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Light O' The Morning by L. T. Meade

Part 6 out of 6

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"Then he must stay out, Miss Nora."

"I wish, I wish," said Nora, clasping her hands and speaking with
passion, "that you would oblige me in this. Indeed, it is of the
utmost importance."

"What!" said Finnigan, going up to her and staring into her face;
"has that scoundrel threatened? Is it possible?"

"No, no, no; you are mistaken," said Nora eagerly. "I only meant
that I--I--pitied him so much."

"That being the case, Miss Nora, I will say nothing further. But the
fact is, I have before had my suspicions as to the hand which pulled
that trigger which sent the shot into the Squire's leg, and it would
be an extremely graceful act on my part to have that person
arrested, and would doubtless insure the agency for me. But I will
say no more; only, please understand, under _no_ circumstances,
except the payment of the rent, can Andy Neil get back his cabin."



Having failed to get any help from John Finnigan, Nora returned to
the Castle. As she drove quickly home she was very silent. Even
loquacious Molly did not care to interrupt her thoughts. As soon as
they reached the Castle she turned to her cousin and spoke quickly.

"Go to the barn and look after father, Molly. Talk as many naughty
words as ever you like; make him laugh; keep him occupied. After
dinner I shall probably want your aid again. In the meantime you
will help me best by taking father off my hands."

"And I desire nothing better," answered Molly. "I love the Squire;
it is the height of entertainment, as he would call it, to talk to

Molly accordingly ran off. The Squire was now well enough to sit up
in a great easy-chair made of straw, which had been carted over from
Cronane for his special benefit, for the padded and velvet-covered
chairs of the Castle would not at all have suited his inclinations.
He sat back in the depths of his chair, which creaked at his every
movement, and laughed long and often at Molly's stories.

"But where's Light o' the Morning herself?" he said after a pause.
"Why don't she come to visit her old father? Why, it's craving for a
sight of her I am."

"I think Nora is very busy to-day," answered Molly, "May I read the
paper to you, Squire?"

"You read the paper to me?" answered Squire O'Shanaghgan. "Why,
bless yer little heart, my pretty girleen, but I must decline with
thanks. It is perfect torture to listen to your English accent when
you are trying to do the rich Irish brogue. Irish papers should be
read by Irish colleens, and then you get the flavor. But what did
you say my colleen was after--business, is it? She's very fond of
poking that little finger of hers into other people's pies. What is
she after now at all, at all?"

"I cannot tell you," answered Molly, coloring slightly as she spoke.

The Squire looked annoyed and suspicious.

"You go and call her to me," he said. "Tell her to come along this
blessed minute; say it's wanting her I am."

Molly ran out of the barn. She found Nora in earnest conversation
with Angus, while Hannah Croneen stood close by plucking now and
then at the girl's skirt, looking eagerly into her face, and
uttering such ejaculations as "Oh, glory!" "Be the powers!" "Did ye
ever hear the like?" "Well, well, that beats all!"

"Nora," said Molly, "will you go to your father? He wants you

"Have you let out anything?" said Nora, turning and looking
anxiously at Molly.

"No; but he asked after you, and I said you were busy. The Squire
said then, 'I hope she is not poking her little finger into other
people's pies.'"

"Well, I will go to him," said Nora. "I'll manage him. You stay
where you are, Molly."

Nora's black hair was curling in crisp waves all round her beautiful
white forehead. Her dark-blue eyes were darker and more shining than
ever, there was a richer bloom on her cheeks, and there were sweeter
smiles on her lips than she had ever perhaps worn before as she now
entered the Squire's room.

"Well, father?" she said.

Squire O'Shanaghgan, who had been sitting wrapped in thought, roused
himself on her entrance, gave her a smile, and motioned her to come
to his side.

"Kneel down by me, colleen," he said.

Nora knelt. The Squire took his big hand and put it under her chin;
he raised her blooming face and looked into her eyes, which looked
back again at him. As he did so he uttered a quick sigh.

"You're after something, mavoureen," he said. "What's up, little
girl? What's fretting that tender heart of yours?"

"Something, father," said Nora then.

"And you won't tell your old dad?"

"I would rather not. Won't you trust me?"

"Trust her, is it?" cried the Squire. "I'd trust her with all I
possess. I'd trust her with my hopes of heaven itself. Trust her, is
it? Nora, you fret me when you talk like that."

"Then _do_ trust me, father, and don't ask me any questions. I'll
tell you by and by--yes, I faithfully promise, but I shall be busy
to-day. I may have to be away from you for a great part of to-day,
and I may want Molly to help me. Can you do without me?"

"Why, now, the conceit of the creature," said the Squire. "As if I
cannot do without you, you little piece of impertinence. To be sure,
and to be sure I can. Why, there is your lady mother; she'll come
and sit with me for an hour or so, and let out at me all her
grumbles. Nora, my heart, it is dreadful to hear her; but it's good
penance too, and maybe it's too comfortable you have been making me,
and I ought to have a bit of what I do not like to keep me humble.
You go along now, and come back when you have done that which is
filling your heart to the brim."

