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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER XVI. — A CHEEKY IRISH GIRL.
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 At tea the girls were very stiff. Molly and Nora were put as far as possible asunder. They did not have tea in the drawing room, but in the dining room, and Mrs. Hartrick presided. There was jam on the table, and two or three kinds of cake, and, of course, plenty of bread and butter.  
As Molly had predicted, however, the news of her expression “Go to Jericho!” had already reached Mrs. Hartrick's ears, and the fiat had gone forth that she was only to eat bread and butter. It was handed to her, in a marked way, by her mother, and Linda's light-blue eyes flashed with pleasure. Nora felt at that moment that she almost hated Linda. She herself ate resignedly, and without much appetite. Her spirits were down to zero. It seemed far less likely than it did before she left O'Shanaghgan that she could help her father out of his scrape. It was almost impossible to break through these chains of propriety, of neatness, of order. Would anybody in this trim household care in the very least whether the old Irishman broke his heart or not? whether he and the Irish girl had to go forth from the home of their ancestors? whether the wild, beautiful, rack-rent sort of place was kept in the family or not?
“They none of them care,” thought Nora. “I don't believe Uncle George will do anything; but all the same I have got to ask him. He was nice about my letter, I will own that; but will he really, really help?”
“A penny for your thoughts, Nora, my dear,” said Mrs. Hartrick at this moment.
Nora glanced up with a guilty flush.
“Oh, I was only thinking,” she began.
“Yes, dear, what about?”
“About father.” Nora colored as she spoke, and Linda fixed her eyes on her face.
“Very pretty indeed of you, my dear, to think so much of your father,” said Mrs. Hartrick; “but I cannot help giving you a hint. It is not considered good manners for a girl to be absent-minded while she is in public. You are more or less in public now; I am here, and your cousins, and it is our bounden duty each to try and make the others pleasant, to add to the enjoyment of the meal by a little graceful conversation. Absent-mindedness is very dull for others, my dear Nora; so in future try not to look quite so abstracted.”
Nora colored again. Molly, at the other end of the table, bit her lip furiously, and stretched out her hand to help herself to another thick piece of bread and butter. In doing so she upset a small milk-jug; a stream of milk flowed down the tablecloth, and Mrs. Hartrick rose in indignation.
“This is the fourth evening running you have spilt something on the tablecloth, Molly. Go to your room immediately.”
Molly rose, dropped a mocking courtesy to her mother, and left the room.
“Linda dear, run after your sister, and tell her that, for her impertinence to me, she is to remain in her room until dinner-time.”
“Oh! please forgive her this time; she didn't mean it really,” burst from Nora's lips.
“Nora!” said Mrs. Hartrick.
“Oh! I am sorry for her; please forgive her.”
“Nora!” repeated her aunt again.
“It is because you do not understand her that she goes on like that; she is such a fine girl, twice—twice as fine as Linda. Oh, I do wish you would forgive her!”
“Thank you,” said Linda in a mocking voice. She had got as far as the door, and had overheard Nora's words. She now glanced at her mother, as much as to say, “I told you so,” and left the room.
Nora had jumped to her feet. She had forgotten prudence; she had forgotten politeness; her eyes were bright with suppressed fire, and her glib Irish tongue was eager to enter into the fray.
“I must speak out,” she said. “Molly is more like me than anybody else in this house, and I must take her part. She would be a very, very good girl if she were understood.”
“What are your ideas with regard to understanding Molly?” said Mrs. Hartrick in that very calm and icy voice which irritated poor Nora almost past endurance. She was speechless for a moment, struggling with fresh emotion.
“Oh! I wish——” she began.
“And I wish, my dear Nora, that you would remember the politeness due to your hostess. I also wish that you would consider how very silly you are when you speak as you are now doing. I do not know what your Irish habits are; but if it is considered in Ireland rather a virtue than otherwise to spill a milk jug, and allow the contents to deface the tablecloth, I am sorry for you, that is all.”
“You cannot understand. I—I am sorry I came,” said Nora.
She burst into sudden tears, and ran out of the room. In a few moments Linda came back.
“Molly is storming,” she said; “she is in an awful rage.”
“Sit down, Linda, and don't tell tales of your sister,” answered Mrs. Hartrick in an annoyed voice.
“Dear me, mother!” said Linda; “and where is Nora?”
“Nora is a very impertinent little girl. She is wild, however, and unbroken. We must all have patience with her. Poor child! it is terrible to think that she is your father's niece. What a contrast to dear Terence! He is a very nice, polite boy. I am sorry for Nora. Of course, as to Molly, she is quite different. She has always had the advantage of my bringing-up; whereas poor Nora—well, I must say I am surprised at my sister-in-law. I did not think your father's sister would have been so remiss.”
“There is one thing I ought to say,” said Linda.
“What is that, dear? Linda, do sit up straight, and don't poke your head.”
Linda drew herself up, and looked prettily toward her mother.
“What do you wish to say?”
“It is this. I think Nora will be a very bad companion for Molly. Molly will be worse than ever that Nora is in the house.”
“Well, my dear Linda, it is your duty to be a good deal with your cousin. You are too fond of poking holes in others; you are a little hard upon your sister Molly. I do not wish to excuse Molly; but it is not your place as her younger sister to, as it were, rejoice in her many faults.”
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