Nora nestled up to her father, squeezing his hand now and then, and looking into his face.
"We'll have a fine time to-morrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next," she said. "Oh! I am determined to be near you. But isn't there one little place in the house left bare, father, where we can go and have a happy moment?"
"Never a square inch," said the Squire, looking at her solemnly. "It's too awful; even the attics have been cleared out and put in order, for the servants, forsooth! says your Uncle George."
"What do we want so many retainers for? I am sure, now, if they would take a good houseful of some of the poor villagers and plant them up in those attics, there would be some sense in it."
"Oh, Nora, couldn't we get a bit of a place just like the old place, all to ourselves?"
"I'll think it over," said Nora; "we'll manage somehow. We can't stand feather-beds for ever and ever, father."
"Hark to her," said the Squire; "you're a girl after my own heart, Light o' the Morning, and it's glad I am to see you, and to have you back again."
While Nora and her father were talking together there came a sound of a ponderous gong through the house.
"What's that?" said Nora, starting.
"You may well ask 'What's that?'" replied the Squire. "It's the dinner-gong. There's dinner now in the evening, bedad! and up to seven courses, by the same token. I sat out one or two of them; but, bless my soul! I couldn't stand too much of that sort of thing. You had best go and put on something fine. Your mother dresses in velvet and silk and jewels for dinner. She looks wonderful; she is a very fine woman indeed, is your mother. I am as proud as Punch of her; but, all the same, it is too much to endure every day. She is dressed for all the world as though she were going to a ball at the Lord-Lieutenant's in Dublin. It's past standing; but you had best go down and join 'em, Norrie."
"Not I. I am going to stay here," said Nora.
"No, no, darling pet; you had best go down, enjoy your dinner, and come back and tell me about it. It will be fun to hear your description. You mimic 'em as much as you like, Norrie; take 'em off. Now, none of your coaxing and canoodling ways; off you go. You shall come back later on, and tell me all about it. Oh, they are stiff and stately, and they'll never know you and I are laughing at 'em up our sleeves. Now, be off with you."
So, unwillingly, Nora went. In the corridor outside she met her cousin Molly.
"Why, you haven't begun to dress yet," said Molly; "and I'm going down to dinner."
"Bother dress!" said Nora. "I am home again. Mother can't expect me to dress." She rushed past her cousin. She was too excited to have any sympathy then with English Molly. She ran up to her own room, and stood with a sense of dismay on the threshold. It had always been a beautiful room, with its noble proportions and its splendid view; and it was now furnished exquisitely as well.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan had great taste. She had taken immense pains with Nora's room; had thought it all out, and got it papered and painted after a scheme of color of her own. The furniture was of light wood—the room was fit to be the bower of a gracious and lovely maiden; there were new books in the little bookcase hanging up by the bedside. Everything was new and everything was beautiful. There was no sense of bad taste about the room; it was furnished harmoniously.
Nora stood and gazed at it, and her heart sank.
"Oh! it is kind of mother; it is beautiful," she said to herself; "but am I never, never, never to lie down in the little old bed again? Am I never to pour water out of the cracked old jug? Am I never to look at myself in the distorted glass? Oh, dear! oh, dear! how I did love looking at myself in the old glass, which made one cheek much more swollen than the other, and one eyebrow went up a quarter of an inch above the other, and my mouth was a little crooked! It is perfectly horrid to know one's self all one's life long with a swollen cheek and a crooked mouth, and then see classical features without a scrap of fun in them. Oh, dear! But I suppose I had best get ready."
So Nora washed her face and hands, and ran downstairs. The dining room looked heavy and massive, and the footman and the butler attended noiselessly; and Mr. Hartrick at the foot of the table and Mrs. O'Shanaghgan at the head looked as stately a pair as could be found in the length and breadth of the land.
Molly, nicely dressed in her dinner-frock, was quite in keeping with the elder pair; but wild Nora, still wearing her gray traveling-dress, felt herself out of place. Her cheeks were flushed with the excitement of seeing her father; her hair was wild and disarranged. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan looked at her all over with marked disapproval.
"Why, she looks scarcely pretty," thought the mother to herself. "How tired and fagged she appears! Dear, dear! if after all the trouble I have gone to, Nora disappoints me in this way, life will really not be worth living."
But Mrs. O'Shanaghgan could scarcely suppress the joy which was now filling her life. She was the mistress of a noble home; she was at the head of quite the finest establishment in the county. Already all the best county folk had called upon her several times.
It is sad to state that these great and rich people had rather neglected the lady of the Castle during the last few years; but now that she drove about behind a pair of horses, that her house was refurnished, that wealth seemed to have filled all her coffers, she was certainly worth attending to.
"Now that you have come back, Nora," said her mother in the course of the meal, "I wish to say that I have several invitations for you, and that Molly can accept too." She looked with kindness at Molly, who, if only Nora had been happy, would have thoroughly enjoyed herself.
"I must show you the drawing room after dinner, my dear," said her mother. "It is really a magnificent room. And I must also show you my morning room, and the library, and your father's smoking room."
"This is a splendid house, you know, Ellen," said Mr. Hartrick to his sister, "and pays for doing up. Why, a house like this in any habitable part of England would fetch a colossal fortune."
Nora sighed and shrugged her shoulders. Molly glanced at her, and the word "Jehoshaphat!" was almost trembling on her lips. She kept it back, however; she was wonderfully on her good behavior to-night. At last the long and dreary meal came to an end. Nora could scarcely suppress her yawns of utter weariness. She began to think of nothing but lying down, shutting her eyes, and going into a long and dreamless slumber.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan rose from the table and sailed out of the room. A footman flung open the door for her, and Nora and Molly followed in her wake.
"I'll be with you presently in the drawing room, Ellen," said Mr. Hartrick to his sister; "but first of all I'll just go up and have a smoke with O'Shanaghgan. You found your father much better to-night, did you not, Nora?"
"I thought father looked very bad indeed," said Nora. She could not add another word; she went out into the hall.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan took her hand, squeezing it up in a tight pressure.