Nora kissed her father very gravely; she then went out of the barn,
and returned to where Angus and Hannah, and also Molly, were waiting
for her.

"I have thought how I can manage, Miss Nora," said Angus. "When
those Englishmen--bad cess to 'em!--are at dinner I'll get the long
cart out of the yard, and I'll put the white pony to it, and then
it's easy to get the big tarpaulin that we have for the hayrick out
of its place in the west barn. I have everything handy; and if you
could come along with me, Miss Nora, and the other young lady, and
if Hannah here will lend a hand, why we'll do up the place a bit,
and the poor forsaken crayther can die there at least."

"Do not forget the basket of provisions, Hannah," said Nora, "the
potatoes, and the bacon, and a tiny bottle of potheen; and do not
forget some fagots and bits of turf to kindle up the fire again. Oh,
and, Hannah, a blanket if you can manage it; and we might get a few
wisps of straw to put in the bottom of the cart. The straw would
make a fine bed."

"To be sure," said Hannah. "You lave it to me, me beautiful young

The two servants now departed, and Nora and her cousin went into the
house. The early dinner, or rather lunch, as it was now called, was
served soon afterwards; and almost immediately after the meal was
over Nora and Molly ran down to the bottom of the plantation, where
they found Angus, Hannah, the long cart with the pony harnessed to
it, and the tarpaulin, straw, basket of provisions, etc., all placed
in the bottom.

"Jump in, Molly," said Nora.

Molly scrambled in as best she could; Nora followed her; and Hannah,
climbing in over the left wheel, sat down at the bottom of the cart.
Angus jumped on the driver's seat, and whipped up the pony. The pony
was stout and very strong, and well accustomed to Irish hills. They
were off. Molly had never been so rattled and bumped and shaken in
the whole course of her life, but she enjoyed it, as she said,
immensely. Only, what was Nora doing? The tarpaulin had been
carefully hidden from view by the straw which Angus had cunningly
placed over and not under it; and it was well that this was the
case, as after the little party had left O'Shanaghgan a couple of
miles, they were met by John Finnigan driving on his outside car.

"Why, then, Miss Nora, what are you doing now?" he said.

"Having a drive for my own pleasure," replied Nora, nodding gayly.

Finnigan looked with suspicion at the party, but as there was
nothing contraband in anybody driving in a long cart, and as he
could not possibly guess what they were doing, he drove on his own
way without saying anything further. After less than an hour's
driving they reached the foot of Slieve Nagorna, and here the real
toil began, for it was quite impossible for the pony, willing as he
was, to lug the cart up the mountain. Where there is a will,
however, there is generally a way; and although the pony could not
drag the cart up, he could go up himself, being very sure-footed and
quite willing to be turned into a beast of burden for the nonce. The
heavy tarpaulin, therefore, was fastened on his back, and, with
Angus leading and Hannah following with the basket of provisions,
and the two girls making up the rear, the little cavalcade started
forward. Oh, how hot it seemed, and oh, how tired Molly got! But
never mind; they were making progress. After a time they reached the
site of Andy's cabin, and then Angus and Hannah developed strength
which fairly took Molly's breath away, for the tarpaulin was
absolutely lifted up and deposited as a sort of temporary roof over
the roofless walls; and when this had been done Angus managed to cut
a hole in the center to make a chimney; then the fagots were placed
on the hearth and the turf put on top of them, and the remainder of
the turf laid handy near by; and the straw was ready, soft and
inviting, in a corner not too far away from the fire, and the
blankets were spread over it; and the basket of provisions, cold
boiled potatoes, cold bacon, and the little bottle of potheen were
all left handy. It was indeed a miserable home, but, compared to the
desolate appearance it had presented, it now looked almost
comfortable. Nora laughed with pleasure. "He shall come back here.
It is better than nothing. He shall stop here. I will explain things
to my father by and by," said the girl; and then they all turned
their steps homeward.

At the appointed hour that evening Nora went down to the shore.
She fully expected to find Andy Neil waiting for her. Wild and
half-insane as he was, he kept his selfmade appointments, as a
rule. She wandered about, fearing that someone would notice her;
for she knew that if John Finnigan thought for a single moment that
she was secretly befriending Andy, he would not leave a single stone
unturned to circumvent her. He was very proud of his powers of
evicting tenants, and, as he had the Squire's permission to do his
worst on this occasion, would be the last man in the world to relax
his iron grip. Nora, however, wandered about in vain; there was no
sign of Andy. She even ventured to go to the borders of the
plantation and softly call his name.

