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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER VII. — THE MURPHYS.
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 It was between two and three in the morning when the girls found themselves back again in the desolate mansion of Cronane. Biddy had left a window open; they had easily got in by it and gone up to Biddy's big room on the first floor. They were to sleep together in Biddy's small bed. Personally, discomforts did not affect them; they had never been accustomed to luxury, and rather liked the sense of hardship than otherwise.  
“I brought up a bit of supper beforehand,” said Biddy. “I am real hungry. What do you say to cold bacon and taters—eh? I went down to the larder and got a good few early this morning. I put them in the cupboard in a brown bowl with a plate over it. You're hungry—aren't you, Norrie?”
“No, not very,” answered Nora.
“What's come to you, you're so quiet? You have lost all your spirit. I thought we would have a real rollicking time over our supper, laughing and talking, and telling our adventures. Oh! it was awful in that cave; and when you were away talking to the lady Banshee I did have a time of it. I thought that awful Andy was going to murder me. I had a sort of feeling that he was getting closer and closer, and I clutched hold of little Mike. I think he was a bit surprised; I'll give him a penny to-morrow, poor gossoon. But aren't you hungry, and won't you laugh, and shan't we have a jolly spree?”
“Oh, I shall be very glad to eat something,” said Nora; “and I am a little cold, too. I took a chill standing so long in that icy water.”
“Oh, dear, oh, dear! it's the rheumatics you'll be getting, and then you'll lose your beautiful straight figure. I must rub your legs. There, sit on the bed and I'll begin.”
Nora submitted to Biddy's ministrations. The room was lit by a small dip candle, which was placed in an old tin candlestick on the mantelpiece.
“Dear, dear! the light will be coming in no time, and we can quench the glim then,” said Biddy. “I've got to be careful about candles. We're precious short of everything at Cronane just now. We're as poor as church mice; it's horrid to be so desperately poor as that. But, hurrah for the cold taters and bacon! We'll have a right good meal. That will warm you up; and I have a little potheen in a black bottle, too. I'll put some water to it and you shall have a drink.”
“I never touch it,” said Nora, shuddering.
“But you must tonight, or you'll catch your death of cold. There, the best thing you can do is to get right into bed. Why, you're shivering, and your teeth are chattering. It's a fine state Mrs. O'Shanaghgan will be in tomorrow when you go back to her.”
“I must not get ill, Biddy; that would never do,” said Nora, pulling herself together with an effort. “Yes, I'll get into bed; and I'll take a little of your potheen—very, very weak, if you'll mix it for me—and I'll have some of the bacon and potatoes. Oh! I would eat anything rather than be ill. I never was really ill in my life; but now, of all times, it would never do.”
“Well, then, here you go. Tumble into bed. I'll pile the blankets on you. Now, isn't that better?”
Biddy bustled, intent on hospitality. She propped Nora up with pillows, pulled a great rug over her shoulders, and heaped on more and more blankets, which she pulled expeditiously from under the bed. “They always stay here in the summer,” said Biddy. “That's to keep them aired; and now they're coming in very handy. You have got four doubled on you now; that makes eight. I should think you'd soon be warm enough.”
“I expect I shall soon be too hot,” said Nora; “but this is very nice.”
She sipped the potheen, ate a little bacon and cold potatoes, and presently declared herself well again.
“Oh, I am perfectly all right!” she said; “it was coming home in the boat in my wet things. I wish I had taken a pair of sculls again; then I wouldn't even have been cold.”
“Now you'll tell me,” said Biddy, who sat on the edge of the bed munching great chunks of bacon and eating her cold potatoes with extreme relish. “Oh! it's hungry I am; but I want to hear all about the lady Banshee. Did she come? Did you see her, Nora?”
“No, she didn't come,” said Nora very shortly.
“Didn't come? But they say she never fails when the moon is at the full. She rises up out of that pool—the bottomless pool it is called—and she floats over the water and waves her hand. It's awful to see her if you don't belong to her; but to those who belong to her she is tender and sweet, like a mother, they say; and her breath is like honey, and her kiss the sweetest you ever got in all your life. You mean to say you didn't see her? Why, Nora, what has come to you? You're trembling again.”
“I cannot tell you, Biddy; don't ask me any more. I didn't see the Banshee. It was very, very cold standing up to my knees in the water. I suppose I did wrong to go; but that's done and over now. Oh, I am so tired and sleepy! Do get into bed, Biddy, and let us have what little rest we can.”
Early the next morning Nora returned to O'Shanaghgan. All trace of ill effects had vanished under Biddy's prompt treatment. She had lain under her eight blankets until she found them intolerable, had then tossed most of them off, and fallen into deep slumber. In the morning she looked much as usual; but no entreaties on the part of Biddy, joined in very heartily by Squire Murphy and also by Mrs. Murphy, could induce her to prolong her visit.
“It's a message I'll take over myself to your father if you'll but stay, Nora,” said the Squire.
