His mother came to him; for she loved him all the more fondly, now he seemed degraded and friendless. She could not, or would not, comprehend the extent of his guilt; and had upbraided Mr. Buxton to the top of her bent for thinking of sending him away to America. There was a silence when he came in which was insupportable to him. He looked up with clouded eyes, that dared not meet Mr. Buxton's.
"I am here, sir, to learn what you wish me to do. Maggie says I am to go to America; if that is where you want to send me, I'm ready."
Mr. Buxton wished himself away as heartily as Edward. Mrs. Browne's upbraidings, just when he felt that he had done a kind action, and yielded, against his judgment, to Maggie's entreaties, had made him think himself very ill used. And now here was Edward speaking in a sullen, savage kind of way, instead of showing any gratitude. The idea of Mr. Henry's stern displeasure loomed in the background.
"Yes!" said he, "I'm glad to find you come into the idea of going to America. It's the only place for you. The sooner you can go, and the better."
"I can't go without money," said Edward, doggedly. "If I had had money, I need not have come here."
"Oh, Ned! would you have gone without seeing me?" said Mrs. Browne, bursting into tears. "Mr. Buxton, I cannot let him go to America. Look how ill he is. He'll die if you send him there."
"Mother, don't give way so," said Edward, kindly, taking her hand. "I'm not ill, at least not to signify. Mr. Buxton is right: America is the only place for me. To tell the truth, even if Mr. Buxton is good enough" (he said this as if unwilling to express any word of thankfulness) "not to prosecute me, there are others who may—and will. I'm safer out of the country. Give me money enough to get to Liverpool and pay my passage, and I'll be off this minute."
"You shall not," said Mrs. Browne, holding him tightly. "You told me this morning you were led into temptation, and went wrong because you had no comfortable home, nor any one to care for you, and make you happy. It will be worse in America. You'll get wrong again, and be away from all who can help you. Or you'll die all by yourself, in some backwood or other. Maggie! you might speak and help me—how can you stand so still, and let him go to America without a word!"
Maggie looked up bright and steadfast, as if she saw something beyond the material present. Here was the opportunity for self-sacrifice of which Mrs. Buxton had spoken to her in her childish days—the time which comes to all, but comes unheeded and unseen to those whose eyes are not trained to watching.
"Mother! could you do without me for a time? If you could, and it would make you easier, and help Edward to"—The word on her lips died away; for it seemed to imply a reproach on one who stood in his shame among them all.
"You would go!" said Mrs. Browne, catching at the unfinished sentence. "Oh! Maggie, that's the best thing you've ever said or done since you were born. Edward, would not you like to have Maggie with you?"
"Yes," said he, "well enough. It would be far better for me than going all alone; though I dare say I could make my way pretty well after a time. If she went, she might stay till I felt settled, and had made some friends, and then she could come back."
Mr. Buxton was astonished at first by this proposal of Maggie's. He could not all at once understand the difference between what she now offered to do, and what he had urged upon her only this very morning. But as he thought about it, he perceived that what was her own she was willing to sacrifice; but that Frank's heart, once given into her faithful keeping, she was answerable for it to him and to God. This light came down upon him slowly; but when he understood, he admired with almost a wondering admiration. That little timid girl brave enough to cross the ocean and go to a foreign land, if she could only help to save her brother!
"I'm sure Maggie," said he, turning towards her, "you are a good, thoughtful little creature. It may be the saving of Edward—I believe it will. I think God will bless you for being so devoted."
"The expense will be doubled," said Edward.
"My dear boy! never mind the money. I can get it advanced upon this cottage."
"As for that, I'll advance it," said Mr. Buxton.
"Could we not," said Maggie, hesitating from her want of knowledge, "make over the furniture—papa's books, and what little plate we have, to Mr. Buxton—something like pawning them—if he would advance the requisite money? He, strange as it may seem, is the only person you can ask in this great strait."