"Andy--Andy Neil," called the girl, but no Andy responded. She now
felt really nervous. Why was Andy not there? What could possibly
have happened? She returned slowly and thoughtfully to the house. It
would not do to show any alarm, but she certainly felt the reverse
of comfortable. What had happened to the man? She did not for a
moment think that he could be dead; on the contrary, she pictured
him alive and still more insane than the night before, still more
desperate in his mind, still more darkly pursued by the grim phantom
of revenge. Was Andy now so really insane that he had even forgotten
his appointment with Nora? This was probably the case. But although
the man was too insane to think of meeting the girl, he was probably
not at all too insane to make another attempt on the Squire's life.
He was perhaps so desperate now that his one idea was to carry out
his revenge before he died. What was Nora to do? She thought and
thought, and walked up to the house with more and more lagging
footsteps. Finally she made up her mind. There was nothing whatever
left for it but for her to sit up with the Squire that night; she
herself must be his guardian angel, for he must not be alarmed, and
yet most certainly he must be protected. Nora carefully considered
this idea. She had made the little cabin quite ready for Andy's
reception; he could creep into it once more, light his fire, eat his
food, and lie down on the bed at least, as good as any other bed he
had ever slumbered on; and if death came to him, it would find him
in his old house, and perhaps God would forgive him, seeing that he
was so desperate and life had been so hard. Yes, Nora felt that God
was very merciful--far more merciful than man. But to-night--how was
to-night to be got through? She had now reached the yard, and found
herself face to face with Angus.

"Is there nothing I can do for you, miss?" said the young man,
touching his hat respectfully to the girl.

"If you could be near somewhere, Angus, and if it were necessary,
and we wanted the long cart to-night, could we get it?"

"You ask me, Miss Nora, what we could get and what we could not get
at O'Shanaghgan," answered Angus; "and I answer ye back that what ye
want, Miss Nora, ye shall have, if it is the heart out of me body.
The long cart, is it? To be sure, me pretty lady, and at a moment's
notice, too. Why, it's meself will slape in the bottom of the long
cart this blessed night, and all you has to do is to come and pull
the front lock of me hair, and I'll be up in a jiffy. You give it a
sharp tug, Miss Nora, for I slapes heavy; but if you come, the long
cart and the powny will be there."

"Then that's all right," answered Nora.

She went into the barn. The Squire had now contrived to renew all
his old accustomed habits. On the little wooden table was a small
lamp which smoked badly; the local paper was laid on the table, and
the pipe which the Squire best loved lay near. He had been enjoying
a good smoke, and was thinking of turning in, as he expressed it,
when Nora appeared.

"Good-night, father," she said. She went up to him, and bent down
over him, to give him her accustomed kiss.

"Why, then, it's sleepy I am," said the Squire. "I am thinking of
turning into bed. I am getting on fine; and Angus, boy that he is,
always comes and gives me a helping hand on to my bed. I cannot see
your face with the smoke of that lamp, mavoureen; but things are all
right--aren't they?"

"That they are, father," replied the girl; "but I am a little tired;
and if Angus is coming to help you, and you do not want anything
more from me, I will go to bed myself."

"Do that," said the Squire. "Your voice sounds peaky; you have been
doing too much."

Nora lingered another moment or two. How thankful she felt that that
smoky lamp prevented her father reading the anxiety in her eyes! She
could not keep all the tiredness out of her voice, but she could at
least keep anxiety from it; and the Squire bade her a hearty
goodnight, and parted with her with one of his usual jokes. Nora
then went into the house. The hour for late dinner was over; she
herself had not been present, but Molly had managed to appear as
usual. Nora ran down to the kitchen premises. The cook, a very
stately English woman, stared when she saw the young lady of the
Castle appear in the great kitchen.

"What is it, Miss O'Shanaghgan?" she said, gazing at Nora all over.
What did this wild and eccentric girl want? How was it possible that
she could demean herself by coming so freely into the servants'

"I want to know, Mrs. Shaw," said Nora, "if you will oblige me?"

"Of course I will, Miss O'Shanaghgan; if I can."

"Will you pack a little basket with some cold pie, and anything else
tasty and nourishing which you have got; and will you put a tiny
bottle of brandy into the basket, and also a bottle of water; and
can I have it at once, for I am in a great hurry?"

"Well, there is a fresh pigeon pie in the larder," answered the
cook; "but why should you want it?"

"Oh! please, Mrs. Shaw," answered Nora, "will you give it to me
without asking questions? I will love you for all the rest of my
life if you will."

"Love me, is it?" thought the cook. "A pretty creature like that
love me!"

"Your love is cheaply purchased, miss," she said aloud, and then went
without a word into the larder, and soon returned with a well-filled
basket, which she placed in Nora's hand. "And I added some fruit, a
little cup of jelly, and a knife and fork and a spoon, and some salt;
but why you, Miss Nora, should need a picnic in the middle of the
night beats me."

"Remember our compact," said Nora. "You say nothing of this, and--I
love you;" and then, overcome by a sudden impulse, she bent forward
and laid the lightest of kisses on the astonished Mrs. Shaw's

Mrs. Shaw felt slightly overawed. "Bless her! What a beautiful young
lady she is!" thought the good woman. "But the ways of the Irish
beat all comprehension."



