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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER XXIX. — ALTERATIONS.
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 While Nora and her father were talking together there came a sound of a ponderous gong through the house.  
“What's that?” said Nora, starting.
“You may well ask 'What's that?'” replied the Squire. “It's the dinner-gong. There's dinner now in the evening, bedad! and up to seven courses, by the same token. I sat out one or two of them; but, bless my soul! I couldn't stand too much of that sort of thing. You had best go and put on something fine. Your mother dresses in velvet and silk and jewels for dinner. She looks wonderful; she is a very fine woman indeed, is your mother. I am as proud as Punch of her; but, all the same, it is too much to endure every day. She is dressed for all the world as though she were going to a ball at the Lord-Lieutenant's in Dublin. It's past standing; but you had best go down and join 'em, Norrie.”
“Not I. I am going to stay here,” said Nora.
“No, no, darling pet; you had best go down, enjoy your dinner, and come back and tell me about it. It will be fun to hear your description. You mimic 'em as much as you like, Norrie; take 'em off. Now, none of your coaxing and canoodling ways; off you go. You shall come back later on, and tell me all about it. Oh, they are stiff and stately, and they'll never know you and I are laughing at 'em up our sleeves. Now, be off with you.”
So, unwillingly, Nora went. In the corridor outside she met her cousin Molly.
“Why, you haven't begun to dress yet,” said Molly; “and I'm going down to dinner.”
“Bother dress!” said Nora. “I am home again. Mother can't expect me to dress.” She rushed past her cousin. She was too excited to have any sympathy then with English Molly. She ran up to her own room, and stood with a sense of dismay on the threshold. It had always been a beautiful room, with its noble proportions and its splendid view; and it was now furnished exquisitely as well.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan had great taste. She had taken immense pains with Nora's room; had thought it all out, and got it papered and painted after a scheme of color of her own. The furniture was of light wood—the room was fit to be the bower of a gracious and lovely maiden; there were new books in the little bookcase hanging up by the bedside. Everything was new and everything was beautiful. There was no sense of bad taste about the room; it was furnished harmoniously.
Nora stood and gazed at it, and her heart sank.
“Oh! it is kind of mother; it is beautiful,” she said to herself; “but am I never, never, never to lie down in the little old bed again? Am I never to pour water out of the cracked old jug? Am I never to look at myself in the distorted glass? Oh, dear! oh, dear! how I did love looking at myself in the old glass, which made one cheek much more swollen than the other, and one eyebrow went up a quarter of an inch above the other, and my mouth was a little crooked! It is perfectly horrid to know one's self all one's life long with a swollen cheek and a crooked mouth, and then see classical features without a scrap of fun in them. Oh, dear! But I suppose I had best get ready.”
So Nora washed her face and hands, and ran downstairs. The dining room looked heavy and massive, and the footman and the butler attended noiselessly; and Mr. Hartrick at the foot of the table and Mrs. O'Shanaghgan at the head looked as stately a pair as could be found in the length and breadth of the land.
Molly, nicely dressed in her dinner-frock, was quite in keeping with the elder pair; but wild Nora, still wearing her gray traveling-dress, felt herself out of place. Her cheeks were flushed with the excitement of seeing her father; her hair was wild and disarranged. Mrs. O'Shanaghgan looked at her all over with marked disapproval.
“Why, she looks scarcely pretty,” thought the mother to herself. “How tired and fagged she appears! Dear, dear! if after all the trouble I have gone to, Nora disappoints me in this way, life will really not be worth living.”
But Mrs. O'Shanaghgan could scarcely suppress the joy which was now filling her life. She was the mistress of a noble home; she was at the head of quite the finest establishment in the county. Already all the best county folk had called upon her several times.
It is sad to state that these great and rich people had rather neglected the lady of the Castle during the last few years; but now that she drove about behind a pair of horses, that her house was refurnished, that wealth seemed to have filled all her coffers, she was certainly worth attending to.
“Now that you have come back, Nora,” said her mother in the course of the meal, “I wish to say that I have several invitations for you, and that Molly can accept too.” She looked with kindness at Molly, who, if only Nora had been happy, would have thoroughly enjoyed herself.
“I must show you the drawing room after dinner, my dear,” said her mother. “It is really a magnificent room. And I must also show you my morning room, and the library, and your father's smoking room.”
“This is a splendid house, you know, Ellen,” said Mr. Hartrick to his sister, “and pays for doing up. Why, a house like this in any habitable part of England would fetch a colossal fortune.”
Nora sighed and shrugged her shoulders. Molly glanced at her, and the word “Jehoshaphat!” was almost trembling on her lips. She kept it back, however; she was wonderfully on her good behavior to-night. At last the long and dreary meal came to an end. Nora could scarcely suppress her yawns of utter weariness. She began to think of nothing but lying down, shutting her eyes, and going into a long and dreamless slumber.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan rose from the table and sailed out of the room. A footman flung open the door for her, and Nora and Molly followed in her wake.
“I'll be with you presently in the drawing room, Ellen,” said Mr. Hartrick to his sister; “but first of all I'll just go up and have a smoke with O'Shanaghgan. You found your father much better to-night, did you not, Nora?”
“I thought father looked very bad indeed,” said Nora. She could not add another word; she went out into the hall.
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan took her hand, squeezing it up in a tight pressure.
“You ought............
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