And so it was arranged, after some demur on Mr. Buxton's part. But Maggie kept steadily to her point as soon as she found that it was attainable; and Mrs. Browne was equally inflexible, though from a different feeling. She regarded Mr. Buxton as the cause of her son's banishment, and refused to accept of any favor from him. If there had been time, indeed, she would have preferred obtaining the money in the same manner from any one else. Edward brightened up a little when he heard the sum could be procured; he was almost indifferent how; and, strangely callous, as Maggie thought, he even proposed to draw up a legal form of assignment. Mr. Buxton only thought of hurrying on the departure; but he could not refrain from expressing his approval and admiration of Maggie whenever he came near her. Before he went, he called her aside.
"My dear, I'm not sure if Frank can do better than marry you, after all. Mind! I've not given it as much thought as I should like. But if you come back as we plan, next autumn, and he is steady to you till then—and Edward is going on well—(if he can but keep good, he'll do, for he is very sharp—yon is a knowing paper he drew up)—why, I'll think about it. Only let Frank see a bit of the world first. I'd rather you did not tell him I've any thoughts of coming round, that he may have a fair trial; and I'll keep it from Erminia if I can, or she will let it all out to him. I shall see you to-morrow at the coach. God bless you, my girl, and keep you on the great wide sea." He was absolutely in tears when he went away—tears of admiring regret over Maggie.
The more Maggie thought, the more she felt sure that the impulse on which she had acted in proposing to go with her brother was right. She feared there was little hope for his character, whatever there might be for his worldly fortune, if he were thrown, in the condition of mind in which he was now, among the set of adventurous men who are continually going over to America in search of an El Dorado to be discovered by their wits. She knew she had but little influence over him at present; but she would not doubt or waver in her hope that patience and love might work him right at last. She meant to get some employment—in teaching—in needlework—in a shop—no matter how humble—and be no burden to him, and make him a happy home, from which he should feel no wish to wander. Her chief anxiety was about her mother. She did not dwell more than she could help on her long absence from Frank; it was too sad, and yet too necessary. She meant to write and tell him all about herself and Edward. The only thing which she would keep for some happy future should be the possible revelation of the proposal which Mr. Buxton had made, that she should give up her engagement as a condition of his not prosecuting Edward.
There was much sorrowful bustle in the moorland cottage that day. Erminia brought up a portion of the money Mr. Buxton was to advance, with an entreaty that Edward would not show himself out of his home; and an account of a letter from Mr. Henry, stating that the Woodchester police believed him to be in London, and that search was being made for him there.
Erminia looked very grave and pale. She gave her message to Mrs. Browne, speaking little beyond what was absolutely necessary. Then she took Maggie aside, and suddenly burst into tears.
"Maggie, darling—what is this going to America? You've always and always been sacrificing yourself to your family, and now you're setting off, nobody knows where, in some vain hope of reforming Edward. I wish he was not your brother, that I might speak of him as I should like."
"He has been doing what is very wrong," said Maggie. "But you—none of you—know his good points—nor how he has been exposed to all sorts of bad influences, I am sure; and never had the advantage of a father's training and friendship, which are so inestimable to a son. O, Minnie! when I remember how we two used to kneel down in the evenings at my father's knee, and say our prayers; and then listen in awe-struck silence to his earnest blessing, which grew more like a prayer for us as his life waned away, I would do anything for Edward rather than that wrestling agony of supplication should have been in vain. I think of him as the little innocent boy, whose arm was round me as if to support me in the Awful Presence, whose true name of Love we had not learned. Minnie! he has had no proper training—no training, I mean, to enable him to resist temptation—and he has been thrown into it without warning or advice. Now he knows what it is; and I must try, though I am but an unknowing girl, to warn and to strengthen him. Don't weaken my faith. Who can do right if we lose faith in them?"
"And Frank!" said Erminia, after a pause. "Poor Frank!"
"Dear Frank!" replied Maggie, looking up, and trying to smile; but, in spite of herself, her eyes filled with tears. "If I could have asked him, I know he would approve of what I am going to do. He would feel it to be right that I should make every effort—I don't mean," said she, as the tears would fall down her cheeks in spite of her quivering effort at a smile, "that I should not have liked to have seen him. But it is no use talking of what one would have liked. I am writing a long letter to him at every pause of leisure."
"And I'm keeping you all this time," said Erminia, getting up, yet loth to go. "When do you intend to come back? Let us feel there is a fixed time. America! Why, it's thousands of miles away. Oh, Maggie! Maggie!"
