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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER I. — NORA.
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 “Why, then, Miss Nora—”  
“Yes, Hannah?”
“You didn't see the masther going this way, miss?”
“What do you mean, Hannah? Father is never at home at this hour.”
“I thought maybe—” said Hannah. She spoke in a dubious voice, backing a little away.
Hannah was a small, squat woman, of a truly Irish type. Her nose was celestial, her mouth wide, her eyes dark, and sparkling with fun. She was dressed in a short, coarse serge petticoat, with what is called a bedgown over it; the bedgown was made of striped calico, yellow and red, and was tied in at the waist with a broad band of the same. Hannah's hair was strongly inclined to gray, and her humorous face was covered with a perfect network of wrinkles. She showed a gleam of snowy teeth now, as she looked full at the young girl whom she was addressing.
“Ah, then, Miss Nora,” she said, “it's I that am sorry for yez.”
Before Nora O'Shanaghgan could utter a word Hannah had turned on her heel.
“Come back, Hannah,” said Nora in an imperious voice.
“Presently, darlint; it's the childer I hear calling me. Coming, Mike asthore, coming.”
The squat little figure flew down a side walk which led to a paddock: beyond the paddock was a turnstile, and at the farther end of an adjacent field a cabin made of mud, with one tiny window and a thatched roof. Hannah was making for the cabin with rapid, waddling strides. Nora stood in the middle of the broad sweep which led up to the front door of the old house.
Castle O'Shanaghgan was a typical Irish home of the ancient régime. The house, a great square pile, was roomy and spacious; it had innumerable staircases, and long passages through which the wind shrieked on stormy nights, and a great castellated tower at its north end. This tower was in ruins, and had been given up a long time ago to the exclusive tenancy of the bats, the owls, and rats so large and fierce that the very dogs were afraid of them. In the tower at night the neighbors affirmed that they heard shrieks and ghostly noises; and Nora, whose bedroom was nearest to it, rejoiced much in the distinction of having twice heard the O'Shanaghgan Banshee keening outside her window. Nora was a slender, tall, and very graceful girl of about seventeen, and her face was as typical of the true, somewhat wild, Irish beauty as Hannah Croneen's was the reverse.
In the southwest of Ireland there are traces of Spanish as well as Celtic blood in many of its women; and Nora's quantities of thick, soft, intensely black hair must have come to her from a Spanish ancestor. So also did the delicately marked black brows and the black lashes to her dark and very lovely blue eyes; but the clear complexion, the cheeks with the tenderest bloom on them, the softly dimpled lips red as coral, and the little teeth white as pearls were true Irish characteristics.
Nora waited for a moment after Hannah had left her, then, shading her eyes from the westerly sun by one hand, she turned slowly and went into the house.
“Where is mother, Pegeen?” she said to a rough-looking, somewhat slatternly servant who was crossing the hall.
“In the north parlor, Miss Nora.”
“Come along, then, Creena; come along, Cushla,” said the girl, addressing two handsome black Pomeranians who rushed to meet her. The dogs leaped up at her with expressions of rapture, and girl and dogs careered with a wild dance across the great, broad hall in the direction of the north parlor. Nora opened the door with a somewhat noisy bang, the dogs precipitated themselves into the room, and she followed.
“Ah, then, mother dear! and have I disturbed you?” she said.
A pale-faced lady, who was lying full-length on a very old and hard sofa, rose with a querulous expression on her face when Nora entered.
“I wish someone would teach you thoughtfulness,” she said; “you are the most tiresome girl in the world. I have been two hours trying to get a wink of sleep, and just when I succeed you come in and wake me.”
“It's sorry I am to my heart's core,” said Nora. She went up to her mother, dropped on one knee, and looked with her rosy face into the worn and faded one of the elder woman. “Here I am, mammy,” she said again, “your own little Nora; let me sit with you a bit—may I?”
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan smiled faintly. She looked all over the girl's slim figure, and finally her eyes rested on the laughing, lovely face. Then a cloud crossed her forehead, and her eyes became dim with tears.
“Have you heard the last thing, Nora?”
“There are so many last things, mother,” said Nora.
“But the very last. Your father has to pay back the money which Squire Murphy of Cronane lent him. It is the queerest thing; but the mortgagee means to foreclose, as he calls it, within three months if that money is not paid in full. I know well what it means.”
Nora smiled. She took her mother's hand in hers, and began to stroke it gently.
“I suppose,” she said, “it means this. It means that we must part with a little more of the beloved land, every sod of which I love. We certainly do seem to be getting poorer and poorer; but never mind—nothing will ever alter the fact that—”
“That what, child?”
“That we O'Shanaghgans are the proudest and oldest family in the county, and that there is scarcely an Englishman across the water who would not give all he possesses to change places with us.”
“You talk like a silly child,” said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan; “and please remember that I am English.”
“Oh, mummy, I am so sorry!” said the girl. She laid her soft head down on the sofa, pressing it against her mother's shoulder.
“I cannot think of you as English,” she said. “You have lived here all, all my life. You belong to father, and you belong to Terence and me—what have you to do with the cold English?”
“I remember a time,” said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, “when I thought Ireland the most desolate and God-forsaken place on the earth. It is true I have become accustomed to it now. But, Nora, if you only could realize what my old home was really like.”
“I don't want to realize any home different from this,” said the girl, a cloud shading her bright eyes for the moment.
“You are silly and prejudiced,” said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan. “It is a great trial to me to have a daughter so unsympathetic.”
“Oh, mummy! I don't mean to be unsympathetic. There now, we are quite cozy together. Tell me one of the old stories; I do so love to listen.”
The frown cleared from Mrs. O'Shanaghgan's forehead, and the peevish lines went out of her face. She began to talk with animation and excitement. Nora knew exactly what she was going to say. She had heard the story so often; but, although she had heard it hundreds and thousands of times, she was never tired of listening to the history of a trim life of which she knew absolutely nothing. The orderly, well-dressed servants, the punctual meals, the good and abundant food, the nice dresses, the parties, the solid education, the discipline so foreign to her own existence, all—all held their proper fascination. But although she listened with delight to these stories of a bygone time, she never envied her mother those periods of prosperity. Such a life would have been a prison to her; so she thought, although she never spoke her thought aloud.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan began the old tale to-night, telling it with a little more verve even than usual. She ended at last with a sigh.
“Oh, the beautiful old times!” she said.
“But you didn't know father then,” answered Nora, a frown coming to her brows, and an angry feeling for a moment visiting her warm heart. “You didn't have father, nor Nora, nor Terry.”
“Of course not, darling, and you make up for much; but, Nora dear, although I love my husband and my children, I hate this country. I hate it!”
“Don't, mother,” said Nora, with a look of pain. She started to her feet. At that moment loud, strong steps were heard in the hall; a hearty voice exclaimed:
“Where's Light o' the Morning? Where have you hidden yourself, witch?”
“It's father,” said Nora. She said the words with a sort of gasp of rejoicing, and the next moment had dashed out of the room.

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