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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLight O' The Morning - Chapter 32. Andy
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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 32. Andy Post by :svesty Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2830

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Light O' The Morning - Chapter 32. Andy

CHAPTER XXXII. ANDY

Are there any words in the language to describe the scene which took place at O'Shanaghgan when Mrs. O'Shanaghgan discovered what Nora had done? She called her brother to her aid; and, visiting the barn in her own august person, her company dress held neatly up so as to display her trim ankles and pretty shoes, solemnly announced that her daughter Nora was guilty of the murder of her own father, and that she, Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, washed her hands of her in the future.

"Yes, Nora," said the irate lady, "you can go your own way from this time. I have done all that a mother could do for you; but your wildness and insubordination are past bearing. This last and final act crowns all. The servants shall come into the barn, and bring your poor father back to his bedroom, and you shall see nothing of him again until the doctor gives leave. Pray, George," continued Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, "send one of the grooms at once for Doctor Talbot. I doubt if my poor husband has a chance of recovery after this mad deed; but we must take what steps we can."

"Now, look here, Ellen," said the Squire; "if you can't be aisy, be as aisy as you can. There's no sort of use in your putting on these high-falutin airs. I was born an Irishman. I opened my eyes on this world in a good, sharp draught, and, if I am to die, it's in a draught I'll leave the world; but, once for all, no more smotherations for me. I've had too much of 'em. You say this child is likely to be the death of me. Why, then, Ellen--God forgive yer ignorance, my poor wife--but it's the life of me she'll be, not the death. Isn't it in comfort I'm lying for the first time since that spalpeen behind the hedge tried to fell me to the earth? Isn't it a good meal I've just had?--potatoes in their jackets, and a taste of fat bacon; and if I can wash it down, as I mean to later on, with a drop of mountain-dew, why, it's well I'll slumber to-night. You're a very fine woman, me lady, and I'm proud as Punch of you, but you don't know how to manage a wild Irishman when he is ill. Now, Nora, bless her pretty heart, saw right through and through me--the way I was being killed by inches; the hot room and the horrid carpets and curtains; and the fire, not even made of decent turf, but those ugly black coals, and never a draught through the chamber, except when I took it unbeknownst to you. Ah, Nora guessed that her father was dying, and there was no way of saving him but doing it on the sly. Well, I'm here, the girleen has managed it, and here I'll stay. Not all the doctors in the land, nor all the fine English grooms, shall take me back again. I'll walk back when I'm fit to walk, and I'll do my best to bear all that awful furniture; but in future this is my bedroom, and now you know the worst."

The Squire had a great color in his face as he spoke; his eyes were shining as they had not shone since his accident, and his voice was quite strong. Squire Murphy, who was standing near, clapped him on the shoulder.

"Why, Patrick," he said, "it's proud of you I am; you're like your old self again--blest if you're not."

Nora, who was kneeling by her father's bed, kept her face slightly turned away from her mother; the tears were in her eyes, but there was a well of thanksgiving in her heart. In spite of her mother's angry reproaches, she knew she had done the right thing. Her father would get well now. After all, his Irish daughter knew what he wanted, and she must bear her English mother's anger.

In an incredibly short space of time two or three of the men-servants appeared, accompanied by Dr. Talbot. They stood in the entrance to the barn, prepared to carry out orders; but now there stole past them the Irish groom, Angus, and Hannah Croneen. These two came and stood near Nora at the head of the bed. Dr. Talbot examined the patient, looked round the cheerless barn, and said, with a smile, glancing from Mrs. O'Shanaghgan to O'Shanaghgan's own face:

"This will never do; you must get back to your own comfortable room, my dear sir--that is, if I am to continue to attend you."

"Then, for God's sake, leave off attending me, Talbot," said the Squire. "You must be a rare ignoramus not to see that your treatment is killing me out and out. It's fresh air I want, and plenty of it, and no more fal-lals. Is it in my grave you'd have me in a fortnight's time? You get out of this, and leave me to Mother Nature and the nursing of my Irish colleen."

This was the final straw. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan left the barn, looking more erect and more stately even than when she had entered it. Mr. Hartrick followed her, so did the enraged Dr. Talbot, and lastly the English servants. Squire Murphy uttered the one word, "Routed!" and clapped his hand on his thigh.

The Squire, however, spoke sadly.

"I am sorry to vex your lady mother, Nora," he said; "and upon my soul, child, you must get me well as quick as possible. We must prove to her that we are in the right--that we must."

"Have a dhrop of the crayther, your honor," said Hannah, now coming forward. "It's truth I'm telling, but this is me very last bottle of potheen, which I was keeping for me funeral; but there, his honor's wilcome to every drain of it."

"Pour me out a little," said the Squire.

He drank off the spirit, which was absolutely pure and unadulterated, and smacked his lips.

"It's fine I'll be to-night," he said; "it's you that have the 'cute ways, Nora. You have saved me. But, indeed, I thank you all, my friends, for coming to my deliverance."

That night, in her smoke-begrimed cabin, Hannah Croneen described with much unction the way madam and the English doctor had been made to know their place, as she expressed it.

"'Twas himself that put them down," said Hannah. "Ah, but he is a grand man, is O'Shanaghgan."