"You ought not to speak in that tone to your uncle," she said; "you can never, never know all that he has done for us. He is the noblest, the most generous, the best man in the world."
"Oh, I know all that, mother; I know all that," said Nora. She did not add, "But for me he would never have done it. It was I who inserted the thin edge of the wedge." Her tone was gentle; her mother looked at her with a softening of her own face.
"Well, dear," she said, "your Uncle George has taken a great fancy to you. Notwithstanding your eccentricities, Nora—and they are considerable—he says you have the making of a fine girl. But come, we must not neglect your cousin. Come here, dear Molly; you and Nora will be interested in seeing what a beautiful place Castle O'Shanaghgan is now."
Molly took hold of Nora's other hand, and they entered the drawing room. It was lit with soft candles in many sconces; the blinds were down; across the windows were drawn curtains of Liberty silk of the palest, softest shade of rose. On the floor was a carpet of many soft colors cunningly mingled. The walls were painted a pale artistic green, large mirrors were introduced here and there, and old family portraits, all newly framed, of dead and gone O'Shanaghgans, hung on the painted walls. There were new tables, knick-knacks—all the various things which constitute the drawing room of an English lady.
Nora felt for one brief, passionate, angry moment that she was back again at The Laurels; but then, seeing the light in her mother's eyes, the pink flush of happiness on her cheeks, she restrained herself.
"It makes you happy, mummy," she said, "and——"
"But what do you think of it, my darling?"
"It is a very beautiful room."
"Ah! that is right. I thought my little wildflower would appreciate all these things when she came back again. Ah, Nora! you have been a naughty, wild imp; but your father was delighted when he heard what you had done. Of course I am terribly angry."
"No, you are not, mummy; you are pleased to see me again."
"I am glad to have you back, Nora; but as to being pleased, how could I be? However, you can stay here for a fortnight or so now that you have come; and then, when your dear uncle leaves us, you and Molly can go back with him."
Nora did not say anything; but a stubborn look came into her face which her mother knew of old.
From the drawing room they went to the library, which had also undergone complete rejuvenation. The walls were laden with standard works of different kinds; but some of the shelves were still empty.
"The old books, your uncle says, were of great value," said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, "and he sent them all to Dublin to be rebound. They have not come back yet. They are to be bound in old calf, and will suit the rest of the room. Is it not a magnificent apartment?"
Nora said "Yes" in a somewhat dreamy voice.
They then went to her mother's morning-room, and then on to the Squire's smoking-room.
"They might at least have left this alone," thought the girl. "They might at least have left this one room, where he could retire when he felt quite choked by all the furniture in the rest of the place."
But even the Squire's smoking-room was changed into the smoking-room of an English gentleman. There were deep easy-chairs covered with leather; there were racks for pipes, and great brass dogs before the fireplace; on the floor was a thick carpet. Nora felt as if she longed to give it a savage kick.
At last the terrible ordeal of going through the—to her, utterly ruined—house was over, and she and Molly found themselves alone.
"I will go up to your father for a few minutes," said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, nodding to Nora. "You and your cousin will like to have a chat; and then, my dears, I should recommend you both to go to bed as early as possible."
When they were back again in the big drawing room Nora gave Molly a wild look.
"Come out," she said; "at least out of doors the air is the same as of old."
Molly caught up a shawl and wrapped it round her head; but Nora went out just as she was.
"You'll catch cold," said English Molly.
"I catch cold in my native land!" replied Irish Nora. "How little you know me! Oh, come, Molly, I am going to be wild; I am going to give way."
They both stepped outside on the broad gravel sweep. The moon was up, and it was shining over everything. In the moonlight Castle O'Shanaghgan looked very much as it had done before. The moon had always glorified the old place, and it glorified it still. Nora stood and gazed around her; up to the tops of the mountains, with their dark summits clearly defined against the evening sky; across the wide breadth of the Atlantic; over the thick plantations, the fields, and the huge trees in the background.
"It's all the same," she said, with a glad laugh; "thank God it is all the same. Even your father, Molly, cannot destroy the place outside, at least."
"Oh Nora, it is such a lovely, lovely place!" said Molly. "Cannot you be happy in it with its modern dress?"
"Happy," said Nora, suddenly brought back to her sense of misery by the word. "I am thankful that my father is not so ill; but—but you must help, Molly. Promise that you will."
"I am sure I'd do anything in the world," said Molly. "I think I have been very good to-day. I have kept in my naughty words, Jehoshaphat and Moses and Elephants, and all the rest. What do you want me to do, Nora?"
"We must get him out of that room," said Nora.
"Him? You mean your father?"
"Yes; he will never recover there. I have been thinking and thinking, and I'll have my plan ready by the morning; only you must help me. I'll get Hannah Croneen to come in, and we'll do it between us if you can help me."
"But what is it?" said Molly.
"I'll tell you in the morning; you wait and see."
THE LION IN HIS CAGE.
The Squire was better, and not better. He had received a very nasty flesh-wound in the thigh; but the bullet had been extracted. There was not the slightest clew to the identity of his would-be murderer. The Squire himself had said nothing. He had been found almost bleeding to death by the roadside; the alarm had been given, and in terror and consternation his own tenants had brought him home.
The Squire could have said a good deal, but he said nothing. The police came and asked him questions, but he kept his lips closed.
"I didn't see the man," he said after a pause. "Somebody fired, of course; but I can't tell who, for I saw no one; it was from behind the hedge. Why the scoundrel who wanted to do for me didn't shoot a little higher up puzzles me. But there, let it rest—let it rest."
And the neighbors and the country had to let it rest, for there was no evidence against anyone. Amongst those who came to inquire after the Squire was Andy Neil. He came often, and was full of commiseration, and loudly cursed the brute who had very nearly done for his old landlord. But the neighbors had suspicions with regard to Andy, for he had been turned out of his cot in the mountains, and was living in the village now. They scowled at him when he passed, and turned aside; and his own face looked more miserable than ever. Still, he came daily up to the big kitchen to inquire for the Squire.