"I shall come back the next autumn, I trust," said Maggie, comforting her friend with many a soft caress. "Edward will be settled then, I hope. You were longer in France, Minnie. Frank was longer away that time he wintered in Italy with Mr. Monro."
Erminia went slowly to the door. Then she turned, right facing Maggie.
"Maggie! tell the truth. Has my uncle been urging you to go? Because if he has, don't trust him; it is only to break off your engagement."
"No, he has not, indeed. It was my own thought at first. Then in a moment I saw the relief it was to my mother—my poor mother! Erminia, the thought of her grief at Edward's absence is the trial; for my sake, you will come often and often, and comfort her in every way you can."
"Yes! that I will; tell me everything I can do for you." Kissing each other, with long lingering delay they parted.
Nancy would be informed of the cause of the commotion in the house; and when she had in some degree ascertained its nature, she wasted no time in asking further questions, but quietly got up and dressed herself; and appeared among them, weak and trembling, indeed, but so calm and thoughtful, that her presence was an infinite help to Maggie.
When day closed in, Edward stole down to the house once more. He was haggard enough to have been in anxiety and concealment for a month. But when his body was refreshed, his spirits rose in a way inconceivable to Maggie. The Spaniards who went out with Pizarro were not lured on by more fantastic notions of the wealth to be acquired in the New World than he was. He dwelt on these visions in so brisk and vivid a manner, that he even made his mother cease her weary weeping (which had lasted the livelong day, despite all Maggie's efforts) to look up and listen to him.
"I'll answer for it," said he: "before long I'll be an American judge with miles of cotton plantations."
"But in America," sighed out his mother.
"Never mind, mother!" said he, with a tenderness which made Maggie's heart glad. "If you won't come over to America to me, why, I'll sell them all, and come back to live in England. People will forget the scrapes that the rich American got into in his youth."
"You can pay back Mr. Buxton then," said his mother.
"Oh, yes—of course," replied he, as if falling into a new and trivial idea.
Thus the evening whiled away. The mother and son sat, hand in hand, before the little glinting blazing parlor fire, with the unlighted candles on the table behind. Maggie, busy in preparations, passed softly in and out. And when all was done that could be done before going to Liverpool, where she hoped to have two days to prepare their outfit more completely, she stole back to her mother's side. But her thoughts would wander off to Frank, "working his way south through all the hunting-counties," as he had written her word. If she had not urged his absence, he would have been here for her to see his noble face once more; but then, perhaps, she might never have had the strength to go.
Late, late in the night they separated. Maggie could not rest, and stole into her mother's room. Mrs. Browne had cried herself to sleep, like a child. Maggie stood and looked at her face, and then knelt down by the bed and prayed. When she arose, she saw that her mother was awake, and had been looking at her.
"Maggie dear! you're a good girl, and I think God will hear your prayer whatever it was for. I cannot tell you what a relief it is to me to think you're going with him. It would have broken my heart else. If I've sometimes not been as kind as I might have been, I ask your forgiveness, now, my dear; and I bless you and thank you for going out with him; for I'm sure he's not well and strong, and will need somebody to take care of him. And you shan't lose with Mr. Frank, for as sure as I see him I'll tell him what a good daughter and sister you've been; and I shall say, for all he is so rich, I think he may look long before he finds a wife for him like our Maggie. I do wish Ned had got that new greatcoat, he says he left behind him at Woodchester." Her mind reverted to her darling son; but Maggie took her short slumber by her mother's side, with her mother's arms around her; and awoke and felt that her sleep had been blessed. At the coach-office the next morning they met Mr. Buxton all ready as if for a journey, but glancing about him as if in fear of some coming enemy.
"I'm going with you to Liverpool," said he. "Don't make any ado about it, please. I shall like to see you off; and I may be of some use to you, and Erminia begged it of me; and, besides, it will keep me out of Mr. Henry's way for a little time, and I'm afraid he will find it all out, and think me very weak; but you see he made me too hard upon Crayston, so I may take it out in a little soft-heartedness toward the son of an old friend."