Nora avoided Molly that night. On reflection, it occurred to her that
it would be best for Molly to know nothing of her design. If she were
in complete ignorance, no amount of questioning could elicit the truth.
Nora went into her bedroom, and changed her pretty jacket and skirt
and neat sailor hat for a dark-blue skirt and blouse of the same
material. Over these she put a long, old-fashioned cloak which at one
time had belonged to her mother. Over her head she tied a little red
handkerchief, and, having eaten a small portion of Mrs. Shaw's
provisions, she left the room. It was already night-time; and Mrs.
O'Shanaghgan, Molly, and the servants had gone to bed. Nora now locked
her door from the outside, slipped the key into her pocket, and her
basket of provisions partly hidden under the falls of her cloak, ran
downstairs. The dogs generally slept in the big hall; but they knew
Nora's step, and rose slowly, wagging their heavy tails. Nora patted
them on their heads, gave them each an endearing word, and stooped to
kiss pretty Cushla on her black forehead. She then softly unbolted one
of the windows, lifted the sash, and got out. She carefully shut the
window as noiselessly as she had opened it. She now found herself on
the grassy sward in the neighborhood of the drawing-room. Under the old
_regime_ that sward was hard, and knotty tufts of weed as well
as grass grew up here and there in profusion; but already, under the
English government, it was beginning to assume the velvet-like
appearance which a properly kept lawn ought to have.

Nora hated to feel such softness; she disliked everything which
seemed to her to flavor of the English and their ways. There was a
hot, rebellious feeling in her heart. Why should these things be?
Why should not her Irish land and her Irish people be left in their
wild freedom? She ran round to the yard. Angus had received
instructions to leave the little postern door on the latch, and Nora
now opened it and went softly in. The moon was beginning to rise,
but was not at the full. There was, however already sufficient light
for her to see each object with distinctness. She went and sat down
in the shadow made by the great barn. She sat on the step to the
barn, wrapping her warm cloak tightly round her, and keeping her
basket of provisions by her side. Here she would sit all night, if
necessary. Her vigil might have no result, but at any rate it would
insure her father from danger. For now only over Nora's dead body
could the wild Andy Neil approach the Squire.

"Andy shall kill me first," she thought; "and if I die, I will
scream and father will awaken. Angus is on the watch; the alarm will
be given; at least my father's life will be spared. But why do I
think of danger of this sort? Andy will not kill me. I place my
trust in God. I am doing the right thing--I know I am doing the
right thing."

When Nora had let herself in at the postern door she had immediately
drawn the bolt at the other side, thus preventing anyone else from
entering the great yard by the same way; but she knew that, although
Andy could not now enter the yard, in all probability he was already
hiding there. There were no end to the ways and devices of a wild
Irishman of Andy's sort. He was so thin and emaciated, too, that he
could squeeze himself into the tiniest space. It lay in his power to
remain motionless all night, until the moment when his revenge was
ripe. Nora sat on. She heard the old clock in the ancient tower of
the Castle strike the hours. That old clock had been severely
animadverted on by Mrs. O'Shanaghgan on account of the cracked sound
in the bell; but Nora felt relieved to find that, amongst all the
modern innovations, the old clock still held its own; it had not, at
least, _yet_, been removed from the tower. It struck solemnly
now the hour of midnight.

"The witching hour," thought the girl. "The hour when the Banshee
walks abroad. I wonder if I shall see her. I should like to see her.
Did she hear me when I called to her in the cave? Would she help me
if she came to my rescue now? She belongs to us; she is our own
Banshee; she has belonged to our family for many, many generations."

Nora thought these thoughts; but then the feeling that
_Someone_ else who never fails those who trust Him was also
watching her during this silent hour came to her with a sense of
comfort. She could hear her father turning once or twice in the
creaky old wooden bed. She was glad to feel that, unknown to him,
she was his guardian angel. She began to think about the future, and
almost to forget Andy and the possible and very great peril of the
present, when, shortly before the hour of one, all her senses were
preternaturally excited by the sound of a footfall. It was a very
soft footfall--the noise made by a bare foot. Nora heard it just
where the shadow was deepest. She stood up now; she knew that, from
her present position, the one who was making this dead sort of heavy
sound could not possibly see her. She waited, her breath coming hard
and fast. For a minute, or perhaps more, there was again absolute
and complete silence. The night was a breathless one; there was not
a sound abroad; overhead the sky was of an inky blue-black, the
stars were shining gloriously, and the moon was growing brighter and
more clear, and more nearly approaching her meridian each moment.
The girl stood with her hand pressed against her beating heart; she
had flung aside her little red handkerchief, and her hair had fallen
loose and was tumbling over her shoulders; she raised her other hand
to her left ear to listen more intently--she was in the attitude of
one about to spring.

Again there came the sound which she expected, and which, now that
it had arrived, caused her heart to beat no longer with fear, but
with a sort of wild exultation. Her suspicions had been right--the
danger was real; her father's most precious life was in peril. The
steps came quicker and more quick; they approached the other window
of the barn. This window lay in complete shadow. Nora now stepped
out of her hiding place, and, going with two or three quick strides
down the yard, waited within a foot or two of the man, who now
proceeded to lift himself up by the window ledge preparatory to
opening the barn window. With the aid of a claspknife he could very
easily push back the quaint and imperfect fastening; then it was but
to push in the glass, and he could enter the barn. He sat on the
window ledge with his back to Nora. His huge, gaunt form looked
larger than ever, intensified now by the light of the moon. He
breathed quickly; his breathing proclaimed that he himself was in
physical suffering.

