such a wild, surging sense of passion in the whole of her
existence. Linda's calm gray eyes were upon her, however. She
managed to suppress any more emotion, saw that her cousin was
burning with curiosity, and continued the letter.

"Although, my dearest Nora, Castle O'Shanaghgan now belongs to your
Uncle George, don't suppose for a single moment that he is going to
be unkind to us. Far from it. To all appearance the place is still
ours; but with, oh! such a difference. Your father is still, in the
eyes of the tenants and of the country round, the owner of Castle
O'Shanaghgan; but, after consulting with me, your Uncle George felt
that he must not have the reins. His Irish nature, my dear--But I
need not discuss that. You know as well as I do how reckless and
improvident he is."

"Oh, mother!" gasped Nora. She clenched her little white teeth, and
had great difficulty in proceeding with her letter. Linda's
curiosity, however, acted as a restorative, and she went on with her
mother's lengthy epistle.

"All things are now changed, and I may as well say that a glorious
era has begun. Castle O'Shanaghgan is now your uncle's property, and
it will soon be a place to be proud of. He is having it refurnished
from attic to cellar; carpets, curtains, mirrors, furniture of all
sorts have already begun to arrive from one of the most fashionable
shops in Dublin. Gardeners have been got to put the gardens to
rights, the weeds have been removed from the avenue, the grass has
been cut, the lawns have been mown; the whole place looks already as
if it had undergone a resurrection. My bedroom, dear Nora, is now a
place suitable for your mother to sleep in; the bare boards are
covered with a thick Brussels carpet. The Axminster stair carpets
arrived yesterday. In the dining room is one of the most magnificent
Turkey carpets I have ever seen; and your uncle has insisted on
having the edge of the floor laid with parquetry. Will you believe
me, Nora?--your father has objected to the sound of the hammering
which the workmen make in putting in the different pieces of wood.
You can scarcely believe it possible; but I state a fact. The
stables are being filled with suitable horses; and with regard to
that I am glad to say your father does take some interest. A
victoria has arrived for me, and a pony-trap for you, dear; for it
seems your Uncle George has taken a great fancy to you, my little
Nora. Well, dear, all this resurrection, this wonderful restoration
of Castle O'Shanaghgan has occurred during your absence. You will
come back to a sort of fairyland; but it is one of your uncle's
stipulations that you do not come back at present; and, of course,
for such a fairy godfather, such a magician, no promise is too great
to give. So I have told him, dear Nora, that you will live with your
kind and noble Aunt Grace, and with your charming cousin Linda, and
your cousin Molly--about whom I do not hear so much--as long as he
wishes you to do so. You will receive the best of educations, and
come back at Christmas to a suitable home. You must have patience
until then. It is your uncle's proposal that at Christmas-time you
and your cousins also come to O'Shanaghgan, and that we shall have a
right good old-fashioned Christmas in this place, which at last is
beautiful and worthy of your ancient house. You must submit
patiently, therefore, dear Nora, to remaining in England. You will
probably spend the greater portion of your time there for the next
few years, until you are really accomplished. But the holidays you,
with your dear cousins and your uncle and aunt, will always spend at
O'Shanaghgan. You must understand, dear, that the house really
belongs to your uncle; the place is his, and we are simply his
tenants, from whom he nobly asks no rent. How proud I am of my dear
brother, and how I rejoice in this glorious change!--Your
affectionate mother,


The letter dropped from Nora's fingers.

"And was it I who effected all this?" she said to herself. "And I
thought I was doing good."

The other letter lay unopened on her lap. She took it up with
trembling hands, and broke the seal. It was a short letter compared
to her mother's, but it was in the handwriting she loved best on

"LIGHT O' THE MORNING [it began]: Why, then, my darling, it's done--it
is all over. The place is mine no longer; it belongs to the English.
To think I, O'Shanaghgan of Castle O'Shanaghgan, should live to write
the words. Your mother put it to me, and I could not refuse her; but,
oh, Nora asthore, heart of my life, I can scarcely bear to live here
now. What with the carpets and the curtains, and the fuss and the
misery, and the whole place being turned into a sort of furniture-shop,
it is past bearing. I keep out most of my time in the woods, and I
won't deny to you, my dearest child, that I have shed some bitter
tears over the change in O'Shanaghgan; for the place isn't what it
was, and it's heart-breaking to behold it. But your mother is pleased,
and that's one comfort. I always did all I could for her; and when
she smiles at me and looks like the sun--she is a remarkably handsome
woman, Nora--I try to take a bit of comfort. But I stumble over the
carpets and the mats, and your mother is always saying, 'Patrick,
take care where you are going, and don't let the dogs come in to
spoil the new carpets.' And the English servants that we have now
taken are past bearing; and it's just as if I were in chains, and I
would almost as lief the place had been sold right away from me as
see it in its changed condition. I can add no more now, my child,
except to say that, as I am under great and bitter obligations to
your Uncle George,

I must agree to his request that you stay in England for the
present; but Christmas is coming, and then I'll clasp you in my
arms, and I'll have a grain of comfort again.--Your sorrowful old


Nora's cheeks flushed brighter than ever as she read these two
letters. The first had cut her to the heart; the second had caused
that desire for weeping which unless it is yielded to amounts to

Oh! if Linda would not stay in the room. Oh! if she might crouch away
where she, too, could shed tears over the changed Castle O'Shanaghgan.
For what did she and her father want with a furniture-shop? Must she,
for all the rest of her days, live in a sort of feather-bed house?
Must the bareness, the space, the sense of expansion, be hers no more?
She was half a savage, and her silken fetters were tortures to her.

"It will kill him," she murmured. She said the words aloud.

"What will kill him? What is wrong? Do, please, tell me," said

Nora looked at her with flashing eyes.

"How bright your cheeks are, Nora, and how your eyes shine! But you
look very, very angry. What can be the matter?"

"Matter? There is plenty the matter. I cannot tell you now," said

"Then I'll go up and ask mother; perhaps she will tell me. It has
something to do with that old place of yours, I have not the
slightest doubt. Mother has got a very long letter from Ireland; she
will tell me perhaps."

"Yes, go; and don't come back again," said Nora, almost rudely.

"She gets worse and worse," thought Linda as she slowly mounted the
stairs. "Nora is anything but a pleasure in the house. At first when
she came she was not quite so bad; she had a pretty face, and her
manners had not been coarsened from contamination with Molly. Now
she is much changed. Yes, I'll go to mother and talk to her. What an
awful afternoon we are likely to have with that American girl here
and Nora changing for the worse hour by hour."