Mrs. O'Shanaghgan spent a very unhappy night. No comfort could she derive even from Mr. Hartrick's words. Nora was an out-and-out rebel, and must be treated accordingly; and as to the Squire--well, when Nora attended his funeral her eyes might be opened. The good lady was quite certain that the Squire would have developed pneumonia by the morning; but when the reports reached her that he looked heartier and better than he had since his illness, she could scarcely believe her ears. This, however, was a fact, for Mother Nature did step in to cure the Squire; and the draughty barn, with its lack of every ordinary comfort, was so soothing to his soul that it began to have an equally good effect upon his body.

Notwithstanding that it poured rain outside, and that great eddies of wind came from under the badly-fitting doors and in at the cracks of the small windows, the Squire ate his food with appetite, and began once again to enjoy life. In the first place, he was no longer lonely. It was impossible for his old friends and retainers to visit him in the solitude of his grand bedroom; but it was perfectly easy, not only for Squire Murphy and Squire Fitzgerald, and half the other squireens of the neighborhood, to slip into the barn and have a "collogue," as they expressed it; but also the little gossoons in their ragged trousers and bare feet, and the girleens, with their curly hair, and roguish dark-blue eyes, to scuttle in also. For could they not dart under the bed like so many rabbits if madam's step was heard, and didn't the Squire, bless him! like to have them with him when madam was busy with her English friends? Then Nora herself, the darling of his heart, was scarcely ever away from him now. Didn't she sit perched like a bird on the foot of the hard bed and cause him to roar with laughter as she described the English and their ways? Molly, too, became a prime favorite with the Squire. It is sad to relate that he encouraged her in her naughty words, and she began to say "Jehoshaphat!" and "Elephants!" and "Holy Moses!" more frequently than ever.

The grand fact of all, however, was this: the Squire was getting well again.

About a week after his removal to the barn Nora was out rather late by herself. She had been visiting her favorite haunts by the seashore, and was returning laden with seaweeds and shells, when she was startled by hearing her name spoken in a low tone just behind her. The sound issued from a plantation of thick underwood. The girl paused, and her heart beat a little faster.

"Yes. What is it?" she said.

The next moment a long and skinny hand and arm were protruded, Nora's own arm was forcibly taken possession of, and she was dragged, against her will, into the underwood. Her first impulse was to cry out; but being as brave a girl as ever walked, she quickly suppressed this inclination, and turned and faced the ragged and starved-looking man whom she expected to meet.

"Yes, Andy, I knew it was you," said Nora. "What do you want with me now? How dare you speak to me?"

"How dare I! What do you mane by that, Miss Nora?"

"You know what I mean," answered the girl. "Oh, I have been patient and have not said a word; but do you think I did not know? When all the country, Andy Neil, were looking for my father's would-be murderer, I knew where I could put my hand on him. But I did not say a word. If my father had died I must--I must have spoken; but if he recovered, I felt that in me which I cannot describe as pity, but which yet prevented my giving you up to the justice you deserve. But to meet me here, to dare to waylay me--it is too much."

"Ah, when you speak like that you near madden me," replied Andy. "Look at me, Miss Nora; look well; look hard. Here's the skin tight on me arums, and stretched fit to burst over me cheek-bones; and it's empty I am, Miss Nora, for not a bite nor sup have I tasted for twenty-four hours. The neighbors, they 'as took agen me. It has got whispering abroad that it's meself handled the gun that laid the Squire on what might have been his deathbed, and they have turned agen me, and not even a pitaty can I get from 'em, and I can't get work nowhere; and the roof is took off the little bit of a cabin in which I was born, and two of the childers have died from cowld and hunger. That's my portion, Miss Nora; that's my bitter portion; and yet you ashk me, miss, why I spake to ye."

"You know why I said it," answered Nora. "There was a time when I pitied you, but not now. You have gone too far; you have done that which no daughter can overlook. Let me go--let me go; don't attempt to touch me, or I shall scream out. There are neighbors near who will come to my help."

"No, there are not," said Andy. "I 'as took good care of that. You may scream as loud as you please, but no one will hear; and if we go farther into the underwood no one will see. Come, my purty miss; it's my turn now. It's my turn at last. Come along."

Nora was strong and fearless, but she had not Andy's brute strength. With a clutch, now so fierce and desperate that she wondered her arm was not broken, the man, who was half a madman, dragged her deeper into the shade of the underwood.

"There now," said Andy, with a chuckle of triumph; "you has got to listen. You're the light o' his eyes and the darlin' o' his heart. But what o' that? Didn't my childer die of the cowld and the hunger, and the want of a roof over them, and didn't I love them? Ah! that I did. Do you remember the night I said I'd drown ye in the Banshee's pool, and didn't we make a compact that if I let ye go you'd get the Squire to lave me my bit of a cabin, and not to evict me? And how did ye kape your word? Ah, my purty, how did ye kape your word?"

"I did my best for you," said Nora.

"Yer bhest. A poor bhest when I've had to go. But now, Miss Nora, I aint waylaid you for nothin'. The masther has escaped this time, and you has escaped; but as shure as there is a God in heav'n, if you don't get Squire to consint to let me go back, there'll be mischief. There now, Miss Nora, I've spoken. You're purty, and you're swate, and 'tis you has got a tinder heart; but that won't do you no good, for I'm mad with misery. It's me bit of a cabin I want to die in, and nothing less will contint me. You may go back now, for I've said what I come to say; but it's to-morrow night I'll be here waiting for ye, and I warn ye to bring me the consint that I crave, for if you don't come, be the powers! ye'll find that you've played with fire when you neglected Andy Neil."

Having uttered these words, the miserable man dropped Nora's arm and vanished into the depths of the plantation. Nora stood still for a moment, then returned thoughtfully and slowly to the house.

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