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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER XI. — THE DIAMOND CROSS.
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 But although Mrs. O'Shanaghgan spoke of her daughter to herself as deceitful, she did not at all give up the idea of her accepting her uncle's invitation. George Hartrick had always had an immense influence over his sister Ellen. He and she had been great friends long ago, when the handsome, bright girl had been glad to take the advice of her elder brother. They had almost quarreled at that brief period of madness in Ellen Hartrick's life, when she had fallen in love with handsome Squire O'Shanaghgan; but that quarrel had long been made up. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan had married the owner of O'Shanaghgan Castle, and had rued her brief madness ever since. But her pride had prevented her complaining to her brother George. George still imagined that she kept her passionate love intact for the wild Irishman. Only one thing she had managed ever since their parting, many years ago, and that was, that her English brother should not come to see her in her Irish home. One excuse after the other she had offered, and at last she had told him frankly that the ways of the Irish were not his ways; and that, when he really wanted to see his sister, he must invite her to come to England to visit him.  
Hartrick was hurt at Ellen's behavior, and as he himself had married about the same time, and his own young family were growing up around him, and the making of money and the toil of riches were claiming him more and more, he did not often think of the sister who was away in the wilds of Ireland. She had married one of the proud old Irish chiefs. She had a very good position in her way; and when her son and daughter required a little peep into the world, Hartrick resolved that they should have it. He had invited Terence over; and now Nora's letter, with its perplexity, its anguish, its bold request, and its final tenderness, had come upon him with a shock of surprise.
George Hartrick was a much stronger character than his sister. He was a very fine man, indeed, with splendid principles and downright ways; and there was something about this outspoken and queer letter which touched him in spite of himself. He was not easily touched; but he respected the writer of that letter. He felt that if he knew her he could get on with her. He resolved to treat her confidence with the respect it seemed to him it deserved; and, without hesitation, he wrote her the sort of letter she had asked him to write. She should pay him a visit, and he would find out for himself the true state of things at Castle O'Shanaghgan. Whether he would help the Squire or not, whether there was any need to help him, he could not say, for Nora had not really revealed much of the truth in her passionate letter. She had hinted at it, but she had not spoken; she would wait for that moment of outpouring of her heart until she arrived at The Laurels.
Now, Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, standing alone in her big, empty drawing room, and looking out at the summer landscape, thought of how Nora might enter her brother's house. Fond as Mrs. O'Shanaghgan was of Terence—he was in truth a son after her own heart—she had a queer kind of pride about her with regard to Nora. Wild and untutored as Nora looked, her mother knew that few girls in England could hold a candle to her, if justice were done her. There was something about the expression in Nora's eyes which even Mrs. O'Shanaghgan could scarcely resist at times, and there were tones and inflections of entreaty in Nora's voice which had a strange power of melting the hearts of those who listened to her.
After about an hour Mrs. O'Shanaghgan went very slowly upstairs. Her bedroom was over the drawing room. It was just as large as the drawing room—a great bare apartment. The carpet which covered the floor was so threadbare that the boards showed through in places; the old, faded chintz curtains which hung at the windows were also in tatters; but they were perfectly clean, for Mrs. O'Shanaghgan did her best to retain that English cleanliness and order which she felt were so needed in the land of desolation, as she was pleased to call Ireland.
A huge four-post bedstead occupied a prominent place against one of the walls; there was an enormous mahogany wardrobe against another; but the whole center of the room was bare. The dressing-table, however, which stood right in the center of the huge bay, was full of pretty things—silver appointments of different kinds, brushes and combs heavily mounted in silver, glass bottles with silver stoppers, perfume bottles, pretty knick-knacks of all sorts. When Nora was a little child she used to stand fascinated, gazing at her mother's dressing-table. It was the one spot where any of the richness of the Englishwoman's early life could still be found. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan went up now and looked at her dressing-table, sweeping her eyes rapidly over its contents. The brushes and combs, the bottles of scent, the button-hooks, the shoe-horns, the thousand-and-one little nothings, polished and bright, stood upon the dressing-table; and besides these there was a large, silver-mounted jewel-case.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan was not at all afraid to leave this jewel-case out, exposed to view day after day, for no one all round the place would have touched so much as a pin which belonged to the Squire's lady. The people were poor, and would think nothing of stealing half a bag of potatoes, or helping themselves to a good sack of fruit out of the orchard; but to take the things from the lady's bedroom or anything at all out of the house they would have scorned. They had their own honesty, and they loved the Squire too much to attempt anything of the sort.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan now put a key into the lock of the jewel-case and opened it. When first she was married it was full of pretty things—long strings of pearls, a necklet of very valuable diamonds, a tiara of the same, rings innumerable, bracelets, head ornaments of different kinds, buckles for shoes, clasps for belts, pins, brooches. Mrs. O'Shanaghan, when Nora was a tiny child, used on every one of the little girl's birthdays to allow her to overhaul the jewel case; but of late years Nora had never looked inside it, and Mrs. O'Shanaghgan had religiously kept it locked. She opened it now with a sigh. The upper tray was quite empty; the diamonds had long ago been disposed of. They had gone to pay for Terence's schooling, for Terence's clothes, for one thing and another that required money. They had gone, oh! so quickly; had melted away so certainly. That first visit of her son's to England had cost Mrs. O'Shanaghgan her long string of pearls, which had come to her as an heirloom from her mother before her. They were very valuable pearls, and she had sold them for a tenth, a twentieth part of their value. The jeweler in Dublin, who was quite accustomed to receiving the poor lady's trinkets, had sent her a check for fifty pounds for the pearls, knowing well that he could sell them himself for at least three hundred pounds.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan now once more rifled the jewel case. There were some things still left—two or three rings and a diamond cross. She had never wanted to part with that cross. She had pictured over and over how it would shine on Nora's white neck; how lovely Nora would look when dressed for her first ball, having that white Irish cross, with its diamonds and its single emerald in the center, shining on her breast. But would it not be better to give Nora the chance of spending three or four months in England, the chance of educating herself, and let the cross go by? It was so valuable that the good lady quite thought that she ought to get seventy pounds for it. With seventy pounds she could fit Nora up for her English visit, and have a little over to keep in her own pocket. Only Nora must not go next Tuesday; that was quite impossible.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan quickly determined to make the sacrifice. She could still supply Nora with a little, very simple pearl necklet, to wear with her white dress during her visit; and the cross would have to go. There would be a few rings still left; after that the jewel case would be empty.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan packed the precious cross into a little box, and took it out herself to register it, and to send it off to the jeweler who always bought the trinkets she sent him. She told him that she expected him to give her, without the smallest demur, seventy pounds for the cross, and hoped to have the money by the next day's post.
