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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLight O' The Morning - Chapter 26. Ten Pounds
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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 26. Ten Pounds Post by :svesty Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2726

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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 26. Ten Pounds

CHAPTER XXVI. TEN POUNDS

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 going."

"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 coppers.

"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 done?"

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 cruel."

"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 money."

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 possess."

"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 mean."

"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 better."

"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.

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