"Andy," said Nora in a low, very low whisper.

But this low tone was as startling to the madman on the window as
though a pistol shot had been sounded in his ears.

"Be the powers!" he said, and he tumbled so quickly off the window
sill that Nora herself held out her hand to help him. Then he turned
fiercely and faced the girl. She saw the light of madness gleaming
in his sunken eyes; his wild face looked more cadaverous than ever;
his great, skinny, long hand shook. He raised it as if to fell the
girl to the ground, but paused to look in her face, and then his
hand hung feebly to his side.

Nora had enacted all this scene beforehand to herself; she now
thrust into Andy's face, within an inch or two of his nose, a great
lump of bread and a slab of cold pie.

"Before you do anything more, eat," she said; "eat quickly; make no

It was as impossible for the famished man to resist the good and
tempting food as it would have been impossible for a needle to
resist the influence of a powerful magnet. He grasped the bread,
thrust the knife into his wretched shirt, and, tearing the bread in
fragments, began to stuff it into his mouth. For a couple of minutes
there was no sound but that of the starved creature tearing the
bread and feeding himself. When he had slightly satisfied the first
cravings of his starved body Nora took his hand.

"You have not had enough yet," she said. "You have fasted long, and
are very hungry; there is more where this came from."

She took his hand quite unresistingly, and led him round to the
entrance of the barn.

"I am up," she said, "but no one else. No one else knows of this.
You have come without a gun?"

"I have a knife instead," he said. His eye glittered strangely.

"Give me your knife," said the girl. "I will give you food in
exchange for it."

The famished creature began to gibber now in the most horrible
manner; he pointed to his breast and uttered a laugh.

"Laugh again, and I will call those who will soon put a stop to your
wild and terrible purposes, Andy," said the girl, "Here's food--fruit,
jelly, bread. You shall have them all--all, when you give me that

The man looked at the food, and now his eyes softened. They became
full not only of rapture, but also of laughter. He gave a low
guttural sound, sank down on the ground, and held out both his hands
imploringly for some of the nourishment.

"The knife," said Nora.

He thrust his hands into his bosom and held the knife out to her. It
was a huge clasp knife, and Nora noticed with a shudder that it had
all the appearance of having been newly sharpened. The moment she
got it she put it in her pocket, and then invited the man to feed.
He sat now quite humbly. Nora helped him to pie. She had already
taken the precaution to hide the knife which Mrs. Shaw had supplied
her with. The man ate and ate, until his consuming hunger was
satisfied. Nora now gave him a very little of the brandy mixed with
water. He lay back at last, exhausted and also satisfied.

"It's wake I am, it's wake I am--it's wake I am entoirely," said he.
"Why are you so good to me, Miss Nora? It was to take the life of
the Squire I was afther to-night."

"I knew that," said Nora, "and I thought I would prevent you. Why
did you not meet me this evening down by the shore?"

The miserable creature now raised his hand and pushed back a gray
lock of unkempt hair from his forehead.

"Why, then," he said, "it was bothered I was entoirely. I knew there
was something I had got to do. It was waker and waker I was getting,
for I did not touch bite nor sup since I saw you last, except a
morsel of a cold pitatie; and there was not much of the nourishment
in that; and as the night came, I could not think of anything except
to keep me word and have me victory."

"Well, you have had it," said Nora.

"What do you mane now, missie?"

"You have conquered yourself; that is the best victory of all. But
come, you made a bargain with me last night, and I am prepared to
keep it. I went down to the shore to tell you that I would do what
you wanted me to do. The cabin is ready on Slieve Nagorna; we have
made it fairly comfortable for you; and I will do better--yes, I
will try to do better by and by. I will speak to my father when he
is strong enough. Go to Slieve Nagorna now, and you will find the
old cot in which you were born. You can sleep there, and--and
_I_--I will see that you are not interfered with."

"The old cot in which I was born," said Neil very slowly. "The old
cot, and I'll see it again. Is it a-joking me you are, Miss Nora?"

"Would I joke with you just now, Andy? Would I?"

"I know it's saft you are making me. There was a lump of ice in me;
but, somehow, it's melted. It's the food and your bonny face, and
yer ways. But do you know that it was your _father_ I wanted to
kill--t'ould Squire? There, I have said it!"

"I know--and I have saved him," answered Nora. "But come, he may
hear us speaking; he would wonder. I do not want him to know
anything of this night. When he is stronger I will plead with him.
Come, Andy, come; your home is ready for you. Go back to it."

The man tottered to his feet, and began to stagger across the barn.

"Stay! you are not strong enough," said the girl. "Come outside the
yard, here; come with me."

She walked across the yard, reached the little postern gate, and
opened it.

"Come out and wait," she said in a mysterious voice. "You cannot
walk to Slieve Nagorna, and yet you must get there; but I will get
Angus to take you."

"Angus! ay, he is a true Irish boy. Aw, I'd trust him."