Linda knocked at her mother's door. Mrs. Hartrick was not well, and
was sitting up in bed reading her letters.

"My head is better, Linda," she said. "I shall get up presently.
What is it, darling?"

"It is only the usual thing," said Linda, with a deep sigh. "I am
always being rubbed the wrong way, and I don't like it."

"So it seems, my pet. But how nicely you have done your hair this
morning! How very neat and ladylike you are becoming, Linda! You are
a great comfort to me, dear."

"Thank you, mother; I try to please you," said Linda. She seated
herself on her mother's bed, suppressed a sigh, then said eagerly:

"Nora is awfully put out. Is there bad news from that wild place,
Castle O'Shanaghgan?"

"Bad news?" cried Mrs. Hartrick. "Has the child had letters?"

"Yes, two; she had been reading them instead of eating her
breakfast, and the sighs and the groans, and the flashing eyes and
the clenched teeth, and the jumping to her feet and the flopping
herself down again have been past bearing. She won't let out
anything except that she is downright miserable, and that it is a
burning shame."

What can she mean, mother? Is the old place sold? I always expected
they were terribly poor."

"The best, most splendid news," said Mrs. Hartrick. "My dear Linda,
you must be mistaken. Your father says that he has given your aunt
and uncle leave to tell Nora everything. I thought the child would
be in the seventh heaven of bliss; in fact, I was almost dreading
her arrival on the scene, she is so impetuous."

"Well, mother, she is not in any seventh heaven of bliss," replied
Linda; "so perhaps they have not told her. But what is it, mother
dear? Do tell me."

"It is this, darling--your father has bought Castle O'Shanaghgan."

"Oh! and given it to the O'Shanaghgans. Why did he do that?"

"He has bought it, but he has not given it to the O'Shanaghgans.
Some day, if Terence turns out worthy, the old place will doubtless
be his, as we have no son of our own; but at present it is your
father's property; he has bought it."

"Then no wonder poor Nora is sad," said Linda. "I can understand
her; she is fond of the old place."

"But why should she be sad? They are not going; they are to stay
there, practically owners of all they possess; for, although the
property is really your father's, he will only exercise sufficient
control to prevent that poor, wild, eccentric uncle of yours from
throwing good money after bad. To all intents and purposes the
O'Shanaghgans still hold possession; only now, my dear Linda, they
will have a beautiful house, magnificently furnished. The grounds
are carefully attended to, good gardeners provided, English servants
sent for, and the whole place made suitable for your father's

"But does Nora know of this?"

"I suppose so. I know your father said she was to be told."

"She is very miserable about something. I cannot understand her,"
said Linda. "I tell you what, I'll just go down and tell her.
Perhaps those two letters were nothing but grumbles; and the
O'Shanaghgans did not know then the happiness that was in store for

"You can tell her if you like, dear."

"I will, I will," said Linda. She jumped off her mother's bed and
ran downstairs.

Nora was standing in the conservatory. She was gazing straight
before her, not at the great, tall, flowering cactus nor the
orchids, nor the mass of geraniums and pelargoniums of every shade
and hue--she was seeing a picture of a wild, wild lonely place, of a
bare old house, of a seashore that was like no other seashore in the
world. She was looking at this picture with all the heart of which
she was capable shining in her eyes; and she knew that she was
looking at it in imagination only, and that she would never see the
real picture again, for the wild old place was wild no longer, and
in Nora's opinion the glory had departed. She turned when Linda's
somewhat mincing voice fell upon her ears.

"How you startled me!" she said. "What is it?"

"Oh, good news," said Linda. "I am not quite so bad as you think me,
Nora, and I am delighted. Mother has told me everything. Castle
O'Shanaghgan is yours to live in as long as ever you care to do so.
Of course it belongs to us; but that does not matter, and it is
furnished from attic to cellar most splendidly, and there are
English servants, and there are--"

"Everything abominable and odious and horrible!" burst from Nora's
lips. "Oh, don't keep me; don't keep me! I am smothered at the
thought--O'Shanaghgan is ruined--ruined!"

She ran away from her cousin out into the air. At headlong speed did
she go, until at last she found herself in the most remote and least
cultivated part of the plantation.

Oh, to be alone! Now she could cry, and cry she did right bitterly.



It occurred to Stephanotie that, as she could not wear the
rose-colored dress, as she must go perforce to the Hartricks' in
her dove-colored cashmere, with its very neat velvet collar and
cuffs, she would at least make her entrance a little striking.

"Why not take a box of bon-bons to Mrs. Hartrick?" she said to
herself. "There's that great big new box which I have not opened yet
It contains dozens of every kind of sweetmeat. I'll present it to
her; she'll be pleased with the attention."

The box was a very large one; on its lid was painted a picture of
two or three cupids hovering in the air, some of them touching the
shoulders of a pretty girl who was supposed to be opening a box of
chocolates. There was a good deal of color and embossed writing also
on the cover, and altogether it was as showy and, in Stephanotie's
opinion, as handsome a thing as anybody could desire.

She walked through the village, holding the box, tied with great
bunches of red ribbon, in her hand. She scorned to put a brown-paper
cover over it; she would take it in all its naked glory into the
midst of the Hartrick household.

On her way she met the other two girls who were also going to spend
an afternoon at The Laurels. Rose and Mabel Armitage were the
daughters of a neighbouring squire. They were nice girls, but

There was nothing original about either of them; but they were very
much respected in the school, not only on account of their father's
position--he represented the county in the House--but also because they
were good, industrious, and so-called clever. The Armitages took prizes
at every examination. Their French was considered very nearly Parisian
in accent; their drawings were all in absolutely perfect proportions.
It is true the trees in Rose's landscapes looked a little stiff; but
how carefully she laid on her water-colors; how honestly she endeavored
to copy her master's smallest requirements! Then Mabel played with
great correctness, never for a single moment allowing a wrong note to
appear; and they both sang, very prettily, simple little ballads; and
they were dressed with exquisite neatness and propriety in very quiet
colors--dark blues, very dark reds, pretty, neat blouses, suitable
skirts. Their hair was shiny, and sat in little tight tendrils and
pretty curls round their heads. They were as like as two peas--each
girl had a prim little mouth with rosy lips; each girl possessed an
immaculate set of white teeth; each girl had a little, straight nose
and pretty, clear gray-blue eyes; their foreheads were low, their
eyebrows penciled and delicately marked. They had neat little figures;
they were neat in every way, neat in soul too; admirable little people,
but commonplace. And, just because they were commonplace, they did
not like fiery-red-haired Stephanotie; they thought Molly the
essence of vulgarity; they secretly admired beautiful Nora, but
thought her manners and style of conversation deplorable; and they
adored Linda as a kindred spirit.