Just at this moment Erminia came running through the white morning mist all glowing with haste.
"Maggie," said she, "I'm come to take care of your mother. My uncle says she and Nancy must come to us for a long, long visit. Or if she would rather go home, I'll go with her till she feels able to come to us, and do anything I can think of for her. I will try to be a daughter till you come back, Maggie; only don't be long, or Frank and I shall break our hearts."
Maggie waited till her mother had ended her long clasping embrace of Edward, who was subdued enough this morning; and then, with something like Esau's craving for a blessing, she came to bid her mother good-bye, and received the warm caress she had longed for for years. In another moment the coach was away; and before half an hour had elapsed, Combehurst church-spire had been lost in a turn of the road.
Edward and Mr. Buxton did not speak to each other, and Maggie was nearly silent. They reached Liverpool in the afternoon; and Mr. Buxton, who had been there once or twice before, took them directly to some quiet hotel. He was far more anxious that Edward should not expose himself to any chance of recognition than Edward himself. He went down to the Docks to secure berths in the vessel about to sail the next day, and on his return he took Maggie out to make the requisite purchases.
"Did you pay for us, sir?" said Maggie, anxious to ascertain the amount of money she had left, after defraying the passage.
"Yes," replied he, rather confused. "Erminia begged me not to tell you about it, but I can't manage a secret well. You see she did not like the idea of your going as steerage-passengers as you meant to do; and she desired me to take you cabin places for her. It is no doing of mine, my dear. I did not think of it; but now I have seen how crowded the steerage is, I am very glad Erminia had so much thought. Edward might have roughed it well enough there, but it would never have done for you."
"It was very kind of Erminia," said Maggie, touched at this consideration of her friend; "but..."
"Now don't 'but' about it," interrupted he. "Erminia is very rich, and has more money than she knows what to do with. I'm only vexed I did not think of if myself. For Maggie, though I may have my own ways of thinking on some points, I can't be blind to your goodness."
All evening Mr. Buxton was busy, and busy on their behalf. Even Edward, when he saw the attention that was being paid to his physical comfort, felt a kind of penitence; and after choking once or twice in the attempt, conquered his pride (such I call it for want of a better word) so far as to express some regret for his past conduct, and some gratitude for Mr. Buxton's present kindness. He did it awkwardly enough, but it pleased Mr. Buxton.
"Well—well—that's all very right," said he, reddening from his own uncomfortableness of feeling. "Now don't say any more about it, but do your best in America; don't let me feel I've been a fool in letting you off. I know Mr. Henry will think me so. And, above all, take care of Maggie. Mind what she says, and you're sure to go right."
He asked them to go on board early the next day, as he had promised Erminia to see them there, and yet wished to return as soon as he could. It was evident that he hoped, by making his absence as short as possible, to prevent Mr. Henry's ever knowing that he had left home, or in any way connived at Edward's escape.
So, although the vessel was not to sail till the afternoon's tide, they left the hotel soon after breakfast, and went to the "Anna-Maria." They were among the first passengers on board. Mr. Buxton took Maggie down to her cabin. She then saw the reason of his business the evening before. Every store that could be provided was there. A number of books lay on the little table—books just suited to Maggie's taste. "There!" said he, rubbing his hands. "Don't thank me. It's all Erminia's doing. She gave me the list of books. I've not got all; but I think they'll be enough. Just write me one line, Maggie, to say I've done my best."
Maggie wrote with tears in her eyes—tears of love toward the generous Erminia. A few minutes more and Mr. Buxton was gone. Maggie watched him as long as she could see him; and as his portly figure disappeared among the crowd on the pier, her heart sank within her.
Edward's, on the contrary, rose at his absence. The only one, cognisant of his shame and ill-doing, was gone. A new life lay before him, the opening of which was made agreeable to him, by the position in which he found himself placed, as a cabin-passenger; with many comforts provided for him; for although Maggie's wants had been the principal object of Mr. Buxton's attention, Edward was not forgotten.
He was soon among the sailors, talking away in a rather consequential manner. He grew acquainted with the remainder of the cabin-passengers, at least those who arrived before the final bustle began; and kept bringing his sister such little pieces of news as he could collect.