The doctor said there was no reason whatever why Mr. O'Shanaghgan should not get quite well. He was by no means old—not more than fifty; there was not the slightest occasion for a break-down, and yet, to all appearance, a break-down there was. The Squire got morose; he hardly ever smiled; even Nora's presence scarcely drew a hearty guffaw from his lips. The doctors were puzzled.
"What can be wrong?" they said. But Nora herself knew very well what was wrong. She and her father were the only ones who did know. She knew that the old lion was dying in captivity; that he was absolutely succumbing to the close and smothered life which he was now leading. He wanted the free air of his native mountains; he wanted the old life, now gone for ever, back again.
"It is true the place is saved, Norrie," he said once to his daughter, "and I haven't a word to say. I would be the most ungrateful dog in existence if I breathed a single word of complaint. The place is saved; and though it nominally belongs now to your Uncle George, to all intents and purposes it is my place, and he gives me to understand that at my death it goes to my boy. Yes, he has done a noble deed, and of course I admire him immensely."
"And so do I, father," said Nora; but she looked thoughtful and troubled; and one day, after she had been in her father's room for some time, when she met her uncle in the avenue she spoke to him.
"Well, my dear girl," he said, "what about coming back with me to England when I go next week?"
"It is not to be thought of, Uncle George. How can I leave my father while he is ill?"
"That is true. I have been thinking about him. The doctors are a little distressed at his growing weakness. They cannot quite understand it. Tonics have been given to him and every imaginable thing has been done. He wants for nothing; his nourishment is of the best; still he makes no way. It is puzzling."
"I don't think so," said Nora.
"What do you mean, my dear girl?"
"You might do all that sort of thing for an eagle, you know," said Nora, raising her clear eyes and fixing them on her uncle's face. "You might give him everything in his prison, much more than he had when he was free; but, all the same, he would pine and—and he would die." Tears rose to the girl's eyes; she dashed them away.
"My dear little Nora, I don't in the least see the resemblance," said Mr. Hartrick, who felt, and perhaps justly, rather nettled. "You seem to imply by your words that I have done your father an injury when I secured the home of his ancestors for him."
"Oh, forgive me, Uncle George," said Nora. "I don't really mean to say anything against you, for you are just splendid."
Mr. Hartrick did not reply; he looked puzzled and thoughtful. Nora, after a moment's silence, spoke again.
"I am most grateful to you. I believe you have done what is best—at least what you think best. You have made my mother very happy, and Terence will be so pleased; and the tenants—oh! they will get their rights now, their cabins will be repaired, the roofs mended, the windows put in fresh, the little gardens stocked for them. Oh, yes, you are behaving most generously. Anyone would suppose the place belonged to you."
"Which it does," muttered Mr. Hartrick under his breath.
"You have made a great many people happy, only somehow—somehow it is not quite the way to make my father happy, and it is not the way to make me happy. But I have nothing more to say, except that I cannot leave my father now."
"You must come to us after Christmas, then," said Mr. Hartrick. "I must go back next week, and I shall probably take Molly with me."
"Oh! leave her with me here," said Nora suddenly. "I do wish you would; the air here is so healthy. Do let her stay, and then perhaps after Christmas, when things are different, we might both go back."
"Of course things will be different," said Mr. Hartrick. "A new doctor is coming to see your father next week, and he will probably change the regime; he may order him fresh air, and before long we shall have him strong and well amongst us again. He has absolutely nothing wrong except——"
"Except that he has everything wrong," said Nora.
"Well, well, my dear child, I will think over your suggestion that Molly should stay with you; and in the meantime remember that we are all coming to O'Shanaghgan for Christmas."
"All of you!" said Nora in dismay.
"Yes, all of us. Your aunt has never spent a real old-fashioned Christmas in her life, and I mean her to have it this year. I shall bring over some of our English habits to this place. We will roast an ox whole, and have huge bonfires, and all kinds of things, and the tenantry shall have a right good time. There, Nora, you smile; that pleases you."
"You are so kind," she said. She clasped his hands in both of hers, and then turned away.
"There never was anyone kinder," thought the girl to herself; "but all the same he does not understand." She re-entered the house and went up to her father's room.
The Squire was lying on his back. The days were now getting short, for November had begun. There was a big fire in the grate; the Squire panted in the hot room.
"Just come in here," he said to Nora. "Don't make much noise; lock the door—will you, pet?"
"Now fling the window wide open; let me get a breath of air."
Nora did open the window, but the air was moist and damp from the Atlantic, and even she, fearless as she was, hesitated when she heard her father's cough.
"There, child, there," he said; "it's the lungs beginning to work properly again. Now then, you can shut it up; I hear a step. For Heaven's sake, Nora, be quick, or your mother may come in, and won't she be making a fuss! There, unlock the door."
"But you are worse, father; you are worse."
"What else can you expect? They don't chain up wild animals and expect them to get well. I never lived through anything of this sort before, and it's just smothering me."
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan entered the room.
"Patrick," she said, "would you like some sweetbread and a bit of pheasant for your dinner?"
"Do you know what I'd like?" roared the Squire. "A great big mealy potato, with a pinch of salt."
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan uttered a sigh, and the color rushed into her pale cheeks.
"Upon my word," she said, "you are downright vulgar."
The Squire gave a feeble guffaw. Nora's heart beat as she noticed how feeble it was. She left the room, because she could not stay there another moment. The time had come to act. She had hesitated long, but she would hesitate no longer. She ran downstairs. The first person she saw was Molly.
"Well," said Molly, "how is he?"
"Very bad indeed," said Nora; "there's not a moment to lose. Something must be done, and quickly."
"What can be done?"
"Come out with me; I have a thought in my head."
Nora and Molly went outside. They crossed the avenue, went along the plantation at the back, and soon found themselves in the huge yard which flanked the back of the house. In a distant part of the yard was a barn, and this barn Nora now entered. It was untidy; the doors fitted badly; the floor was of clay. It was quite empty.
Nora gave a sigh of relief.
"I dreamed of this barn last night," she said. "I think it is the very place,"
"For what, Nora; for what?"
"I am going to have father moved here to-day."