“No, no; I must really go home,” answered Nora.
“It's too fine you are for us, Nora, and that's the truth; and don't go for to be denying it,” said Mrs. Murphy.
“No; I hope I may never be too fine for my real friends,” said Nora a little sadly. “I must go back. I believe I am wanted at home.”
“You're a very conceited colleen; there's no girl that can't be spared from home sometimes,” said Mrs. Murphy. “I thought you would help Biddy and me to pick black currants. There are quarts and quarts of 'em in the garden, and the maids can't do it by themselves, poor things. Well, Biddy, you have got to help me today.”
“Oh, mammy, I just can't,” answered Biddy. “I'm due down at the shore, and I want to go a bit of the way back with Nora. You can't expect me to help you today, mammy.”
“There she is, Nora—there she is!” exclaimed the good lady, her face growing red and her eyes flashing fire; “not a bit of good, not worth her keep, I tell her. Why shouldn't she stay at home and help her mother? Do you hear me, Squire Murphy? Give your orders to the girl; tell her to stay at home and help her mother.”
“Ah, don't be bothering me,” said Squire Murphy. “It's out I'm going now. I have enough on my own shoulders without attending to the tittle-tattle of women.”
He rose from the table, and the next moment had left the room.
“Dear, dear! there are bad times ahead for poor Old Ireland,” said Mrs. Murphy. “Children don't obey their parents; husbands don't respect their wives; it's a queer state of the country. When I was young, and lived at my own home in Tipperary, we had full and plenty. There was a bite and a sup for every stranger who came to the door, and no one talked of money, nor thought of it neither. The land yielded a good crop, and the potatoes—oh, dear! oh, dear! that was before the famine. The famine brought us a lot of bad luck, that it did.”
“But the potatoes have been much better the last few years, and this year they say we're going to have a splendid crop,” said Nora. “But I must go now, Mrs. Murphy. Thank you so much for asking me.”
“You're looking a bit pale; but you're a beautiful girl,” said the good woman admiringly. “I'd give a lot if Biddy could change places with you—that is, in appearance, I mean. She's not a credit to anybody, with her bumpy forehead and her cocked nose, and her rude ways to her mother.”
“Mammy, I really cannot help the way I am made,” said Biddy; “and as to staying in this lovely day picking black currants and making jam, and staining my fingers, it's not to be thought of. Come along out, Nora. If you must be off back to O'Shanaghgan, I mean to claim the last few moments of your stay here.”
The girls spent the morning together, and early in the afternoon Nora returned to O'Shanaghgan. Terence met her as she was driving down the avenue.
“How late you are!” he said; “and you have got great black shadows under your eyes. You know, of course, that I have to catch the early train in the morning?”
“To be sure I do, Terry; and it is for that very reason I have come back so punctually. I want to pack your things my own self.”
“Ah, that's a good girl. You'll find most of them laid out on the bed. Be sure you see that all my handkerchiefs are there—two dozen—and all marked with my initials.”
“I never knew you had so many.”
“Yes; mother gave me a dozen at Christmas, and I have not used them yet. I shall want every bit of decent clothing I possess for my visit to my rich Uncle Hartrick.”
“How is mother, Terence?”
“Mother? Quite well, I suppose; she is fretting a bit at my going; you'll have to comfort her. The place is very rough for her just now.”
“I don't see that it is any rougher than it has ever been,” said Nora a little fiercely. “You're always running down the place, Terry.”
“Well, I can't help it. I hate to see things going to the dogs,” said the young man. He turned on his heel, called a small fox-terrier, who went by the name of Snap, to follow him, and went away in the direction of the shore.
Nora whipped up her pony and drove on to the house. Here she was greeted by her father. He was standing on the steps; and, coming down, he lifted her bodily out of the dog-cart, strained her to his heart, and looked full into her eyes.
“Ah, Light o' the Morning, I have missed you,” he said, and gave a great sigh.
The girl nestled up close to him. She was trembling with excess of feeling.
“And I have missed you,” she answered. “How is the mother?”
“I suppose she is all right, Nora; but there, upon my word, she does vex me sometimes. Take the horse to the stables, and don't stand staring there, Peter Jones.” The Squire said these latter words on account of the fixed stare of a pair of bright black eyes like sloes in the head of the little chap who had brought the trap for Nora. He whipped up the pony, turned briskly round, and drove away.
“Come out for a bit with me round the grounds, Nora. It's vexed I am, sometimes; I feel I cannot stand things. I wish my lady would not have all those fine airs. But there, I have no right to talk against your mother to you, child; and of course she is your mother, and I am desperately proud of her. There never was her like for beauty and stateliness; but sometimes she tries me.”
“Oh! I know, father; I know. But let's go round and look at the new calf and the colt. We can spare an hour—can we not?”
“Yes; come along quick, Nora,” answered the Squire, all smiles and jokes once more. “The mother doesn't know you have come back, and we can have a pleasant hour to ourselves.”

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