Seeing them walking on in advance, like a little pair of doves,
Stephanotie quickened her steps until she came up to them.

"Hallo!" she said; "you guess where I'm off to?"

"I am sure I cannot say," answered Rose, turning gently round.

Mabel was always Rose's echo.

"I cannot say," she repeated.

"Well, I can guess where you're going. You're going to have a right
down good time at The Laurels--guess I'm right?"

"We are going to spend an afternoon at The Laurels," said Rose.

"An afternoon at The Laurels," echoed Mabel.

"And so am I--that's the best of the fun," said Stephanotie; "and I
mean to give her something to remember me by."

"Whom do you mean?" said Rose.

"Why, my good, respected hostess, Mrs. Hartrick."

"What do you mean to give her?" asked Rose.

"This. How do you like it? It's full of bon-bons."

Rose, notwithstanding her virtuous and commonplace mind, had a
secret leaning toward bon-bons. She did not dare to confess it even
to Mabel; for Mabel also had a secret leaning, and did not dare to
confess it to Rose. It was not _comme il faut_ in their family
for the girls of the house to indulge in bon-bons; but still, they
would have liked some of those delicious sweets, and had often
envied Stephanotie when she was showing them to her companions.

Of course, not for worlds would they have been friendly with the
terrible American girl; but they did envy her her boxes of sweets.

"How gay!" said Rose, looking at the startling cover, with its
cupids and its greedy-looking maiden.

"How jolly," said the American girl--"how luscious when you're
eating them! Would you like to see them inside?"

"Oh, I think not," said Rose.

"Better not," said Mabel.

"But why better not?" continued Stephanotie. "It's natural that
girls like us should like sweetmeats, bon-bons, or anything of that
sort. Here, there's a nice little bit of shelter under this tree,
and there's no one looking. I'll untie the ribbons; just hold the
box, Rose."

Rose held it. Stephanotie hastily pulled off the red ribbons and
lifted the cover. Oh, how delicious the inside did look!--rows upon
rows of every imaginable sweet--cream-colored sweets, rose-colored,
green, white; plums, apples, pears, figs, chocolates; every sort
that the heart of girl could desire lay before them in rows on rows.

"They are, every one of them, for Mrs. Hartrick," said Stephanotie,
"and you mustn't touch them. But I have got two boxes in my pocket;
they make it bulge out; I should be glad to get rid of them. We'll
tie this up, but you'll each have one of my boxes."

In a jiffy the big box was tied up again with its huge crimson bows,
and each of the Armitage girls possessed one of the American girl's
boxes of bon-bons.

"Aren't they pretty? Do have some; you don't know how long you may
be kept waiting for your tea," said Stephanotie as she danced beside
her companions up the avenue.

In this fashion, therefore, did the three enter the house, for both
of the Armitages had yielded to temptation, and each girl was just
finishing a large bon-bon when they appeared on the scene.

Mrs. Hartrick was standing in the great square central hall, waiting
for her guests.

Stephanotie ran up to her.

"It's very good of you indeed to ask me," she said; "and please
accept this--won't you? It's from an American girl, a trophy to
remember her by."

"Indeed?" said Mrs. Hartrick, flushing very brightly. She stepped
back a little; the huge box of bon-bons was forced into her hands.

"Jehoshaphat!" exclaimed Molly.

"Molly!" said her mother.

Linda uttered a little sigh. Rose and Mabel immediately became as
discreet and commonplace and proper as they could be; but
Stephanotie knew that the boxes of bon-bons were reposing in each of
their pockets and her spirits rose higher than ever.

"Where is Irish Nora?" she said. "It's she that is fond of a good
sweet such as they make for us in the States. But have the box--won't
you, Mrs. Hartrick? I have brought it to you as a token of my regard."

"Indeed? Thank you very much, Miss Miller," said Mrs. Hartrick in a
chilly voice. She laid the box on a side-table.



The girls went out into the grounds. The afternoon happened to be a
perfect one; the air was balmy, with a touch of the Indian summer
about it. The last roses were blooming on their respective bushes;
the geraniums were making a good show in the carefully laid out
beds. There were clumps of asters and dahlias to be seen in every
direction; some late poppies and some sweet-peas and mignonette made
the borders still look very attractive, and the chrysanthemums were
beginning to appear.

"In a week's time they will be splendid," said Linda, piloting her
two friends through the largest of the greenhouses.

"Do come away," said Molly; "when Linda speaks in that prim voice
she's intolerable. Come, Nora; come, Stephie--we'll just have a run
by ourselves."

Nora was still looking rather pale. The shock of the morning had
caused the color to fade from her cheeks; she could not get the
utterly changed O'Shanaghgan out of her head. She longed to write to
her father, and yet she did not dare.

Stephanotie looked at her with the curious, keen glance which an
American girl possesses.

"What is it? Do say," she said, linking her hand inside Nora's. "Is
it anything that a bon-bon will soothe, or is it past that?"

"It is quite past that; but don't ask me now, Stephie. I cannot tell
you, really."

"Don't bother her," said Molly; "she has partly confided in me, but
not wholly. We'll have a good time by ourselves. What game do you
think we had best play, Stephie?"

"I'm not one for games at all," answered Stephanotie. "Girls of my
age don't play games. They are thinking seriously of the business of
life--the flirtations and the jolly time they are going to have
before they settle down to their staid married life. You English are
so very childish."

"And we Irish are childish too," said Nora. "It's lovely to be
childish," she added. "I hate to put away childish things."

"Oh, dear! so that is the Irish and English way," said Stephanotie.
"But there, don't let us talk nationalities; let's be cozy and
cheerful. I can tell you I did feel annoyed at coming here such a
dowd; it was not my fault. I meant to make an impression; I did,
really and truly. It was very good of you, Molly, to ask me; and I
know that proud lady, your mother, didn't want to have me a bit. I
am nothing but Stephanotie Miller, and she doesn't know the style we
live in at home. If she did, maybe she would open her eyes a little;
but she doesn't, and that's flat; and I am vulgar, or supposed to
be, just because I am frank and open, and I have no concealment
about me. I call a spade a spade."