"Nora, what nonsense you are talking! You will kill him."
"Save his life, you mean," said Nora. "I am going to get a bedstead, a straw paillasse, and an old hard mattress, and I am going to have them put here; and we'll get a bit of tarpaulin to put on the floor, to prevent the damp coming up; and I'll put a curtain across this window so that he needn't have too much draught, the darling; and there shall be nothing else in the room except a wooden table. He shall have his potatoes and salt, and his bit of salt bacon, if he wishes, and he shall have his great big bare room. I tell you what it is, Molly, he'll never get well unless he is brought here."
"What a girl you are! But how will you do it?"
"Leave it to me. Do you mind driving with me on the outside car as far as Cronane?"
"The outside car? I have never been on it yet."
"Oh, come along; I'll introduce you to the sweetest conveyance in the world."
Nora's spirits rose at the thought of immediate action.
"Won't it surprise and delight him?" she said. She went up to one of the grooms. He was an English groom, and was somewhat surprised at the appearance of the young lady in the yard.
"What can I do for you, miss?" he said.
"I want Angus," answered Nora. "Where is he?"
Angus was one of the few old Irish servants who were still left at Castle O'Shanaghgan. He now came forward in a sheepish kind of way; but when he saw Nora his face lit up.
"Put one of the horses to the outside car at once—Black Bess if you can," said Nora.
"Yes, miss," said the man, "with all the pleasure in life."
"Don't take it round to the front door. Miss Molly and I want to drive to Cronane. You needn't come with us, Angus; just put the horse to, and I'll drive myself."
Accordingly, in less than ten minutes' time the two girls were driving in the direction of Cronane. Molly, brave as she was, had some difficulty in keeping on. She clung to the sides of the car and panted.
"Nora, as sure as Jehoshaphat and Elephants, I'll be flung out on to the highroad!" cried Molly.
"Sit easy and nothing will happen," said Nora, who was seated comfortably herself at the other side and was driving with vigor.
Presently they reached Cronane, which looked just as dilapidated as ever.
"Oh, the darling place! Isn't it a relief to see it?" said Nora. "Don't I love that gate off its hinges! It's a sight for sore eyes—that it is."
They dashed up the avenue and stopped before the hall door.
Standing on the steps—where, indeed, he spent most of his time—and indulging in the luxury of an old church-warden pipe, was Squire Murphy. He raised a shout when he saw Nora, and ran down the steps as fast as he could.
"Why, my bit of a girl, it's good to see you!" he cried. "And who is this young lady?"
"This is my cousin, Molly Hartrick. Molly, may I introduce you to Squire Murphy?"
"Have a grip of the paw, miss," said Squire Murphy, holding out his great hand and clasping Molly's.
"And now, what can I do for you, Nora alannah? 'Tis I that am glad to see you. There's Biddy in the house, and the wife; they'll give you a hearty welcome, and no mistake. You come along right in, the pair of yez; come right in."
"But I cannot," said Nora. "I want to speak to you alone and at once. Can you get one of the boys to hold the horse?"
"To be sure. Dan, you spalpeen! come forward this minute. Now then, hold Black Bess, and look alive, lad. Well, Nora, what is it?"
Molly stood on the gravel sweep, Nora and the Squire walked a few paces away.
"It's this," said Nora; "you haven't asked yet how father is."
"But he is doing fine, they tell me. I see I'm not wanted at O'Shanaghgan; and I'm the last man in the world to go there when the cold shoulder is shown to me."
"Oh! they would never mean that," said Nora, in distress.
"Oh, don't they mean it, my dear? Haven't I been up to the Castle day after day, and asking for the Squire with my heart in my mouth, and ready to sit by his side and to colleague with him about old times, and raise a laugh in him, and smoke with him; and haven't I been repelled?—the Squire not well enough to see me; madam herself not at home. Oh, I know their ways. When you were poor at O'Shanaghgan, then Squire Murphy was wanted; but now that you're rich, Squire Murphy can go his own way for aught you care."
"It is not true, Mr. Murphy," said the girl, her bright blue eyes filling with tears. "Oh!" she added, catching his hand impulsively, "don't I know it all? But it's not my father's fault; he would give the world to see you—he shall see you. Do you know why he is ill?"
"Why so, Nora? Upon my word, you're a very handsome girl, Nora."
"Oh, never mind about my looks now. My father is ill because—because of all the luxury and the riches."
"Bedad, then, I'm glad to hear it," said the Squire of Cronane. He slapped his thigh loudly. "It's the best bit of news I have heard this many a day; it surprised me how he could put up with it. And it's killing him?"
"That's about it," said Nora. "He must be rescued."
"I'll do what I can," said Squire Murphy. "Will you do this? Will you this very day get out the long cart and have an old bedstead put into it, and an old paillasse and an old mattress; and will you see that it is taken over this very afternoon to O'Shanaghgan? I'll be there, and the bedstead shall be put up in the old barn, and father shall sleep in the barn to-night, and you and I, Squire, and Hannah Croneen, and Molly, will help to move him while the rest of the family are at tea."
The Squire stared at Nora so long after she had made these remarks that she really thought he had taken leave of his senses; then he burst into a great loud laugh, clapped his hand to his side, and wrung Nora's until she thought he would wring it off. Then he turned back to the house, walking so fast that Nora had to run after him. But she knew that she had found her ally, and that her father would be saved.
RELEASE OF THE CAPTIVE.
All Nora's wishes were carried into effect. The long cart was got out. An old mattress was secured, also an old bedstead. The mattress happened to be well aired, for, indeed, it was one on which the Squire himself had slept the previous night; but, as he remarked, he would gladly give the bed from under him for the sake of his old friend O'Shanaghgan.
Molly helped, also Biddy and Nora, in all the preparations, and at last the three girls jumped upon the outside car and returned to O'Shanaghgan. Biddy felt that she was anything but welcome. She was certainly not looking her best. Her dress was of the shabbiest, and her turned-up nose looked more celestial than ever. Molly was gazing at her just as if she were a sort of curiosity, and finally Biddy resented this close scrutiny, and turned to Nora, grasping her by the hand.
