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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLight O' The Morning - Chapter 25. The Blow
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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 25. The Blow Post by :svesty Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :3051

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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 25. The Blow

CHAPTER XXV. THE BLOW

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 moment?

"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 telegram.

"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.

"HARTRICK."

"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.

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