"Oh, hurrah! so do I," said Molly, the irrepressible.

"Well, my dear, I don't use your words; they wouldn't suit me at all,"
said the American girl. "I never call out Jehoshaphat the way you do,
whoever Jehoshaphat _is_; but I have my little eccentricities,
and they run to pretty and gay dresses--dresses with bright colors
and quantities of lace on them--and bon-bons at all hours, in season
and out of season. It's easy to content me, and I don't see why my
little innocent wishes should not be gratified."

"But you are very nicely dressed now," said Nora, looking with
approval at the gray cashmere.

"Me nicely dressed!" screamed Stephanotie. "Do you call this dress
nice? Why, I do declare it's a perfect shame that I should be made
such a spectacle. It don't suit my hair. When I am ordering a dress
I choose shades of red; they tone me down. I am fiery to-day--am I
not, Molly?"

"Well, you certainly are," said Molly. "But what--what did you do to

"To my locks, do you mean?"

"Yes. They do stick out so funnily. I know mother was shocked; she
likes our heads to be perfectly smooth.'

"Like the Armitages', for instance," said Stephanotie.

"Well, yes; something like theirs. They are pretty girls, are they

"Yes," said Stephanotie; "but don't they give you the quivers? Don't
you feel as if you were rubbed the wrong way the moment you speak to

"I don't take to them," said Molly; "but I think they're pretty."

"They're just like what O'Shanaghgan is now," thought Nora, who did
not speak. "They are all prim and proper; there's not a single
wildness allowed to come out anywhere."

"But they're for all the world like anybody else," said Stephanotie.
"Don't they love sweeties just! If you' had seen them--the greedy
way they took the bon-bons out of the little boxes I gave them. Oh,
they're just like anybody else, only they are playing parts; they
are little actors; they're always acting. I'd like to catch them
when they were not. I'd like to have them for one wild week, with
you, Molly, and you, Nora. I tell you there would be a fine change
in them both."

"There's a telegraph-boy coming down the avenue," cried Molly
suddenly. "I'll run and see what is the matter?"

Nora did not know why her heart beat. Telegrams arrived every day at
The Laurels. Nevertheless she felt sure that this was no ordinary
message; she stood now and stared at that boy as though her eyes
would start from their sockets.

"What is the matter?" said Stephanotie.


"You're vexed about something. Why should you be so distant with

"I am not, Stephie. I am a little anxious; it is difficult always to
be just the same," said Nora.

"Oh, don't I know it, my darling; and if you had as much to do with
Aunt Vi Truefitt as I have, you would realize how often _my_
spirits turn topsy-turvy. I often hope that I'll be Englishized
quickly, so that I may get back to my dear parents. But there, Molly
is coming back."

"The telegram was for mother," she said. "Do let us play."

Nora looked at Molly. Her face was red; it was usually pale. Nora
wondered what had brought that high color into her cheeks. Molly
seemed excited, and did not want to meet her cousin's eyes.

"Come, let us have a race," she said. "I don't want to put away
childish things. I want to have a good game while I am in the humor.
Let us see who will get first to the top of that hill. I like
running uphill. I'm off; catch me who may!"

Molly started. Her figure was stout, and she ran in a somewhat
awkward way. Nora flew after her. She soon reached her side.

"There, stop running," she said. "What is up?"

"What is up?" echoed Molly.

"Yes; what was in that telegram?"

"The telegram was for mother."

"But you know what was in it. I know you do."

"Nothing--nothing, Nora. Come, our race isn't over yet. I'm off
again; you cannot catch me this time."

Molly ran, panting as she did so.

"I cannot tell her; I won't," she said to herself. "I wish her eyes
were not so sharp. She is sure to find out; but I have begged and
prayed of mother not to tell her, at least until after Stephanotie
and the others have gone. Then, I suppose, she must know."

Molly reached the top of the hill. She was so blown that she had to
fling herself on the grass. Nora again reached her side.

"Tell me, Molly," she said; "there is something the matter?"

"There is a telegram for mother, and I cannot tell you anything
whatever about it," said Molly in a cross voice. "There, I'm off
once more. I promised Linda that I would help her to look after the
Armitage girls. Prim and proper as they are, they are sometimes a
little bit too much for my dainty sister Linda. You take care of
Stephie; she's right good fun. Let me go, Nora; let me go."

Molly pulled her hand almost roughly out of her cousin's grip, and
the next moment was rushing downhill as fast as she could in the
direction of the summer-house. There she knew she would find Linda
and her two friends.



Notwithstanding all the efforts of at least five merry girls, there
was a cloud over the remainder of that afternoon. Nora's face was
anxious; her gay laugh was wanting; her eyes wore an abstracted,
far-away look. The depression which the letters of the morning had
caused was now increased tenfold. If she joined in the games it was
without spirit; when she spoke there was no animation in her words.
Gone was the Irish wit, the pleasant Irish humor; the sparkle in the
eyes was missing; the gay laughter never rose upon the breeze. At
tea things were just as bad. Even at supper matters had not mended.

Molly now persistently avoided her cousin. Stephanotie and she were
having a wild time. Molly, to cover Nora's gloom, was going on in a
more extravagant way than usual. She constantly asked Jehoshaphat to
come to her aid; she talked of Holy Moses more than once; in short,
she exceeded herself in her wildness. Linda was so shocked that she
took the Armitage girls to a distant corner, and there discoursed
with them in low whispers. Now and then she cast a horrified glance
round at where her sister and the Yankee, as she termed Stephanotie,
were going on together. To her relief, toward the end of the evening,
Mrs. Hartrick came into the room. But even her presence could not
suppress Molly now. She was beside herself; the look of Nora sitting
gloomily apart from the rest, pretending to be interested in one of
Sir Walter Scott's novels, was too much for her. She knew that a bad
time was coming for Nora, and her misery made her reckless. Mrs.
Hartrick, hearing some of her naughtiest words, said in an icy tone
that Miss Truefitt had sent a maid for Stephanotie; and a few moments
afterward the little party broke up.

As soon as the strange girls had departed, Mrs. Hartrick turned
immediately to Molly.

"I am shocked at your conduct," she said. "In order to give you
pleasure I allowed Miss Miller to come here; but I should have been
a wiser and happier woman if I had taken dear Linda's advice. She is
not the sort of girl I wish either you or Nora ever to associate
with again. Now, go straight to your room, and don't leave it until
I send for you."