"Tell her," said Biddy, "that it is very rude to stare in that sort of stolid way. If she were an Irish girl she would give a flashing glance and then look away again; but that way of staring full and stiff puts a body out. Tell her it is not true Irish manners."
"Oh, Jehoshaphat!" exclaimed Molly, "I hear you both whispering together. What is it all about? I am nearly wild trying to keep myself on this awful car, and I know you are saying something not in my favor."
"We are that," cried Biddy; "we are just wishing you would keep your English manners to yourself."
Molly flushed rather indignantly.
"I did not know that I was doing anything," she said.
"Why, then," cried Biddy, "is it nothing when you are bringing the blushes to my cheeks and the palpitation to my heart; and is it nothing to be, as it were, exposed to the scorn of the English? Why, then, bedad! I have got my nose from the old Irish kings, from whom I am descended, as true as true. Blue is my blood, and I am as proud of my ancestry as if I was Queen Victoria herself. I see that you have neat, straight features; but you have not got a scrap of royal blood in you—now, have you?"
"I don't think so," answered Molly, laughing in spite of herself. "Well, if it offends you, I will try not to look at you again."
The drive came to an end, and Nora entered the big, splendidly furnished hall, accompanied by Molly and Biddy. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan happened to be standing there. She came hurriedly forward.
"My dear Nora," she began, but then her eyes fell upon Biddy. Her brows went up with a satirical action; she compressed her lips and kept back a sigh of annoyance.
"How do you do, Miss Murphy?" she said.
"I am fine, thank you kindly, ma'am," replied Biddy; "and it is sorry I am that I had not time to change my dress and put on the pink one with the elegant little flounces that my aunt sent me from Dublin."
"Oh, your present dress will do very well," said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, suppressing an internal shudder at the thought of Biddy at the renovated Castle of O'Shanaghgan in her dirty pink dress with the flounces.
"But, Miss Murphy," she continued, "I am sorry that I cannot ask you to stay. The Squire is too unwell to admit of our having friends at present."
"Oh, glory!" cried Biddy, "and how am I to get back again? Why, it was on your own outside car that I came across country, and I cannot walk all the way back to Cronane. Oh, but what a truly beautiful house! I never saw anything like it. Why, it is a sort of palace!"
Biddy's open admiration of the glories of O'Shanaghgan absolutely made the good mistress of the mansion smile. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan felt that Nora did not really care for the beautiful place—the grandly furnished rooms had brought no enthusiasm or delight to her heart. Nora had tried very hard to keep in her real feelings; but her mother was quite sharp enough to know what they were. There was little pleasure in taking a girl round rooms, corridors, and galleries when she was only forcing herself to say pretty things which she did not feel. Molly, of course, had always lived in a beautiful and well-furnished house; therefore there was nothing exciting in showing her the present magnificence of O'Shanaghgan, and half Mrs. O'Shanaghgan's pleasure was showing the place in its now regal state to her friends. Biddy's remark, therefore, was most fortunate. Even wild, unkempt, untaught Irish Biddy was better than no one.
"I tell you what it is," said the good lady, with quite a gracious expression stealing over her features, "if you will promise to walk softly, and not to make any loud remarks, I will take you through the suite of drawing rooms and the big dining room and my morning room; but you must promise to be very quiet if I give you this great pleasure."
"And it is glad I'll be, and as mum as a mouse. I'll hold my hands to my heart, and keep in everything; but, oh, Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, if I am fit to burst now and then, you will let me run to the window and give a big sigh? It is all I'll ask, to relieve myself; but mum's the word for everything else."
On these terms Mrs. O'Shanaghgan conducted her unwelcome guest through the rooms, and after a brief tour Biddy joined her companions in the yard. Nora was busy sweeping out the barn herself, and, with the aid of Hannah Croneen and Molly, was already beginning to put it to rights. Biddy was now free to join the other conspirators, and the girls quickly became friends under these conditions.
Hannah proved herself a most valuable ally. She whisked about, dashing here and there, raising a whirlwind of dust, but, in Nora's opinion, effecting wonders. Angus also was drawn into the midst of the fray. His delight and approval of Nora's scheme was almost beyond bounds.
"Ah, then," he said; "it's this will do the masther good. Oh, then, Miss Nora, it's you that has the 'cute ways."
A tarpaulin was found and laid upon the floor. From Hannah's cottage a small deal table was fetched. A washstand was given by Angus; a cracked basin and jug were further secured; and Nora gave implicit directions with regard to the boiling of the mealy potatoes and the little scrap of bacon on which the Squire was to sup.
"You will bring them in—the potatoes, I mean—in their jackets," said the Irish girl, "and have them hot as hot can be."
"They shall screech, that they shall," replied Hannah; "and the bacon, it shall be done as tasty and sweet as bacon can be. I'll give the last bit of my own little pigeen, with all the heart in the world, for the Squire's supper."
Accordingly, when the long cart arrived from Cronane, accompanied by the Squire and his factotum, Mike, the barn was ready to receive the bedstead, the straw paillasse, and the mattress. Nora managed to convey, from the depths of the Castle, sheets, blankets, pillows, and a counterpane, and everything was in apple-pie order by the time the family was supposed to assemble for afternoon tea. This was the hour that Nora had selected for having the Squire removed from his feather-bed existence to the more breezy life of the barn. It was now the fashion at O'Shanaghgan to make quite a state occasion of afternoon tea. The servants, in their grand livery, were all well to the fore. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, dressed as became the lady of so beautiful a place, sat in her lovely drawing room to receive her guests; and the guests came up in many conveyances—some in carriages, some on outside cars, some on dog-carts, some on foot; but, come as they would, they came, day after day, to show their respects to the lady whom now the whole country delighted to honor.
On these occasions Mr. Hartrick sat with his sister, and helped her to entertain her visitors. It had been one of the sore points between Nora and her mother that the former would not appear to afternoon tea. Nora had made her sick father her excuse. On the present occasion she took good care not even to show her face inside the house. But Molly kept watch, just behind the plantation, and soon rushed into the yard to say that the carriages were beginning to appear.
