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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER XX. — STEPHANOTIE.
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 Mrs. Hartrick made all necessary arrangements, and on the following Monday Nora accompanied her cousin to school. Molly was much delighted.  
“Now I shall be able to work,” she said, “and I won't be guilty of slang when you are by. Don't whisper it to Linda. She would be in the seventh heaven of bliss, and I detest pleasing her; but I would do anything in the world for you, Nora creena.”
Nora gave her cousin's arm an affectionate squeeze.
“I have never been to school,” said Nora; “you must instruct me what I am to do.”
“Oh, dear, dear!” said Molly, “you won't need instruction; you are as sharp and smart as any girl could be. You'll be a little puzzled at first about the different classes, and I'll give you hints about how to take notes and all that sort of thing. But you will quickly get into the way of it, and then you'll learn like a house on fire.”
“I wish you two wouldn't whisper together so much,” said Linda in an annoyed voice. “I am going over my French parsing to myself, and you do interrupt me so.”
“Then walk a little farther away from us,” said Molly rudely.
She turned once more to her cousin.
“I will introduce you to the very nicest girls in my form,” she said. “I do hope you'll be put into my form, for then in the evenings you and I can do our work together. I expect you know about as much as I do.”
“But that's just it—I don't,” said Nora. “I have not learned a bit in the school way. I had a governess for a time, but she did not know a great deal. Of course mother taught me too; but I have not had advantages. I should not be surprised if I were put into the lowest form.”
They now arrived at the school, and a few minutes later Nora found herself in a huge classroom in which about sixty other girls were assembled. Miss Flowers presently sent a pupil-teacher to ask Miss O'Shanaghgan to have an interview with her in her private room.
Miss Flowers was about fifty years of age. She had white hair, calm, large, well-opened blue eyes, a steadfast mouth, and a gracious and at the same time dignified manner. She was not exactly beautiful; but she had the sort of face which most girls respected and which many loved. Nora looked earnestly at her, and in her wild, impulsive Irish fashion, gave her heart on the spot.
“What is your name, my dear?” said the head-mistress kindly.
Nora told it.
“You are Irish, Mrs. Hartrick tells me.”
“Yes, Miss Flowers, I have lived all my life in Ireland.”
“I must find out what sort of instruction you have had. Have you ever been at school before?”
“How old are you?”
“Sixteen, Miss Flowers.”
“What things have you been taught?”
“English subjects of different sorts,” replied Nora. “A little music—oh, I love music, I do love music!—and a little French; and I can speak Irish,” she added, raising her beautiful, dark-blue eyes, and fixing them on the face of the head-mistress. That winsome face touched Miss Flowers' heart.
“I will do what I can for you,” she said. “For the present you had better study alone. At the end of a week or so I shall be able to determine what form to put you in. Now, go back to the schoolroom and ask Miss Goring to come to me.”
Miss Goring was the English mistress. Miss Flowers saw her alone for a minute or two.
“Do what you can for the Irish girl,” she said. “She is a very pretty creature; she is evidently ignorant; but I think she has plenty of talent.”
Miss Goring went back, and during the rest of the morning devoted herself to Nora. Nora had varied and strange acquirements at her finger's ends. She was up in all sorts of folk lore; she could clothe her speech in picturesque and striking language. She could repeat poetry from Sir Walter Scott, from Shakspere, from the old Irish bards themselves; but her grammar was defective, although her reading aloud was very pretty and sweet. Her knowledge of history was vague, and might be best described by the expression, up and down. She knew all about the Waldenses; she had a vivid picture in her mind's eye of St. Bartholomew's Eve. The French Revolution appalled and, at the same time, attracted her. The death of Charles I. drew tears from her eyes; but she knew nothing whatever of the chronological arrangements of history; and the youngest girl in the school could have put her to shame with regard to the Magna Charta. It was just the same with every branch of knowledge which Nora had even a smattering of.
At last the great test of all came—could she play or could she not? She had spoken often of her passionate love for music. Miss Goring took her into the drawing room, away from the other girls.
“I am not supposed to be musical,” she said, “but I think I know music when I hear it. If you have talent, you shall have plenty of advantages here. Now, sit down and play something for me.”
“What! At that piano?” said Nora, her eyes sparkling. Miss Goring had opened a magnificent Broadwood grand.