Molly stalked off with a defiant tread and eyes flashing fire; she
would not even glance at Nora. Linda began to talk in her prim
voice. Before she could utter a single word Nora had sprung forward,
caught both her aunt's hands, and looked her in the face.

"Now," she said, "I must know. What did that telegram say?"

"What telegram, Nora? My dear child, you forget yourself."

"I do not forget myself, Aunt Grace. If I am not to go quite off my
head, I must know the truth."

"Sit down, Nora."

"I cannot sit; please put me out of suspense. Please tell me the
worst at once."

"I am sorry for you, dear; I really am."

"Oh, please, please speak! Is anything--anything wrong with father?"

"I hope nothing serious."

"Ah! I knew it," said Nora; "there is something wrong."

"He has had an accident."

"An accident? An accident? Oh, what? Oh! it's Andy; it must be Andy.
Oh, Aunt Grace, I shall go mad; I shall go mad!"

Mrs. Hartrick did not speak. Then she looked at Linda. She motioned
to Linda to leave the room. Linda, however, had no idea of stirring.
She was too much interested; she looked at Nora as if she thought
her really mad.

"Tell me--tell me; is father killed?"

"No, no, my poor child; no, no. Do calm yourself, Nora. I will let
you see the telegram; then you will know all that I know."

"Oh, please, please!"

Mrs. Hartrick took it out of her pocket. Nora clutched it very hard,
but her trembling fingers could scarcely take the little flimsy pink
sheet out of its envelope. At last she had managed it. She spread it
before her; then she found that her dazed eyes could not see the
words. What was the misery of the morning to the agony of this

"Read it for me," she said in a piteous voice. "I--I cannot see."

"Sit down, my dear; you will faint if you don't."

"Oh! everything is going round. Is he--is he dead?"

"No, dear; nothing very wrong."

"Read--read!" said Nora.

Mrs. Hartrick did read. The following words fell upon the Irish
girl's ears:

"O'Shanaghgan was shot at from behind a hedge this, morning.
Seriously injured. Break it to Nora."

"I must go to him," said Nora, jumping up. "When is the next train?
Why didn't you tell me before? I must go--I must go at once."

Now that the worst of the news was broken, she had recovered her
courage and some calmness.

"I must go to him," she repeated.

"I have telegraphed. I have been mindful of you. I knew the moment
you heard this news you would wish to be off to Ireland, so I have
telegraphed to know if there is danger. If there is danger you shall
go, my dear child; indeed, I myself will take you."

"Oh! I must go in any case," repeated Nora. "Danger or no danger, he
is hurt, and he will want me. I must go; you cannot keep me here."

Just then there came a loud ring at the hall-door.

"Doubtless that is the telegram," said Mrs. Hartrick. "Run, Linda,
and bring it."

Linda raced into the hall. In a few moments she came back with a

"The messenger is waiting, mother," she said.

Mrs. Hartrick tore it open, read the contents, uttered a sigh of
relief, and then handed the paper on to Nora to read.

"There," she said; "you can read for yourself."

Nora read:

"Better. Doctor anticipates no danger. Tell Nora I do not wish her
to come. Writing.


"There, my dear, this is a great relief," said Mrs. Hartrick.

"Oh! I am going all the same," said Nora.

"No; that I cannot possibly allow."

"But he wants me, even if he is not in danger. It was bad enough to
be away from him when he was well; but now that he is ill----You
don't understand, Aunt Grace--there is no one can do anything for
father as I can. I am his Light o' the Morning."

"His what?" said Mrs. Hartrick.

"Oh, that is what he calls me; but I have no time to explain now. I
must go; I don't care."

"You are an ungrateful girl, Nora. If you had lived through the
misery I have lived through the last few hours this telegram would
fill you with thankfulness. It is your duty to stay here. You are
under a promise to your kind uncle. He has rescued your father and
mother from a most terrible position, and your promise to him saying
that you would stay quietly here you cannot in all honor break. If
your father were in danger it would be a different matter. As it is,
it is your duty to stay quietly here, and show by your patience how
truly you love him."

Nora sat silent. Mrs. Hartrick's words were absolute. The good lady
felt that she was strictly following the path of duty.

"I can understand the shock you have had," she continued, looking at
the girl, who now sat with her head slightly drooping, her hands
clasped tightly together, her attitude one of absolute despair.

"Linda," she said, turning to her daughter, "fetch Nora a glass of
wine. I noticed, my dear, that you ate scarcely any supper."

Nora did not speak.

Linda returned with a glass of claret.

"Now drink this off, Nora," said her aunt; "I insist."

Nora was about to refuse, but she suddenly changed her mind.

"I shall go whether she gives me leave or not," was her inward
thought. "I shall want strength." She drank off the wine, and
returned the empty glass to her cousin.

"There now, that is better," said Mrs. Hartrick; "and as you are
unaccustomed to wine you will doubtless sleep soundly after it. Go
up to your bedroom, dear. I will telegraph the first thing in the
morning to O'Shanaghgan, and if there is the slightest cause for
alarm will promise to take you there immediately. Be content with my
promise; be patient, be brave, I beg of you, Nora. But, believe me,
your uncle knows best when he says you are not to go."

"Thank you, Aunt Grace," said Nora in a low voice. She did not
glance at Linda. She turned and left the room.



Molly was standing by the open window of her room when Nora came in. She
entered quite quietly. Every vestige of color had left her face; her eyes,
dark and intensely blue, were shining; some of her jet-black hair had got
loosened and fell about her neck and shoulders. Molly sprang toward her.

"Oh, Nora!" she said.

"Hush!" said Nora. "I have heard; father is hurt--very badly hurt,
and I am going to him."

"Are you indeed? Is mother going to take you?" said Molly.

"No; she has refused. A telegram has come from my uncle; he says I
am not to go--as if a thousand telegrams would keep me. Molly, I am

"But you cannot go alone."

"I am going."

"When?" said Molly.

"Now--this very minute."

"What nonsense! There are no trains."

"I shall leave the house and stay at the station. I shall take the
very next train to town. I am going."

"But, Nora, have you money?"

"Money?" said Nora. "I never thought of that."

"Mother won't give you money if she does not wish you to go."

