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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER VIII. — THE SQUIRE'S TROUBLE.
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 Nora and her father went slowly down a shady walk, which led in the direction of the shore. Soon they found themselves in a hay-field. The crop here was not particularly good. The hay had been spoiled by rains, which had soaked down on the lands a fortnight ago. It was stunted in height, and in some parts had that impoverished appearance which is so painful to the heart of the good farmer.  
Squire O'Shanaghgan, notwithstanding his somewhat careless ways, was really a capital farmer. He had the best interests of the land at heart, and did his utmost to get profit out of his many acres. He now shook his head over the hay-crop.
“It's just like all the rest, Norrie—everything going to ruin—the whole place going to the dogs; and yet—and yet, colleen, it's about the sweetest bit of earth in all God's world. I wouldn't give O'Shanaghgan for the grandest place in the whole of England; and I told your lady-mother so this morning.”
“Why did you say it, father? Had mother been—”
“Oh, nothing, child—nothing; the old grumbles. But it's her way, poor dear; she can't help herself; she was born so. It's not to be expected that she who was brought up in that prim land over yonder, where everything is cut and dry, and no one ever thinks of managing anything but by the rule of three, would take to our wild ways. But there, Norrie, it's the freedom of the life that suits me; when I am up and away on Black Bess or on Monarch, I don't think there is a happier fellow in the world. But there, when I come face to face with money, why, I'm bothered—I'm bothered entirely, child.”
“Father,” said Nora, “won't you tell me what is worrying you?”
“How do you know I am worried about anything, colleen?”
“How do I know, father?” answered Nora a little playfully. She turned and faced him. “I know,” she said; “that is enough; you are worried. What is it?”
The Squire looked at her attentively. He was much the taller of the two, and his furrowed face seemed to the girl, as she looked up at him, like a great rock rising above her. She was wont to sun herself in his smile, and to look to him always as a sure refuge in any perplexity. She did not love anyone in the whole world as she loved her father. His manliness appealed to her; his generous ways suited her; but, above all these things, he was her father; he was Irish to his backbone, and so was she.
“You must tell me,” she said. “Something is troubling you, and Nora has to know.”
“Ah, my Light o' the Morning! what would I do without you?” answered the Squire.
“Prove that you trust me,” said Nora, “and tell me what worries you.”
“Well, Nora, you cannot understand; and yet if you could it would be a relief to unburden my mind. But you know nothing about mortgages—do you, little woman?”
“More than you think,” said Nora. “I am not a child—I am nearly seventeen; and I have not lived at O'Shanaghgan all my life for nothing. Of course we are poor! I don't know that I want to be rich.”
“I'll tell you what I want,” said the Squire; “I want to forget that there is such a thing as money. If it were not for money I would say to myself, 'There's not a better lot than mine.' What air we have here!” He opened his mouth and took in a great breath of the pure Atlantic breezes. “What a place it is! Look at the beauty of it! Look round, Norrie, and see for yourself; the mountains over there; and the water rolling up almost to our doors; and the grand roar of the waves in our ears; and those trees yonder; and this field with the sun on it; and the house, though it is a bit of a barrack, yet it is where my forebears were born. Oh, it's the best place on earth; it's O'Shanaghgan, and it's mine! There, Nora, there; I can't stand it!”
The Squire dashed his hand to his brow. Nora looked up at him; she was feeling the exposure and excitement of last night. Her pallor suddenly attracted his attention.
“Why, what's the matter with you, colleen?” he said. “Are you well—are you sure you're well?”
“Absolutely, perfectly well, father. Go on—tell me all.”
“Well, you know, child, when I came in for the estate it was not to say free.”
“What does that mean, father?”
“It was my father before me—your grandfather—the best hunter in the county. He could take his bottle of port and never turn a hair; and he rode to hounds! God bless you, Nora! I wish you could have seen your grandfather riding to hounds. It was a sight to remember. Well, he died—God bless him!—and there were difficulties. Before he died those difficulties began, and he mortgaged some of the outer fields and Knock Robin Farm—the best farm on the whole estate; but I didn't think anything of that. I thought I could redeem it; but somehow, child, somehow rents have been going down; the poor folk can't pay, and I'm the last to press them; and things have got worse and worse. I had a tight time of it five years ago; I was all but done for. It was partly the fact of the famine; we none of us ever got over that—none of us in this part of Ireland, and many of the people went away. Half the cabins were deserted. There's half a mile of 'em down yonder; every single one had a dead man or woman in it at the time of the famine, and now they're empty. Well of course, you know all about that?”
“Oh, yes, father; Hannah has told me of the famine many, many times.”
“To be sure—to be sure; but it is a dark subject, and not fit for a pretty young thing like you. But there, let me go on. It was five years ago I mortgaged some of the place, a good bit, to my old friend Dan Murphy. He lent me ten thousand pounds—not a penny more, I assure you. It just tided me over, and I thought, of course, I'd pay him back, interest and all, by easy stages. It seemed so easy to mortgage the place to Murphy, and there was nothing else to be done.”
The Squire had been walking slowly; now he stopped, dropped Nora's hand from his arm, and faced her.
“It seemed so easy to mortgage the land to Dan Murphy,” he said, dropping his voice, “so very easy, and that money was so handy, and I thought—”
“Yes, father?” said Nora in a voice of fear. “You said these words before. Go on—it was so easy. Well?”
“Well, a month ago, child, I got a lette............
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