Having done this and dispatched her letter, she walked briskly back to the Castle. She saw Nora wandering about in the avenue. Nora, hatless and gloveless, was playing with the dogs. She seemed to have forgotten all about her keen disappointment of the morning. When she saw her mother coming up the avenue she ran to meet her.
“Why, mammy,” she said, “how early you are out! Where have you been?”
“I dislike extremely that habit you have, Nora, of calling me mammy; mother is the word you should address your parent with. Please remember in future that I wish to be called mother.”
“Oh, yes, mother!” answered Nora. The girl had the sweetest temper in the world, and no amount of reproof ever caused her to answer angrily. “But where have you been?” she said, her curiosity getting the better of her prudence.
“Again, Nora, I am sorry to say I must reprove you. I have been to the village on business of my own. It is scarcely your affair where I choose to walk in the morning.”
“Oh, of course not, mam—I mean mother.”
“But come with me down this walk. I have something to say to you.”
Nora eagerly complied. There was something in the look of her mother's eyes which made her guess that the usual subject of conversation—her own want of deportment, her ignorance of etiquette—was not to be the theme. She felt her heart, which had sunk like lead within her, rise again to the surface. Her eyes sparkled and smiles played round her rosy lips.
“Yes, mother,” she said; “yes.”
“All impulse,” said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan—she laid her hand on Nora's arm—“all impulse, all Irish enthusiasm.”
“I cannot help it, you know,” said Nora. “I was born that way. I am Irish, you know, mammy.”
“You are also English, my dear,” replied her mother. “Pray remember that fact when you see your cousins.”
“My cousins! My English cousins! But am I to see them? Mother, mother, do you mean it?”
“I do mean it, Nora. I intend you to accept your uncle's invitation. No heroics, please,” as the girl was about to fling her arms round her mother's neck; “keep those for your father, Nora; I do not wish for them. I intend you to go and behave properly; pray remember that when you give way to pure Irishism, as I may express your most peculiar manners, you disgrace me, your mother. I mean you to go in order to have you tamed a little. You are absolutely untamed now, unbroken in.”
“I never want to be broken in,” whispered Nora, tears of mingled excitement and pain at her mother's words brimming to her eyes. “Oh, mother!” she said, with a sudden wail, “will you never, never understand Nora?”
“I understand her quite well,” said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan, her voice assuming an unwonted note of softness; “and because I do understand Nora so well,” she added—and now she patted the girl's slender arm—“I want her to have this great advantage, for there is much that is good in you, Nora. But you are undisciplined, my dear; wild, unkempt. Little did I think in the old days that a daughter of mine should have to have such things said to her. Our more stately, more sober ways will be a revelation to you, Nora. To your brother Terence they will come as second nature; but you, my dear, will have to be warned beforehand. I warn you now that your Uncle George will not understand the wild excitement which you seem to consider the height of good breeding at O'Shanaghgan.”
“Mother, mother,” said Nora, “don't say anything against O'Shanaghgan.”
“Am I doing so?” said the poor lady. She stood for a moment and looked around her. Nora stopped also and when she saw her mother's eyes travel to the rambling old house, to the neglected lawn, the avenue overgrown with weeds, it seemed to her that a stab of the cruelest pain was penetrating her heart.
“Mother sees all the ugliness; she is determined to,” thought Nora; “but I see all the beauty. Oh! the dear, dear old place, it shan't go if Nora can save it.” Then, with a great effort, she controlled herself.
“How am I to go?” she said. “Where is the money to come from?”
“You need not question me on that point,” said Mrs. O'Shanaghgan. “I will provide the means.”
“Oh, mother!” said Nora; “no, I would rather stay.” But then she remembered all that this involved; she knew quite well that her mother had rifled the jewel-case; but as she had done so over and over again just for Terence's mere pleasure, might she not do so once more to save the old place?
“Very well,” she said demurely; “I won't ask any questions.”
“You had better not, for I have not the slightest idea of replying to them,” answered Mrs. O'Shanaghgan. “I shall write to your uncle to-day. You cannot go next week, however.”
“Oh! why not? He said Tuesday; he would meet me at Holyhead on Tuesday.”
“I will try and provide a fit escort for you to England; But you cannot go next Tuesday; your wardrobe forbids it,” answered Mrs. O'Shanaghgan.
“My wardrobe! Oh, mother, I really need not bother about clothes!”
“You may not bother about them, Nora; but I intend to,” replied Mrs. O'Shanaghgan. “I must buy you some suitable dress.”
“But how will you do it?”
“I have not been away from Castle O'Shanaghgan for a long time,” ............
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