"I'll go to my room and see." Nora rushed away. She came back in a
few moments with her purse; she flung the contents on Molly's bed.
Molly took up the silver coins as they rattled out of Nora's purse.
Alack and alas! all she possessed was eight shillings and a few

"You cannot go with that," said Molly; "and I have nothing to lend
you, or I would; indeed, I would give you all I possess, but mother
only gives me sixpence a week. Nothing would induce her to give me
an allowance. I have sixpence a week just as if I were a baby, and
you can quite understand I don't save out of that. What is to be

Nora looked nonplused. For the first time the vigorous intention,
the fierce resolve which was bearing her onward, was checked, and
checked by so mighty a reason that she could not quite see her way
out of the present difficulty. To ask her Aunt Grace for money would
be worse than useless. Nora was a sufficient reader of character to
be quite certain that Mrs. Hartrick when she said a thing meant it.
She would be kind to Nora up to a certain point. Were her father in
what they called danger she herself would be the first to help Nora
to go to him.

"How little they know how badly he wants me!" thought the girl; "how
all this time he is pining for me--he who never knew illness in his
life--pining, pining for me! Nothing shall keep me from him. I would
steal to go to him; there is nothing I would not do."

"Nora, how queer you look!" said Molly.

"I am thinking," said Nora. "I wonder how I am to get that money?
Oh, I have it. I'll ask Stephanotie to lend it to me. Do you think
she would?"

"I don't know. I think it very likely. She is generous, and she has
heaps of money."

"Then I'll go to her," said Nora.

"Stay, Nora; if you really want to run away----"

"Run away?" said Nora. "If you like to call it so, you may; but I'm
going. My own father is ill; my uncle and aunt don't hold the same
position to me that my father holds. I will go to him--I will."

"Then I tell you what it is," said Molly, "you must do this thing
carefully or you'll be locked up in your bedroom. Mother would think
nothing of locking the door of your bedroom and keeping you there.
You don't know mother when once her back is up. She can be immensely
kind up to a certain point, and then--oh! I know it--immensely

"What is to be done?" said Nora. "I hate doing a thing in this kind
of way--in the dark, as it were."

"You must listen to me," said Molly; "you must be very careful. I
have had some little scampers in my time, and I know how to manage
matters. There is only one way for you to go."

"What is that?"

"You and I must go off and see Stephanotie; but we cannot do so
until everyone is in bed."

"How can we go then?"

"We can easily climb down from this window. You see this pear-tree;
it almost touches the window. I have climbed down by it more than
once; we can get in again the same way."

"Oh, yes. If we must sneak out of the house like thieves," said
Nora, "it's as good as any other way."

"I tell you it's the only way," said Molly. "We must be off on our
way to London before mother gets up tomorrow morning. You don't know
anything whatever about trains."

"But I can look them out," said Nora.

"Well, go back to your room. Mother will not be going to bed for
quite an hour. We cannot help it; we can do nothing until she is
safe in bed. Go away at once, Nora; for if she finds you here
talking to me she will suspect something. I cannot tell you what
mother is when once her suspicions are aroused; and she has had good
cause to suspect me before now."

"But do you really mean to say you'll come with me?"

"I certainly mean to say I won't let you go alone. Now then, go
away; just pack a few things, and slip back to me when I knock on
the wall. I know when mother has gone to bed; it is necessary that
she should be asleep, and that Linda should be asleep also; that is
all we require. Leave the rest to me."

"And you are certain Stephanotie can lend us the money?"

"We can but ask her. If she refuses we must only come back again and
make the best of things."

"I will never come back," said Nora. "I will go to the first
pawnbroker's and pawn everything of value I possess; but go to my
father I will."

"I admire your courage," said Molly. "Now then, go back to your room
and wait for my signal."

Nora returned to her room. She began to open and shut her drawers.
She did not care about being quiet. It seemed to her that no one
could keep her from her father against her will. She did not
recognize the all-potent fact that she had no money herself for the
journey. Still, the money must be obtained. Of course Stephanotie
had it, and of course Stephanotie would lend it; it would only be a
loan for a few days. When once Nora got to Ireland she would return
the money immediately.

She opened her drawers and filled a little black bag which she had
brought with her from home. She put in the trifles she might need on
her journey; the rest of her things could stay; she could not be
bothered with them one way or the other. Then she sat quite still on
the edge of her bed. How earnestly she wished that her aunt would
retire for the night, that Linda would be quiet! Linda's room
adjoined Nora's--it opened into Nora's--and Linda, when occasions
roused her suspicions, could be intensely watchful. She did not seem
to be going to bed; she kept moving about in her room. Poor Nora
could scarcely restrain herself from calling out, "Oh, do be quick,
Linda! What are you staying up for?" but she refrained from saying
the fatal words. Presently she heard the creak of Linda's bed as she
got into it. This was followed by silence.

Nora breathed a sigh of relief, but still the dangers were not past.
Her little black bag lay quite ready on the chair, and she herself
sat on the edge of her bed. Mrs. Hartrick's steps were heard coming
up the stairs, and the next moment the door of Nora's room was
opened and the good lady looked in.

"Not in bed, Nora," she said; "but this is very wrong."

"Oh, I could not sleep," said Nora.

Mrs. Hartrick went up to her.

"Now, my dear child," she said, "I cannot rest until I see you safe
in bed. Come, I must undress you myself. What a wan little face! My
dear girl, you must trust in God. Your uncle's telegram assures us
that there is no danger; and if there is the smallest occasion I
will take you myself to your father tomorrow."

"Oh! if you would only promise to take me," said poor Nora, suddenly
rising to her feet, twining her arms round her aunt's neck, and
looking full into her face. "Oh! don't say you will take me to my
father if there is danger; say you'll take me in any case. It would
break my heart to stay away. I cannot--cannot stay away from him."

"Now, you are talking in an unreasonable way, Nora--in a way I
cannot for a moment listen to. Your uncle wishes you to stay where
you are. He would not wish that if there was the least occasion for
you to go to Ireland."

"Then you will not take me tomorrow?"

"Not unless your father is worse. Come, I must help you to get your
things off."

Nora felt herself powerless in Mrs. Hartrick's hands. The good lady
quickly began to divest her of her clothes, soon her night-dress was
popped on, and she was lying down in bed.

"What is that black bag doing here?" said Mrs. Hartrick, glancing at
the bag as she spoke.

"I was packing my things together to go to father."

"Well, dear, we must only trust there will be no necessity. Now,
goodnight. Sleep well, my little girl. Believe me, I am not so
unsympathetic as I look."

Nora made no reply. She covered her face with the bedclothes; a sob
came from her throat. Mrs. Hartrick hesitated for a moment whether
she would say anything further; but then, hoping that the tired-out
girl would sleep, she went gently from the room. In the passage she
thought for a moment.