"A curious party have come just now," said Molly, "in such a droll carriage, with yellow wheels and a glass body. It looks like a sort of a Lord Mayor's coach."
"Why, it must be the coach of the O'Rorkes," cried Nora. "Fancy Madam coming to see mother! Why, Madam will scarcely pay a visit to royalty itself. There is no doubt that mother is thought a lot of now. Oh, dear, oh, dear, what a frightfully society life we shall have to lead here in future! But I have no time to think of mother and her friends just now. Squire, will you come upstairs with me to see father? Hannah, please wait down here to be ready to help? Angus, you must also come upstairs, and wait in the passage outside the Squire's room until I send for you."
Having given her directions, Nora entered the house. All was quiet and peaceful. The well trained English servants were, some of them, in the kitchen premises, and some of them attending in the hall and drawing rooms, where the guests were now arriving thick and fast. Nora had chosen her hour well. She entered her father's room, accompanied by Squire Murphy.
The old Squire was lying, half-dozing, in his luxurious bed. The fire had been recently built up. The room felt close.
"Ah, dear!" said Squire Murphy, "it is difficult to breathe here! And how's yourself, O'Shanaghgan, my man? Why, you do look drawn and pulled down. I am right glad to see ye, that I am."
The Squire of Cronane grasped the hand of the Squire of O'Shanaghgan, and the Squire of O'Shanaghgan looked up at the other man's weather-beaten face with a pathetic expression in his deep-set, hawk-like, dark eyes.
"I am bad, Murphy—very bad," said the Squire; "it's killing me they are amongst them."
"Why, then, it looks like it," said Squire Murphy. "I never was in such a smotheration of a place before. Faix, then, why don't you have the window open, and have a bit of air circulating through the room?"
"It's forbid I am," said the Squire. "Ah, Murphy! it's killing me, it's killing me."
"But it shall kill you no longer, father," said Nora. "Oh, father! Squire Murphy and I have made up such a lovely, delicious plan. What would you say to a big, bare room again, father; and a hard bed again, father; and potatoes and a pinch of salt and a little bit of bacon again, father?"
"What would I say?" cried the Squire. "I'd say, glory be to Heaven, and all the Saints be praised; but it is too good luck to be true."
"Not a bit of it," said Squire Murphy; "it is going to be true. You just do what you are bid, and you will be in the hoight of contentment."
The wonder-stricken Squire now had to listen to Nora's plan.
"We have done it," she cried, in conclusion; "the barn is ready. It makes a lovely bedroom; there are no end of draughts, and you'll get well in a jiffy."
"Then let's be quick," said the Squire, "or your lady-mother will be up and prevent me. Hurry, Nora, for Heaven's sake! For the life of me, don't give me a cup of cold water to taste, and then dash it from my lips. If we are not quick, we'll be caught and prevented from going. I am ready; wrap me up in a rug, and carry me out. I am ready and willing. Good-by to feather bed-dom. I don't want ever to see these fal-lals again."
The next few moments were ones of intense excitement; but before ten minutes had elapsed the Squire was lying in the middle of the hard bed, gazing round him with twinkling eyes and a smile on his lips. The appearance of Hannah Croneen, with a dish of steaming potatoes and a piece of boiled bacon, was the final crown to his rapture.
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.
THE CABIN ON THE MOUNTAIN.
Nora slept little that night. She had a good deal to think of, and very anxious were her thoughts. She knew the Irishman, Andy Neil, well, and she also knew his ferocious and half-savage temperament. Added to his natural fierceness of character, he now undoubtedly was possessed by temporary insanity. This had been brought on by hunger, cold, and great misery. The man was desperate, and would think little of desperate deeds. After all, his life was of small value to him compared to his revenge. Whenever did an Irishman, at moments like the present, consider life? Revenge came first, and there was that in the man's gleaming dark eyes, in his high cheek-bones, in his wild, unkempt, starved appearance, which showed that he would, if something was not quickly done, once again attempt the Squire's life. What was she to do? Nora wondered and wondered. Her father was getting better; the open air treatment, the simple food, and the company of his friends were effecting the cure which the luxurious life in the heavily furnished chamber had failed to do. The Squire would soon be well and strong again. If he were careful, he would once again stand in health and strength on his ancestral acres.
He would get accustomed to the grandeur of the restored Castle O'Shanaghgan; he would get accustomed to his English relatives and their ways. He would have his barn to retire to and his friends to talk to, and he would still be the darling, the best-loved of all, to his daughter Nora; but at the present moment he was in danger. In the barn, too, he was in much greater danger than he had been when in the safe seclusion of the Castle. It would be possible for any one to creep up to the barn at night, to push open the somewhat frail windows or equally frail door, and to accomplish that deed which had already been attempted. Nora knew well that she must act, she must do something—what, was the puzzle. Squire O'Shanaghgan was one of the most generous, open-hearted, and affectionate of men. His generosity was proverbial; he was a prime favorite with his tenants; but he had, like many another Irishman of his type, a certain hard phase in his character—he could, on occasions, be almost cruel. He had taken a great dislike to Andy Neil and to some other tenants of his class; he had been roused to stronger feeling by their open resistance, and had declared that not all the Land Leagues in Ireland, not all the Fenians, not all the Whiteboys, were they banded together in one great insurrection, should frighten him from his purpose.