"You well may; he is a broth of a boy," said Nora. "Sit there. I
will soon be back with you."

She shut Andy out, bolting the little gate. The man heard the bolt
being drawn, but did not move; he had not the slightest fear but
that Nora would keep her word. She ran across the yard and opened
the door of the barn at the farther end. Angus was already awake; he
heard her light step.

"Is it me you're wanting, Miss Nora?"

"Angus, all is well," she said. "What I wanted to do I have
succeeded in doing. It is Andy Neil who is without; he is broken
down and is very weak. Get the long cart and take him to the foot of
Slieve Nagorna, help him up the mountain, and see him into the old
cot where he was born. Good-night, Angus, and God bless you."

Nora returned to her own bedroom. She unlocked the door and let
herself in. Without waiting even to undress, she flung herself on
the bed, curled herself up, and went off into dreamless slumber.
When she woke again it was broad daylight, and Molly was standing
over her.

"Why, Nora, you have lain undressed all night! What--what has

"Do not ask me," said Nora. "Do not ask me. I have done what I
wanted to do, and I am thankful."

"And you won't really tell me?"

"No, I won't. I cannot ever. There is more to attend to, Molly; you
and I have got to go to Slieve Nagorna immediately after breakfast."

Molly did not ask anything further.

"I brought your hot water," she said. "You do not want any of the
grand English servants to see you look like this."

"What a dear old thing you are!" said Nora. "I am so grateful to

She got up, took off her clothes, indulged in a hot bath, and came
down to breakfast looking exactly as if she had spent an ordinary
night. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan was a little more fretful than ever, and
told Nora that her conduct was making her mother quite ridiculous in
the neighborhood.

"I met those remarkably nice people, the Setons of Seton Court,
yesterday," said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan--"charming English people--and
they asked me if it was really true that my husband, the owner of
Castle O'Shanaghgan, was sleeping in a barn."

"And what did you answer, mother?" asked Nora, her dark-blue eyes
bright with sudden fun.

"Well, my dear, I made the best of it. I could not deny such a
patent fact. I said that the eccentricities of Irish squires were
proverbial. But you can imagine, my dear Nora, my mortification as I
had to make this admission. If this sort of thing goes on I shall
ask your uncle to let the place, and allow us all to live in

"Oh, come, mother," said her daughter. "You ought to be thankful
this morning--you ought to be. Oh, mother! do give me a loving kiss.
It is so long, so long since you have done so, and somehow I am
tired, mother."

"Tired!" said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, alarmed and surprised by the new
tone in Nora's voice. "You look tired. How black those shadows are
under your eyes! and you have lost some of your color. There! of
course I will kiss you, and I hope I am thankful, for we certainly
have had wonderful mercies since your dear Uncle George came over
and delivered us all. But what do you mean by special thankfulness
this morning?"

"Never mind, mother," said Nora. "Only _do_ be thankful,
_do_ thank God for His mercies; and oh, mother, do give me that

"There, child! of course you shall have it."

Mrs. O'Shanaghgan pressed her lips lightly to Nora's cheek.

"Now eat your breakfast," she said. "These eggs are quite fresh, and the
honey was bought only yesterday--you know you are fond of honey--and
these hot cakes are made in a new and particularly nice way. Eat
plenty, Nora, and do, my dear, try to restrain your emotions. It is
quite terrible what wear and tear you give yourself over these
feelings. It is really, my dear girl, unladylike; and let me tell
you another thing, that when you lose your fresh wild-rose color,
you will lose the greater part of your beauty. Dear me! it will not
stay long with you if you excite yourself about every hand's turn in
the ridiculous way you are doing."

Nora did not say any more. She sat down to the breakfast table. Was
her mother right? Was she indeed exciting herself over every hand's
turn, and was that thing which had happened last night--which, now
that it was over, caused her heart to beat a trifle too fast, and
brought that tired, that very tired feeling into her sensitive
frame--was that indeed but a trifling thing? Thank God--oh, thank
God--she had been in time!

Soon after breakfast Nora and Molly started once more for Slieve
Nagorna. They went on the outside car this time, and Nora found her
strength and courage returning as she handled the reins and urged
Black Bess to speed. They presently reached their destination. Nora
fastened up the horse as she had done on the previous day, and the
girls began to climb the mountain.

"You must not be afraid when you see Andy," said Nora. "He was very
weak last night, and will in all probability be in his house. I am
going to arrange to have provisions sent to him every day. He will
stay there now that he has got back again."

"But how has he got back again? You will remember you never told me
what happened last night."

"And you must not ask me, Molly. What happened last night can never
be told by me to any human being. Only Angus knows something of it;
and Angus will not tell anyone else."

"And you were frightened? You look, Nora, as if you had gone through
a great deal."

"I went through more than anyone will ever know," said Nora, "but I
am very thankful."

The girls had now reached the old cabin. The tarpaulin was over the
roof, but there was no smoke issuing from the hole.

"I wonder he did not light his fire," said Nora in an anxious voice.
"Will you go in with me, Molly, or shall I go alone?"

"I'll go in with you," said Molly stoutly. "If you are not afraid,
neither will I be."