"Why did Nora pack that little bag?" she said to herself. "Can it be
possible--but no, the child would not do it. Besides, she has no

Mrs. Hartrick entered her own room at the other end of the corridor
and shut the door. Then stillness reigned over the house--stillness
absolute and complete.

No light had been burning under Molly's door when Mrs. Hartrick had
passed. Molly, indeed, wiser than Nora, had got into bed and lay
there, dressed, it is true, but absolutely in the dark. Nora also
lay in her bed; every nerve was beating frantically; her body seemed
to be all one great pulse. At last, in desperation, she sprang out
of bed--there came the welcome signal from Molly's room. Nora struck
a light and began to dress feverishly. In ten minutes she was once
more in her clothes. She now put on the dark-gray traveling dress
she had worn when coming to The Laurels. Her hat and jacket were
quickly put on, and, carrying the little black bag, she entered
Molly's room.

"What hour is it?" said Nora. "It must be long past midnight."

"Oh, no; nothing of the kind. It is not more than eleven o'clock."

"Oh! I thought it was one or two. Do you know that your mother came
to see me and insisted on my getting into bed?"

"You were a great goose, Nora. You should have lain down as I did,
in your clothes; that would have saved a little time. But come,
mother has been quite quiet for half an hour and more; she must be
sound asleep. We had better go."

"Yes, we had better go," said Nora. "I packed a few things in this bag;
it is quite light, and I can carry it. My money is in it, too--eight
shillings and fivepence. I do trust Stephanotie will be able to lend
us the rest."

Molly had not been idle while Nora was in her room. She had taken
care to oil the hasp of the window; and now, with extreme caution,
she lifted it up, taking care that it did not make the slightest
sound as she did so. The next moment both girls were seated on the
window-ledge. Molly sprang on to the pear-tree, which creaked and
crackled under her weight; but Mrs. Hartrick was already in the land
of dreams. Molly dropped on to the ground beneath, and then it was
Nora's turn.

"Shall I shut the window before I get on to the pear-tree?"
whispered Nora.

"No, no; leave it open. Come just as you are."

Nora reached out her arms, grasped the pear tree, and slipped down
to the ground.

"Now then, we must be off," said Molly. "I hope Pilot won't bark."
She was alluding to the big watchdog. "But there, I'll speak to him;
he is very fond of me."

The girls stole across the grass. The dew lay heavy on it; their
footsteps made no sound. Presently they reached the front of the
house, and Pilot, with a deep bay, flew to meet them.

"Pilot! Pilot! quiet; good dog!" said Molly. She went on her knees,
flung her arms round the dog, and began to whisper in his ear.

"He understands," she said, looking up at Nora. The great creature
seemed to do so; he wagged his feathery tail from side to side and
accompanied the girls as far as the gate.

"Now, go home, go home," said Molly. She then took Nora's hand, and
they ran down the road in the direction of the village.

"If it were not that you are so miserable I should enjoy this
awfully," said Molly.

"But how do you mean to wake Stephie?" asked Nora at last.

"Well, luckily for us, her aunt, Miss Truefitt, is rather deaf. Miss
Truefitt has a bedroom at the back of the house, and Stephanotie
sleeps in front. I shall fling gravel at the window. There is not a
soul, as you see, in the streets. It's well that it is such a quiet
place; it will serve our purpose all the better."

They now found themselves outside Miss Truefitt's house. Molly took
up a handful of gravel and flung it in a great shower at
Stephanotie's window. Both girls then waited eagerly for a response.
At first there was none; once again Molly threw the gravel.

"I do hope she will wake soon," she said, turning to Nora; "that
gravel makes a great noise, and some of the neighbors may pop out
their heads to see what is the matter. There! I saw a flicker of
light in the room. She is thinking it is thieves; she won't for a
single moment imagine that we are here. I do hope Miss Truefitt
won't awaken; it will be all up with us if she does."

"No, no, it won't," said Nora; "there's not a person in this place I
could not get to help me in a cause like this. The one who is
absolutely invulnerable, who cannot be moved, because she imagines
herself to be right, is your mother."

"There's Stephie at the window now," said Molly. A little figure in
a night-dress was seen peeping out.

"It's us, Stephie. Let us in; it's most awfully important,"
whispered Molly's voice in deep sepulchral tones from below.

"But say, what's the matter?" called Stephanotie, opening her window
and popping out her curly head.

"I can't talk to you in the street. Slip down and open the hall-door
and let us in," said Molly. "It's most vital."

"It's life or death," whispered Nora. There was something in Nora's
tremulous tones which touched Stephanotie, and at the same time
stimulated her curiosity to such an extent that she flew into her
clothes, dashing about perfectly reckless of the fact that she was
making a loud noise; but, luckily for her, Miss Truefitt was deaf
and the servants slept in a remote part of the old house. Soon
Stephanotie was tumbling downstairs, the chain was taken off the
door, and the two girls were admitted.

"Where shall I take you?" said Stephanotie. "It's all as dark as
pitch. You know Aunt Vi won't hear of gas in the house. But stay, we
can go into the dining room. I suppose you can tell me by the light
of a solitary glim." As she spoke she pointed to the candle which
she was holding high above her head.

"Yes, yes, or with no light at all," said Nora.

Stephanotie now opened the door of the dining room, and the three
girls entered. Stephanotie placed the candle on the table and turned
and faced them.

"Well," she said, "what's up? What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to lend me all the money you have," said Nora.

"All the money I have--good gracious!"

"Oh, Jehoshaphat! be quick about it," said Molly. "We cannot stand
here talking; we want to catch the very next train to town."

"But why should I lend you all the money I have?"

"Oh, I'll tell her, Nora; don't you speak," said Molly. "Nora's
father has been awfully hurt; he was shot at from behind a hedge by
some scoundrel in Ireland. A telegram came to-day about him to
mother, and mother won't take Nora to Ireland unless her father is
in danger, and Nora is determined to go."

"I guess I'd about do the same," said Stephanotie, nodding her head.
"If poppa was shot at from behind a hedge, I guess there's nothing
would keep me away from him. But is it for that you want the money?"

"Yes," said Nora, plunging her hands into the depths of her black
bag; "there's only eight shillings and five-pence here, and I can't
get to Ireland with that."

"Haul out the spoil," said Molly; "make no bones about it. I'm going
with Nora, because the child isn't fit to travel alone."

