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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLight O' The Morning - Chapter 18. A Compact
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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 18. A Compact Post by :upnorth Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2203

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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 18. A Compact

CHAPTER XVIII. A COMPACT

Mr. Hartrick, still holding Nora's hand, took her down a corridor, and the next moment they found themselves in a large room, with oak bookcases and lined with oak throughout; but it was a stately sort of apartment, and it oppressed the girl as much as the rest of the house had done.

"I had thought," she murmured inwardly, "that his study would be a little bare. I cannot think how he can stand such closeness, so much furniture." She sighed as the thought came to her.

"More and more sighs, my little Irish girl," said Mr. Hartrick. "Why, what is the matter with you?"

"I cannot breathe; but I'll soon get accustomed to it," said Nora.

"Cannot breathe? Are you subject to asthma, my dear?"

"Oh, no, no; but there is so much furniture, and I am accustomed to so little."

"All right, Nora; but now you must pull yourself together, and try to be broad-minded enough to take us English folk as we are. We are not wild; we are civilized. Our houses are not bare; but I presume you must consider them comfortable."

"Oh, yes," said Nora; "yes."

"Do you dislike comfortable houses?"

"Hate them!" said Nora.

"My dear, dear child!"

"You would if you were me--wouldn't you, Uncle George?"

"I suppose if I were you I should feel as you do, Nora. I must honestly say I am very thankful I am not you."

Nora did not reply at all to that.

"Ah, at home now," she said, "the moon is getting up, and it is making a path of silver on the waves, and it is touching the head of Slieve Nagorna. The dear old Slieve generally keeps his snow nightcap on, and I dare say he has it by now. In very hot weather, sometimes, it melts and disappears; but probably he has got his first coat of snow by now, just on his very top, you know. Then, when the moon shines on it and then on the water--why, don't you think, Uncle George, you would rather look at Slieve Nagorna, with the snow on him and the moon touching his forehead, and the path of silver on the water, than--than be just comfortable?"

"I don't see why I should not have both," said Mr. Hartrick after a pause; "the silver path on the water and the grand look of Slieve Nagorna (I can quite fancy what he is like from your description, Nora), and also have a house nicely furnished, and good things to eat, and----. But I see we are at daggers drawn, my dear niece. Now, please tell me what your letter means."

"Do you really want me to tell you now?"

"Yes."

"Do you know why I have really come here?"

"You said something in your letter; but you did not explain yourself very clearly."

"I came here," said Nora, "for a short visit. I want to go back again soon. Time is flying. Already a month of the three months is over. In two months' time the blow will fall unless--unless you, Uncle George, avert it."

"The blow, dear? What blow?"

"They are going," said Nora--she held out both her hands--"the place, the sea, the mountains, the home of our ancestors, they are going unless--unless you help us, Uncle George."

"My dear Nora, you are very melodramatic; you must try and talk plain English. Do you mean to say that Castle O'Shanaghgan--"

"Yes, that's it," said Nora; "it is mortgaged. I don't quite know what mortgaged means, but it is something very bad; and unless father can get a great deal of money--I don't know how much, but a good deal--before two months are up, the man to whom Castle O'Shanaghgan is mortgaged will take possession of it. He is a horrid Englishman; but he will go there, and he will turn father out, and mother out, and me--oh, Terence doesn't matter. Terence never was an Irishman--never, never; but he will turn us out. We will go away. Oh, it does not greatly matter for me, because I am young; and it does not greatly matter for mother, because she is an English woman. Oh, yes, Uncle George, she is just like you--she likes comfort; she likes richly furnished rooms; but she is my mother, and of course I love her; she will stand it, for she will think perhaps we will come here to this country. But it is father I am thinking of, the old lion, the old king, the dear, grand old father. He won't understand, he'll be so puzzled. No other place will suit him; he won't say a word; it's not the way of the O'Shanaghgans to grumble. He won't utter a word; he will go away, and he will--die. His heart will be broken; he will die."

"Nora, my dear child!"