Those tenants who defied him, who refused to pay the scanty rent which he asked for their humble cabins, should go out; they should, in short, be evicted. The other men had submitted to the Squire's iron dictation. They had struggled to put their pence and shillings together, and with some difficulty had met the question of the rent; but Andy Neil either could not or would not pay; and the Squire had got the law, as he expressed it, to evict the man. There had come a day when the wild tenant of the little cabin on the side of the bare mountain had come home to find his household goods exposed to the airs of heaven, the roof off his cabin, the door removed from its hinges; the hearth, it is true, still warm with the ashes of the sods of turf which were burning there in the morning, but the whole home a ruin. The Squire had not himself witnessed this scene of desolation, but had given his stern orders, and they had been executed by his agent. When Andy saw the ruins of his home he gave one wild howl and rushed down the side of the mountain. His sick children—there were two of them in the cabin at the time—had been taken pity on by some neighbors almost as poor as himself; but the shock (or perhaps their own bad health) had caused the death of both boys, and the man was now homeless and childless. No wonder his brain gave way. He vowed vengeance. Vengeance was the one last thing left to him in life; he would revenge his wrongs or die. So, waiting his opportunity, he had crouched behind a hedge, and, with an old gun which he had stolen from a neighbor, had fired at the Squire. In the crucial moment, however, his hand shook, and the shot had lodged, not in the Squire's body, but in his leg, causing a nasty but scarcely a dangerous wound. The only one in all the world who suspected Andy was the Squire's daughter Nora; but it was easy for her to put two and two together. The man's words to her in the cave, when he threatened to drown her, returned to her memory. She suspected him; but, with an Irish girl's sympathy, she would not speak of her suspicions—that is, if her father's life was spared.
But now the man himself had come to her and threatened fresh mischief. She hated to denounce the poor, starved creature to the police, and yet she must protect her father. The Squire was much better; but his temper could be roused to great fury at times, and Nora dreaded to mention the subject of Andy Neil. She guessed only too well that fear would not influence the fierce old Squire to give the man back his cabin. The one thing the wretched creature now craved was to die under the shelter of the roof where he had first seen the light; but this natural request, so dear to the heart of the Squire himself, under altered circumstances, would not weigh with him under existing conditions. The mere fact that Andy still threatened him would make him more determined than ever to stick to his purpose. Nora did not dare to give her father even a hint with regard to the hand which had fired that shot; and yet, and yet—oh, God help her! she must do something, or the consequences might be too fearful to contemplate.
As she was dressing on the following morning she thought hard, and the idea came to her to take the matter into her own hands, and herself give Andy leave to go back to his cabin; but, on reflection, she found that this would be no easy matter, for the cabins from which the tenants were evicted were often guarded by men whose business it was to prevent the wretched creatures returning to them. No doubt Andy's cabin would be now inaccessible; still, she might go and look at it, and, if all other means failed, might venture to beg of her father's agent to let the man return to it; but first of all she would see the place. Somewhat cheered as this determination came to her, she ran downstairs. Mr. Hartrick was returning to England by an early train, and the carriage, which was to convey him to the station, was already at the door. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan was almost tearful at the thought of parting with her beloved brother. Molly, delighted at being allowed to stay on at the Castle, was also present; but Nora's entrance on the scene caused Mrs. O'Shanaghgan to speak fretfully.
"Late as usual, Nora," said that lady, turning and facing her daughter as she appeared. "I am glad that you condescended to appear before your uncle starts for England. I wonder that you have taken the trouble."
"Oh, do not scold her, Ellen," said Mr. Hartrick, kindly. "I begin to understand something of the nature of my Irish niece. When the Squire is well again she will, I am sure, return to England and resume her studies; but at present we can scarcely expect her to do so."
"I will come back some time, Uncle George," said Nora; "and oh!" she added, "I do thank you for all your great and real kindness. I may appear ungrateful, but indeed, indeed I am not so in my heart, and it is very good of you to allow Molly to stay; and I will promise to take great care of her, and not to let her get too wild."
"Thank you. Any message for your aunt, Nora?" said Mr. Hartrick gravely. "I should like you, my dear," he added, coming up to the girl, and laying his hand on her shoulder and looking with his kind eyes into her face, "to send your Aunt Grace a very special message; for you did try her terribly, Nora, when you not only ran away yourself, but induced Molly to accompany you."
Nora hesitated for a moment, the color flamed into her face, and her eyes grew very bright.
"Tell her, Uncle George," she said, speaking slowly and with great emphasis, "that I did what I did for father. Tell her that for no one else but father would I hurt her, and ask her to forgive me just because I am an Irish girl; and I love—oh! I love my father so dearly."
"I will take her your message, my dear," said Mr. Hartrick, and then he stooped and kissed his niece.
A moment later he was about to step into the carriage, when Nora rushed up to him.
"Good-by; God bless you!" she cried. "Oh, how kind you have been, and how I love you! Please, please, do not misunderstand me; I have many cares and anxieties at present or I would say more. You have done splendidly, only——"
"Only what, Nora?" said her uncle.
"Only, Uncle George," answered the girl, "you have done what you have done to please my mother, and you have done it all in the English way; and oh! the English way is very fine, and very noble, and very generous; but—but we did want the old bare rooms and the lack of furniture, and the place as it always has been; but we could not expect—I mean father and I could not expect—you and mother to remember that."
"It was impossible, Nora," said her uncle. "What I did I did, as you express it, my dear, in the English way. The retrograde movement, Nora, could not be expected from an Englishman; and by-and-by you, at least, will thank me for having brought civilization to O'Shanaghgan."
A moment later Mr. Hartrick went away, and Nora returned to the house. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan had left the room, and Nora found herself alone with her cousin Molly.
"What is it, Nora?" said Molly. "You look quite pale and anxious."
"I look what I feel," said Nora.
"But can I help you in any way, Nora?"
"Yes. Will you come for a drive with me this morning?"
"Of course I will. You know well that I should like nothing better."
"Then, Molly dear, run round to the yard and tell Angus put Black Bess to the outside car, and to bring it round to the corner of the plantation. I do not want any one to know, and tell Angus that I will drive Black Bess myself."
"All right," replied Molly, running off on her errand.
Nora did not stay long with her father that morning, and soon after ten o'clock she and Molly were flying through the boreens and winding roads in the direction of Slieve Nagorna. At the foot of the mountain they dismounted. Nora fastened Black Bess's reins to the trunk of a tree which stood near, and then she and Molly began to ascend the mountain. It was a glorious winter's day; the air was mild, as it generally is in the west of Ireland, and the sun shone with power. Nora and Molly walked quickly. Nora, who was accustomed to climbing from her earliest years, scaled the rocks, and jumped from one tiny projection in the ground to another; but Molly found her ascent more difficult. She was soon out of breath, and called in laughing tones to Nora to wait for her.