"I afraid now?" said Nora, with a smile. "Come, Molly, I hope the
poor creature is not very ill."

Both girls entered the cabin. The tarpaulin had been so contrived
that a piece hung over, and formed a temporary door. Nora now pushed
it aside, and they both stepped into the miserable cabin. Andy was
lying on the straw; the basket of provisions had not yet been
touched, nor was the fire lit. Andy lay very still and quiet on the
straw. Nora went up to him; his eyes were shut, and his head was
slightly turned round, so that she could not at first get a proper
glimpse of his face. She went on her knees, then presently touched
his forehead with her own slim hand, calling his name softly at the
same time. There was no answer--there would never be an answer
again, for the wild Irishman was dead.



It was just before Christmas, and the preparations for the festive
season were great at Castle O'Shanaghgan. The Squire was quite well
again. Once more he walked all over his estate; once more he talked
to his tenants; once more he joked and laughed with the other
squires of the neighborhood. To a certain extent he had grown
accustomed to the grand house with its grand furniture; to the
terrible late dinner, at which he stoutly declined to appear in
evening dress; to the English servants who knew none of his ways. He
began to bear with these things, for Light o' the Morning, as he
called his beloved Nora, was always by his side, and at night he
could cast off the yoke which was so burdensome, and do what he
liked in the barn. At Mrs. O'Shanaghgan's earnest request this barn
was now rendered a tolerably comfortable bedroom; the walls had been
papered, and the worst of the draughts excluded. A huge fireplace
had been built out at one end, and the Squire did not object at all
to a large turf fire on a cold night; but the old bedstead from
Cronane still occupied its old place of honor in the best position
in the room, the little deal table was destitute of cloth or
ornament of any kind, and the tarpaulin on the floor was not
rendered more luxurious by the presence of rugs.

"Rugs indeed!" said the Squire, snorting almost like a wild beast
when his wife ventured to suggest a few of these comforts. "It is
tripping me up you'd be? Rugs indeed! I know better."

But compared to its condition when the Squire first occupied it, the
barn was now a fairly comfortable bedroom, and Squire Murphy, Squire
Fitzgerald, Squire Terence Malone, and the other squires of the
neighborhood had many a good smoke there, and many a hearty laugh,
as they said, quite "unbeknownst" to the English lady and her grand
friends. And Nora, Molly, and even Biddy Murphy often shared in
these festive times, laughing at the best jokes, and adding sundry
witticisms on their own account.

It was now, however, Christmas Eve, and Mrs. O'Shanaghgan's nearest
English relatives were coming to spend the festive season at the
Castle. Mrs. Hartrick, for the first time in her life, was to find
herself in Old Ireland. Linda was also accompanying her mother, and
Terence O'Shanaghgan was coming back for a brief visit to the home
which one day would be his. Terence was now permanently settled in
his uncle's office, and was likely to make an excellent man of
business. Mr. Hartrick was glad of this, for he would much prefer
the O'Shanaghgans to have money of their own in the future, rather
than to depend on him to keep up the old place. Inwardly the Squire
was fretting and fuming a good bit at Mr. Hartrick really owning
Castle O'Shanaghgan.

"I must say, after all's said and done, the man is a gentleman," he
remarked to his daughter; "but it frets me sore, Nora, that I should
hold the place under him."

"It's better, surely, than not having it at all," answered Nora.

"Yes, be the powers! it is that," said the Squire; "but when I say
so, it's about all. But I'll own the truth to you now, Nora: when
they were smothering me up in that dreadful bedroom before you came,
mavourneen, I almost wished that I had sold the place out and out."

"Oh, but, father, that time is long over," answered Nora; "and I
believe that, after all, it will be good for the poor people round
here that you should stay with them, and that there should be plenty
of money to make their cabins comfortable, and to give them a chance
in life."

"If I thought that, there'd not be another grumble out of me," said
the Squire. "I declare to you, Nora, I'd even put on that abominable
dinner suit which your lady mother ordered from the best Dublin
tailors. My word! but it's cramped and fussed I feel in it. But I'd
put it on, and do more than that, for the sake of the poor souls who
have too little of this world's goods."

"Then, father, do believe that it is so," said Nora; and now she put
one of her soft arms round his neck, and raised herself on tiptoe
and kissed his cheek. "Believe that it is so, for this morning I
went round to the people, and in every cabin there was a bit of
bacon, and a half-sack of potatoes, and fagots, and a pile of turf;
and in every cabin they were blessing you, father; they think that
you have sent them these Christmas gifts."

"Ah, ah!" said the Squire, "it's sore to me that I have not done it;
but I must say it's thoughtful of George Hartrick--very thoughtful.
I am obliged to him--I cannot say more. Did you tell me the things
were sent to every cabin, Nora--all over the place, alannah?"

"Every cabin, father," answered his daughter.

"Then, that being the case, I'll truss myself up tonight. I will
truly. Mortal man couldn't do more."

