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HOME > Short Stories > Light O' The Morning > CHAPTER XXX. — THE LION IN HIS CAGE.
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 The Squire was better, and not better. He had received a very nasty flesh-wound in the thigh; but the bullet had been extracted. There was not the slightest clew to the identity of his would-be murderer. The Squire himself had said nothing. He had been found almost bleeding to death by the roadside; the alarm had been given, and in terror and consternation his own tenants had brought him home.  
The Squire could have said a good deal, but he said nothing. The police came and asked him questions, but he kept his lips closed.
“I didn't see the man,” he said after a pause. “Somebody fired, of course; but I can't tell who, for I saw no one; it was from behind the hedge. Why the scoundrel who wanted to do for me didn't shoot a little higher up puzzles me. But there, let it rest—let it rest.”
And the neighbors and the country had to let it rest, for there was no evidence against anyone. Amongst those who came to inquire after the Squire was Andy Neil. He came often, and was full of commiseration, and loudly cursed the brute who had very nearly done for his old landlord. But the neighbors had suspicions with regard to Andy, for he had been turned out of his cot in the mountains, and was living in the village now. They scowled at him when he passed, and turned aside; and his own face looked more miserable than ever. Still, he came daily up to the big kitchen to inquire for the Squire.
The doctor said there was no reason whatever why Mr. O'Shanaghgan should not get quite well. He was by no means old—not more than fifty; there was not the slightest occasion for a break-down, and yet, to all appearance, a break-down there was. The Squire got morose; he hardly ever smiled; even Nora's presence scarcely drew a hearty guffaw from his lips. The doctors were puzzled.
“What can be wrong?” they said. But Nora herself knew very well what was wrong. She and her father were the only ones who did know. She knew that the old lion was dying in captivity; that he was absolutely succumbing to the close and smothered life which he was now leading. He wanted the free air of his native mountains; he wanted the old life, now gone for ever, back again.
“It is true the place is saved, Norrie,” he said once to his daughter, “and I haven't a word to say. I would be the most ungrateful dog in existence if I breathed a single word of complaint. The place is saved; and though it nominally belongs now to your Uncle George, to all intents and purposes it is my place, and he gives me to understand that at my death it goes to my boy. Yes, he has done a noble deed, and of course I admire him immensely.”
“And so do I, father,” said Nora; but she looked thoughtful and troubled; and one day, after she had been in her father's room for some time, when she met her uncle in the avenue she spoke to him.
“Well, my dear girl,” he said, “what about coming back with me to England when I go next week?”
“It is not to be thought of, Uncle George. How can I leave my father while he is ill?”
“That is true. I have been thinking about him. The doctors are a little distressed at his growing weakness. They cannot quite understand it. Tonics have been given to him and every imaginable thing has been done. He wants for nothing; his nourishment is of the best; still he makes no way. It is puzzling.”
“I don't think so,” said Nora.
“What do you mean, my dear girl?”
“You might do all that sort of thing for an eagle, you know,” said Nora, raising her clear eyes and fixing them on her uncle's face. “You might give him everything in his prison, much more than he had when he was free; but, all the same, he would pine and—and he would die.” Tears rose to the girl's eyes; she dashed them away.
“My dear little Nora, I don't in the least see the resemblance,” said Mr. Hartrick, who felt, and perhaps justly, rather nettled. “You seem to imply by your words that I have done your father an injury when I secured the home of his ancestors for him.”
“Oh, forgive me, Uncle George,” said Nora. “I don't really mean to say anything against you, for you are just splendid.”
Mr. Hartrick did not reply; he looked puzzled and thoughtful. Nora, after a moment's silence, spoke again.
“I am most grateful to you. I believe you have done what is best—at least what you think best. You have made my mother very happy, and Terence will be so pleased; and the tenants—oh! they will get their rights now, their cabins will be repaired, the roofs mended, the windows put in fresh, the little gardens stocked for them. Oh, yes, you are behaving most generously. Anyone would suppose the place belonged to you.”
“Which it does,” muttered Mr. Hartrick under his breath.
“You have made a great many people happy, only somehow—somehow it is not quite the way to make my father happy, and it is not the way to make me happy. But I have nothing more to say, except that I cannot leave my father now.”
“You must come to us after Christmas, then,” said Mr. Hartrick. “I must go back next week, and I shall probably take Molly with me.”
“Oh! leave her with me here,” said Nora suddenly. “I do wish you would; the air here is so healthy. Do let her stay, and then perhaps after Christmas, when things are different, we might both go back.”
“Of course things will be different,” said Mr. Hartrick. “A new doctor is coming to see your father next week, and he will probably change the régime; he may order him fresh air, and before long we shall have him strong and well amongst us again. He has absolutely nothing wrong except——”
“Except that he has everything wrong,” said Nora.
“Well, well, my dear child, I will think over your suggestion that Molly should stay with you; and in the meantime remember that we are all coming to O'Shanaghgan for Christmas.”
“All of you!” said Nora in dismay.
“Yes, all of us. Your aunt has never spent a real old-fashioned Christmas in her life, and I mean her to have it this year. I shall bring over some of our English habits to this place. We will roast an ox whole, and have huge bonfires, and all kinds of things, and the tenantry shall have a right good time. There, Nora, you smile; that pleases you.”
“You are so kind,” she said. She clasped his hands in both of hers, and then turned away.
“There never was anyone kinder,” thought the girl to herself; “but all the same he does not understand.” She re-entered the house and went up to her father's room.
The Squire was lying on his back. The days were now getting short, for November had begun. There was a big fire in the grate; the Squire panted in the hot room.
“Just come in here,” he said to Nora. “Don't make much noise; lock the door—will you, pet?”
Nora obeyed.
“Now fling the window wide open; let me get a breath of air.”
Nora did open the window, but the air was moist and damp from the Atlantic, and even she, fearless as she was, hesitated when she heard her father's cough.
“There, child, there,” he said; “it's the lungs beginning to work properly again. Now then, you can shut it up; I hear a step. For Heaven's sake, Nora, be quick, or your mother may come in, and won't she be making a fuss! There, unlock the door.”
“But you are worse, father; you are worse.”
“What else can you expect? They don't chain up wild animals and expect them to get well. I never lived through anything of this sort before, and it's just smothering me.”
Mrs. O'Shanaghgan entered the room.
“Patrick,” she said, “would you like some sweetbread and a bit of pheasant for your dinner?”
“Do you know wha............
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