"Forgive me," said Nora; "I sometimes forget that you are not an Irish girl."
"You also forget that I am practically a London girl," answered Molly. "I have seldom or never climbed even a respectable hill, far less a mountain with sides like this one."
"We will reach the spot which I am aiming for before long," said Nora; "but if you are tired, do sit down, and I'll go on alone."
This, however, Molly would not hear of, and presently the girls reached a spot where once a small cabin had stood. The walls of the cabin were still there, but the thatched roof had disappeared, the doors and windows had been removed, and the blackened earth where the hearth had been alone bore evidence to the fact that fires had been burnt there for long generations. But there was no fire now on the desolate hearth.
"Oh, dear!" said Nora. "It makes me cry to look at the place. Once, long, long ago, when Terry and I were tiny children, we came up here. Andy's wife was alive then, and she gave us a hot potato each and a pinch of salt. We ate the potatoes just here, and how good they tasted! Little Mike was a baby, such a pretty little boy, and dear Kathleen was so proud of him. Oh! it was a home then, whereas now it is a desolation."
"A very poor sort of home I should say," answered Molly. "What a truly desolate place! If anybody ever lived here, that person must be glad to have got away. It makes me shudder even to think of any human being calling this spot a home."
"Oh!" answered Nora, "it was a very pretty home, and the one who lived in it is broken-hearted—nay, more, he is almost crazed, all and entirely because he has been driven away. He deserved it, I know; but it has gone very hard with him; it has torn out his heart; it has turned him from a man into a savage. Oh! if I had only money, would not I build up these walls, and put back the roof, and light the fire once more, and put the man who used to have this house as a home back again? He would die in peace then. Oh! if only, only I had money."
"How queer you look!" said Molly. "How your eyes shine! I don't understand you. I love you very much, but I confess I don't understand you. Why, this desolate spot would drive most people mad."
"But not Irish people who were born here," said Nora. "There! I have seen what I wanted to see, and we had best be going back. I want to drive to the village, and I want to see John Finnigan. I hope I shall find him at home."
"Who is John Finnigan?" asked Molly.
"The man who does these sort of things," said Nora, the red, angry blood rushing to her cheeks.
She turned and quickly walked down the mountain, Molly racing and stumbling after her. Black Bess was standing motionless where her mistress had placed her. Nora unfastened the reins and sprang upon the car, Molly followed her example, and they drove almost on the wings of the wind back to the village. There they were fortunate enough to find John Finnigan. Leaving Molly holding Black Bess's reins, Nora went into the house. It was a very small and shabby house, furnished in Irish style, and presided over by Mrs. Finnigan, a very stout, untidy, and typical Irishwoman, with all the good nature and savoir-faire of her countrywomen.
"Aw, then, Miss Nora," she said, "I am glad to see you. And how's the Squire?"
"Much better, thank you," said Nora. "Is your husband in, Mrs. Finnigan?"
"To be sure, deary. Finnigan's abed still. He was out late last night. Why, listen; you can hear him snoring; the partition is thin. He snores loud enough to be heard all over the house."
"Well, do wake him, please, Mrs. Finnigan," said Nora. "I want to see him on a most important matter at once."
"Then, that being the case, honey, you just step into the parlor while I go and get Finnigan to rise and dress himself."
Mrs. Finnigan threw open the door of a very untidy and small room. Several children were having breakfast by a table which bore traces of fish-bones, potato-peelings, and bacon-rinds. The children were untidy, like their mother, but had the bright, very dark-blue eyes and curly hair of their country. Nora knew them all, and was soon in the midst of a clamorous group, while Mrs. Finnigan went out to get her husband to rise. Finnigan himself appeared in about a quarter of an hour, and Nora went with him into his little study.
"Well, now," said that worthy, "and what can I do for you, Miss O'Shanaghgan?"
Nora looked very earnest and pleading.
"My father is better," she said, "but not well enough yet to be troubled with business. I understand that you are doing some of his business for him, Mr. Finnigan."
"Some, it is true," answered the gentleman, frowning as he spoke, "but not all, by no means all. Since that English fine gentleman, Mr. Hartrick, came over, he has put the bulk of the property into the hands of Steward of Glen Lee. Steward is a Scotchman, and why he should get work which is rightly my due is hard on me, Miss Nora—very hard on me."
"Well," said Nora restlessly, "I know nothing about the matter. I am sorry; but I am afraid I am powerless to interfere."
"Oh, Miss Nora!" said Finnigan, "you know very well that you have kissed the Blarney Stone, and that no one can resist you. If you were to say a word to the Squire he would give me my due; and now that so much money has been put into O'Shanaghgan, it would be a very fine thing for me to have the collecting of the rents. I am a poor man, Miss Nora, and this business ought not to be given over my head to a stranger."
"I will speak to father by-and-by," said Nora; "but I doubt if I can do anything. But I have come to-day to ask you to do something for me."
"And what is that, Miss Nora? I am sure I'd be proud to help such a beautiful young lady in any way."
"I dislike compliments," said Nora, coloring with annoyance. "Please listen. You know the man you evicted from the cabin on the side of Slieve Nagorna—Andy Neil?"
"Perfectly well, perfectly well," answered Finnigan,
"You had my father's orders?"
"I had that, Miss Nora."
"I want you, Mr. Finnigan, now to take my orders and to give Andy back his cabin. Put a bit of roof over it—anything, even an old tarpaulin—anything, so that he may sleep there if he likes to-night. I want you to do this for me, and allow me to take the risk of offending my father."
"What!" said Finnigan, "and risk myself all chance of getting the agency. No, no, Miss Nora. Besides, what would all the other tenants say who have been evicted in their time? The man shall get his cabin back and a fresh roof and new windows, by the same token, when he pays his rent, and not before."
"But he has no money to pay his rent."
"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."
A DARING DEED.
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 him."
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 immediately."
"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 lady."
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' premises?
"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 forehead.
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."
THE COT WHERE HE WAS BORN.
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.