The preparations, not only outside but inside, for the arrival of the
English family were going on with vigor. Pretty suites of rooms were
being put into their best holiday dress for the visitors. Huge fires
blazed merrily all over the house. Hothouse flowers were in profusion;
hothouse fruit graced the table. The great hall quite shone with
firelight and the gleam of dark old oak. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan dressed
herself in her most regal black velvet dress for this auspicious
occasion; and Nora, Molly, and even Biddy Murphy, all in white, danced
excitedly in the hall. For Biddy Murphy, at Nora's special suggestion,
had been asked to spend Christmas at the Castle. It was truly good to
see her. Notwithstanding her celestial nose and very wide mouth, it
would have been difficult to have looked at a happier face than hers.
And, Irish as Biddy was, she had got the knack of coming round Mrs.
O'Shanaghgan. She did this by her simple and undisguised admiration.

"Oh, Mrs. O'Shanaghgan!" Biddy would cry, "it is the very most
lovely thing I have ever clapped eyes on. I never saw anything so
magnificent as this room. It's fairyland; the whole place is
fairyland;" and as Biddy spoke her eyes would twinkle, and her big
mouth would open, showing her immaculate white teeth. So much did
she contrive to win over Mrs. O'Shanaghgan that that lady presented
her with a soft white muslin dress for the present occasion. If
Biddy was proud before, she was almost rampant with pleasure now.
She twirled round, and gazed at herself in the long mirrors which
had been inserted in the hall between the oak panels.

"Why, then, it's proud me ancestors, the old Irish kings, would be
of me now," she was even heard to say.

But, all things being ready, the time at last approached when the
tired travelers would arrive. At the eleventh hour there had come a
great surprise to Nora and Molly; for Mrs. Hartrick and Linda were
bringing Stephanotie with them. How this came to pass was more than
either girl could possibly conjecture; but they both felt that it
was the final crown of their happiness.

"Can I ever forget," said Nora, "that but for Stephanotie lending us
that money I should not have been able to run away to Ireland, and
my dear, dearest father might not now have been alive?"

But the sound of wheels was at last heard without.

"Come, girleens, and let's give them a proper Irish welcome," said
the Squire, standing on the steps of the old house.

Nora ran to him, and he put his arm round her waist.

"Now then, Nora, as the carriage comes up, you help me with the big
Irish cheer. Hip, hip, hurrah! and _Caed Mille a Faitha_. Now
then, let every one who has got a drop of Irish blood in him or her
raise the old cheer."

Poor gentle English Mrs. Hartrick turned quite pale when she heard
these sounds; but Mr. Hartrick was already beginning to understand
his Irish relatives; and as to Stephanotie, she sprang from the
carriage, rushed up the steps, and thrust a huge box of bon-bons
into Squire O'Shanaghgan's face.

"I am an American girl," she said; "but I guess that, whether one is
Irish or American, one likes a right-down good sweetheart. Have a
bon-bon, Squire O'Shanaghgan, for I guess that you are the man to
enjoy it."

"Why then, my girl, I'd like one very much," said the Squire; "but
don't bother me for a bit, for I have to speak to my English

"Oh, come along in, Stephanotie, do," said Molly. "I see that you
are just as eccentric and as great a darling as ever."

"I guess I'm not likely to change," answered Stephanotie. "I was
born with a love of bon-bons, and I'll keep it to the end of the

But now Mrs. Hartrick and Mrs. O'Shanaghgan had met. The two English
ladies immediately began to understand each other. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan,
without a word, slipped her hand inside her sister-in-law's arm, and
they walked slowly across the magnificent hall and up the wide stairs
to the palatial bedroom got ready for the traveler.

Then the fun and excitement downstairs became fast and furious. The
Squire clapped his brother-in-law, George Hartrick, on the shoulder;
the Squire laughed; the Squire very nearly hallooed. Terence looked
round him in undisguised amazement.

"I would not have known the old place," he said, turning to Nora.

Nora gave a quick sigh.

"Where is my mother?" said the lad then.

"She has gone upstairs with Aunt Grace; but run after her, Terry,
do," said his sister.

Terence gave another glance round, in which pride for the home where
he was born kindled once more in his dark eyes. He then rushed up
the stairs three steps at a time.

"Why, then," said the Squire, "it's cramped and bothered I am in
these clothes. What possesses people to make Merry-andrews of
themselves night after night beats my comprehension. In my old
velveteen jacket and knee-breeches I am a man--in this tomfoolery I
do not feel as good as my own footman."

"You look very well in your dinner dress all the same,
O'Shanaghgan," said Mr. Hartrick. And he added, glancing from Nora
to her father, "I am glad to see you quite recovered."

"Ah! it's she has done it," said the Squire, drawing Nora forward and
pressing her close to his heart. "She's a little witch. She has done
fine things for me, and I am a happy man to-night. Yes, I will own to
it now, I'm a happy man; and perhaps there are more things in the
world than we Irish people know of. Since I have my barn to sleep in
I can bear the house, and I am much obliged to you, George--much
obliged to you. But, all the same, it's downright I'd have hated you,
when you altered this old place past knowing, had it not been for my
little girl, Light o' the Morning, as I call her."


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