"It is true," said Nora. Her face was ghastly white; her words came out in broken sobs. "I see him, Uncle George; every night I see him, with his bowed head, and his broken heart, and his steps getting slower and slower. He'll be so puzzled, for he is such a true Irishman, Uncle George. You don't know what we are--happy one day, miserable the next. He thinks somehow, somehow, that the money will be paid. But, oh, Uncle George!--I suppose I have got a little bit of the English in me after all--I know it will not be paid, that no one will lend it to him, not any of his old friends and cronies; and he will have to go, and it will break his heart, unless, unless you help him. I thought of you; I guessed you must be rich. I see now that you are very rich. Oh, how rich!--rich enough for carriages, and thick carpets, and easy-chairs, and tables, and grand dresses, and--and all those sort of things; and you will help--won't you? Please, do! please, do! You'll be so glad some day that you helped the old king, and saved him from dying of a broken heart. Please, help him, Uncle George."

"My dear little girl!" said Mr. Hartrick. He was really affected by Nora's speech; it was wild; it was unconventional; there was a great deal of false sentiment about it; but the child herself was true, and her eyes were beautiful, and she looked graceful, and young, and full of passion, almost primeval passion, as she stood there before him. Then she believed in him. If she did not believe in anyone else in the house, she believed in him. She thought that if she asked him he would help.

"Now, tell me," he said after a pause, "does your mother know what you have come here for?"

"Mother? Certainly not; I told you in my letter that you must not breathe a word of it to mother; and father does not know. No one knows but I--Nora, I myself."

"This has been completely your own idea?"

"Completely."

"You are a brave girl."

"Oh, I don't know about being brave. I had to do something. If you belonged to Patrick O'Shanaghgan you would do something for him too. Have you ever seen him, Uncle George?"

"Yes, at the time of my sister's wedding, but not since."

"And then?"

"He was as handsome a fellow as I ever laid eyes on, and Irish through and through."

"Of course. What else would he be?"

"I have not seen him since. My sister, poor Ellen, she was a beautiful girl when she was young, Nora."

"She is stately, like a queen," said Nora. "We all admire her very, very much."

"And love her, my dear?"

"Oh yes, of course I love mother."

"But not as well as your father?"

"You could not, Uncle George, if you knew father."

"Well, I shall not ask any more. You really do want me to help?"

"If you can; if it will not cost you too much money."

"And you mean that your father is absolutely, downright poor?"

"Oh, I suppose so. I don't think that matters a bit. We wouldn't like to be rich, neither father nor I; but we do want to keep O'Shanaghgan."

"Even without carpets and chairs and tables?" said Mr. Hartrick.

"We don't care about carpets and chairs and tables," said Nora. "We want to keep O'Shanaghgan, the place where father was born and I was born."

"Well, look here, Nora. I can make you no promises just now; but I respect you, my dear, and I will certainly do something--what I cannot possibly tell you, for I must look into this matter for myself. But I will do this: I will go to O'Shanaghgan this week and see my sister, and find out from the Squire what really is wrong."

"You will?" said Nora. She thought quickly. Her father would hate it; but, after all, it was the only chance. Even she had sufficient common sense to know that Mr. Hartrick could not help unless he went to the old place.

"Oh, you will do it when you see it," she said, with sudden rapture. "And you'll take me home with you?"

"Well, I think not, Nora. Now that you are here you must stay. I am fond of you, my little girl, although I know very little about you; but I do think that you have very mistaken ideas. I want you to love your English cousins for your mother's sake, and to love their home for your mother's sake also; and I should like you to have a few lessons, and to take some hints from your Aunt Grace, for you are wild, and need training. If I go to O'Shanaghgan for you, will you stay at The Laurels for me?"

"I will do anything, anything for you, if you save father," said Nora. She fell on her knees before her uncle could prevent her, took his hand, and kissed it.

"Then it is a compact," said Mr. Hartrick; "but remember I only promise to go. I cannot make any promises to help your father until I have seen him."

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