“Yes,” she said. “It is rather daring of me to bring you here; but I want you to have fair play.”
“I never played on a really good piano in my life,” said Nora. “May I venture?”
“Yes. I do not believe you will injure it.”
“May I play as loud as I like, and as soft as I like?”
“Certainly. You may play exactly as you please; only play with all your heart. You will be taught scientific music doubtless; but I want to know what you can do without education, at present.”
Nora sat down. At first she felt a little shy, and all her surroundings were so strange, the piano was so big; she touched it with her small, taper fingers, and it seemed to her that the deep, soft notes were going to overpower her. Then she looked at Miss Goring and felt uncomfortable; but she touched the notes again, and she began to forget the room, and Miss Goring, and the grand piano; and the soul of music stood in her eyes and touched the tips of her fingers. The music was quite unclassical, quite unconventional; but it was music—a wild kind of wailing chant—the notes of the Banshee itself. Nora played on, and the tears filled her eyes and streamed down her cheeks.
“Oh, it hurts so!” she said at last, and she looked full up at Miss Goring. Behold, the cold, gray eyes of the English teacher were also full of tears.
“You terrify me,” she said. “Where did you hear anything like that?”
“That is the wail of the Banshee. Shall I play any more?”
“Nothing more so eerie.”
“Then may I sing for you?”
“Can you sing?”
“I was never taught; but I think I can sing.” Nora struck a few chords again. She sang the pathetic words, “She is Far from the Land,” and Miss Goring felt the tears filling her eyes once more.
“Upon my word!” she said, as she led her pupil back to the schoolroom, “you can play and you can sing; you have music in you. It would be worth while to give you good lessons.”
Nora's musical education was now taken up with vigor. Miss Goring spoke to Miss Flowers about it, and Miss Flowers communicated with Mrs. Hartrick; and Mrs. Hartrick was extremely pleased to find that she had a musical genius in her midst, and determined to give that same musical genius every chance. Accordingly, the very best master in the school arranged to give Nora lessons, and a mistress of striking ability took her also in hand. Nora's wild music, the music that came from her heart, and the song that bubbled from her lips, were absolutely silenced. She must not sing at will; she must on no account play at will. The dullest of exercises were given to her for the purpose of molding her fingers, and the dullest of voice exercises were also given to her for the purpose of molding her voice. She struggled against the discipline, and hated it. She was essentially a child of nature, and this first putting on of the chains of education was the reverse of pleasant.
“Oh, Molly,” she said, “what is the good of singing those hateful, screaming exercises, and those scales? They are too detestable, and those little twists and turns. My fingers absolutely feel quite nervous. What is the use? What is the use?”
Molly also sighed and said, “What is the use?” But then the musical mistress and the great master looked at Nora all over when she made similar remarks, and would not even vouchsafe to answer.
“Father would never be soothed with that sort of music,” she said. “I think he would be very glad we had not a good piano. Oh, Molly, what does it all mean?”
“I don't know,” said Molly. “It's like all other education, nothing but grind, grind; but I suppose something will come of it in the long run.”
“What are you talking about, girls?” said Mrs. Hartrick, who just then appeared upon the scene. “Nora, I am pleased; to get very good reports of your music.”
“Oh!” said Nora, “I am glad you have come, Aunt Grace; and I shall be able to speak to you. Must I learn what takes all the music out of me?”
“Silly child. There is only one road to a sound musical education, and that is the road of toil. At present you play by ear, and sing by ear. You have talent; but it must be cultivated. Just believe that your elders know what they are about.”
Nora did not say anything. Mrs. Hartrick, after looking at her gravely for a moment, continued her gentle walk round the shrubbery. Molly uttered a sigh.
“There's no good, Nora,” she said. “You'll have to go through with it. I suppose it is the only way; but it's hard to believe it.”
“Well, at any rate, I enjoy other things in my school life,” said Nora. “Miss Goring is so nice, and I quite love Miss Flowers; and, after all, I am in your form, Molly, and we do like doing our lessons together.”
“To be sure we do; life is quite a different thing for me since you have come here,” was Molly's retort.
“And you have been very good indeed about your naughty words, you know,” said Nora, nestling up to her cousin.
“Have I? Well, it's owing to you. You see, now, I have someone to help me—someo............
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