"You coming with me?" said Nora. "I didn't know that."

"I don't mean to leave you, my dear, until I see you safe in the
midst of your family; besides, I have a bit of curiosity with regard
to that wonderful old place of yours."

"Oh, it's lost, the place is quite lost," said Nora, remembering for
the first time since the blow had fallen the feather-bed condition
of Castle O'Shanaghgan.

"Well, lost or found, I'd like to have a peep at it," said Molly;
"so fork out the spoil, Stephie, and be quick."

"I will, of course," said Stephanotie. "But how much do you want?"

"All you possess, my dear; you cannot give us more than all you

"And when am I likely to have it back?"

"Oh, as if that mattered," said Molly; "the thing is to get Nora
home. You won't be any the worse for this, if that is what you

"Oh, I am not really thinking of that; but my school fees have to be
paid, and the money only came from America two days ago for the
purpose. You know Aunt Vi is very poor."

"Poor or rich, don't keep us waiting now," said Molly. "Look at
Nora. Do you think for a single moment that your school bills matter
when her heart is breaking?"

"And you shall have the money back, Stephie, every farthing, if I
die to get it for you," said Nora with sudden passion.

"I don't doubt you, darling," said the generous-hearted American
girl. "Well, I'll go up to my room and see what I can do." She left
the room, ran upstairs, and quickly returned with a fat purse. It
contained gold and notes; and very soon Molly found, to her infinite
delight, that it would be by no means necessary for her and Nora to
take all Stephie's wealth.

"Ten pounds will be sufficient," said Molly. "I have not the
slightest idea what the fares to Ireland are, but I have no doubt we
shall do nicely with this sum. May we have these two five-pounds
notes, Stephie?"

"You may and welcome," said Stephanotie. "I have nearly thirty pounds
here; but it's on account of the school bills. As a rule, poppa is not
quite so generous. He says it is better for young girls like me not to
have too much money. I guess I'd eat too many bon-bons if I had a lot
of money at my disposal. But had you not better take it in gold? It is
much easier to change."

"To be sure," said Molly. "Holy Moses! it's you that have got the
sense, Stephie."

"Thank you for the compliment," replied Stephanotie. "Well, then,
here you are--ten sovereigns. Good luck to you both. What do you
mean to do?"

"Go to the station and find out about the trains, and start the very
first moment possible," said Molly.

"I do wish I was going with you. It would be no end of a lark."

"Why don't you come?" asked Molly.

"I wish I might; but there, I suppose I had better not. I must look
perfectly innocent to-morrow, or I may get into an awful scrape for
this. You must both go now, or Aunt Vi when she turns in her sleep
may wake. She turns in her sleep about three times during the night;
and whenever she turns she wakes, so she tells me. I guess it's
about time for her first turn now, so the sooner you are off the

"Oh, thank you, Stephie! I shall never, never forget your kindness,"
said Nora. She flung her arms impulsively round Stephanotie's neck,
and the next moment the girls left the house.



The girls now went straight to the railway station; the hour was a
quarter to twelve. They entered and asked at once if there was a train
up to town. Yes; the last train would be due in ten minutes. Molly
now took the management of affairs; she purchased a third-class
ticket for herself and another for Nora.

"If we go third-class we shall not be specially remarked," she said.
"People always notice girls who travel first-class."

The tickets being bought, the girls stood side by side on the
platform. Molly had put on her shabbiest hat and oldest jacket; her
gloves had some holes in them; her umbrella was rolled up in such a
thick, ungainly fashion that it looked like a gamp. Nora, however,
exquisitely neat and trim, stood by her companion's side, betraying
as she did so traces of her good birth and breeding.

"You must untidy yourself a bit when we get into the train," said
Molly. "I'll manage it."

"Oh, never mind about my looks; the thing is to get off," said Nora.
"I'm not a scrap afraid," she added; "if Aunt Grace came to me now
she could not induce me to turn back; nothing but force would make
me. I have got the money, and to Ireland I will go."

"I admire you for your determination," said Molly. "I never knew
that an Irish girl could have so much spunk in her."

"And why not? Aren't we about the finest race on God's earth?"

"Oh, come, come," said Molly; "you mustn't overdo it. Even you
sometimes carry things a trifle too far."

Just then the train came in. There was the usual bustle of
passengers alighting and others getting in; the next moment the
girls had taken their seats in a crowded compartment and were off to
town. They arrived in London between twelve and one o'clock, and
found themselves landed at Waterloo. Now, Waterloo is not the nicest
station in the world for two very young girls to arrive at midnight,
particularly when they have not the faintest idea where to go.

"Let us go straight to the waiting room and ask the woman there what
we had best do," said Molly, who still immensely enjoyed taking the

Nora followed her companion quite willingly. Her worst fears about
her father were held in abeyance, now that she was really on her way
to him. The girls entered the waiting room. A tired-looking woman
was busy putting out the gas, and reducing the room to darkness for
the night. She turned round as the girls came in.

"I'm shutting up, ladies," she said.

"Oh, but please advise us," said Molly.

"How so, miss? What am I to do?"

"You'll be paid well," said Molly, "so you need not look so angry.
Can you take us home to your place until the morning?"

"What does this mean?" said the woman.

"Oh, I'll explain," said Molly. "We're two runaways. I don't mind
telling you that we are, because it's a fact. It is important that
we should leave home. We don't want to be traced. Will you give us
lodging?--any sort. We don't mind how small the room is. We want to
be at Euston at an early hour in the morning; we are going to

"Dear, dear!" said the woman; "and does this really mean money?"

"It means five shillings," said Molly.

"Ten" was on Nora's lips; but Molly silenced her with a look.

"There's no use in overpaying her; she won't be half as civil,"
whispered Molly to Nora.

"It's five shillings you'll get," she repeated in a firm voice.
"Here, I have got the change; you can look in my purse."

"Molly opened her purse as she spoke. The woman, a Mrs. Terry by name,
did look in. She saw the shine of gold and several half-crowns.

"Well, to be sure!" she said. "But you'll promise not to get me into
a scrape?"

"We won't even ask you your name. You can let us out of the house in
time for us to catch the first train from Euston. We shall be off
and away before we are discovered."

"And we'll remember you all our lives if you'll help us," said Nora.
Then she added, tears filling her pretty eyes, "It's my father,
please, kind woman; he has been shot at and is very ill."

"And who wants to keep you from your father, you poor thing?" said
the woman. "Oh, if it's that, and there's no lovers in the question,

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