"Maggie, they say we are likely to have a good start, and a fine moonlight night." Away again he went.
"I say, Maggie, that's an uncommonly pretty girl come on board, with those old people in black. Gone down into the cabin, now; I wish you would scrape up an acquaintance with her, and give me a chance."
Maggie sat on deck, wrapped in her duffel-cloak; the old familiar cloak, which had been her wrap in many a happy walk in the haunts near her moorland home. The weather was not cold for the time of year, but still it was chilly to any one that was stationary. But she wanted to look her last on the shoals of English people, who crowded backward and forward, like ants, on the pier. Happy people! who might stay among their loved ones. The mocking demons gathered round her, as they gather round all who sacrifice self, tempting. A crowd of suggestive doubts pressed upon her. "Was it really necessary that she should go with Edward? Could she do him any real good? Would he be in any way influenced by her?" Then the demon tried another description of doubt. "Had it ever been her duty to go? She was leaving her mother alone. She was giving Frank much present sorrow. It was not even yet too late!" She could not endure longer; and replied to her own tempting heart.
"I was right to hope for Edward; I am right to give him the chance of steadiness which my presence will give. I am doing what my mother earnestly wished me to do; and what to the last she felt relieved by my doing. I know Frank will feel sorrow, because I myself have such an aching heart; but if I had asked him whether I was not right in going, he would have been too truthful not to have said yes. I have tried to do right, and though I may fail, and evil may seem to arise rather than good out of my endeavor, yet still I will submit to my failure, and try and say 'God's will be done!' If only I might have seen Frank once more, and told him all face to face!"
To do away with such thoughts, she determined no longer to sit gazing, and tempted by the shore; and, giving one look to the land which contained her lover, she went down below, and busied herself, even through her blinding tears, in trying to arrange her own cabin, and Edward's. She heard boat after boat arrive loaded with passengers. She learnt from Edward, who came down to tell her the fact, that there were upwards of two hundred steerage passengers. She felt the tremulous shake which announced that the ship was loosed from her moorings, and being tugged down the river. She wrapped herself up once more, and came on deck, and sat down among the many who were looking their last look at England. The early winter evening was darkening in, and shutting out the Welsh coast, the hills of which were like the hills of home. She was thankful when she became too ill to think and remember.
Exhausted and still, she did not know whether she was sleeping or waking; or whether she had slept since she had thrown herself down on her cot, when suddenly, there was a great rush, and then Edward stood like lightning by her, pulling her up by the arm.
"The ship is on fire—to the deck, Maggie! Fire! Fire!" he shouted, like a maniac, while he dragged her up the stairs—as if the cry of Fire could summon human aid on the great deep. And the cry was echoed up to heaven by all that crowd in an accent of despair.
They stood huddled together, dressed and undressed; now in red lurid light, showing ghastly faces of terror—now in white wreaths of smoke—as far away from the steerage as they could press; for there, up from the hold, rose columns of smoke, and now and then a fierce blaze leaped out, exulting—higher and higher every time; while from each crevice on that part of the deck issued harbingers of the terrible destruction that awaited them.
The sailors were lowering the boats; and above them stood the captain, as calm as if he were on his own hearth at home—his home where he never more should be. His voice was low—was lower; but as clear as a bell in its distinctness; as wise in its directions as collected thought could make it. Some of the steerage passengers were helping; but more were dumb and motionless with affright. In that dead silence was heard a low wail of sorrow, as of numbers whose power was crushed out of them by that awful terror. Edward still held his clutch of Margaret's arm.
"Be ready!" said he, in a fierce whisper.
The fire sprung up along the main-mast, and did not sink or disappear again. They knew then that all the mad efforts made by some few below to extinguish it were in vain; and then went up the prayers of hundreds, in mortal agony of fear:
"Lord! have mercy upon us!"
Not in quiet calm of village church did ever such a pitiful cry go up to heaven; it was like one voice—like the day of judgment in the presence of the Lord.
And after that there was no more silence; but a confusion of terrible farewells, and wild cries of affright, and purposeless rushes hither and thither.
The boats were down, rocking on the sea. The captain spoke:
"Put the children in first; they are the most helpless."
One or two stout sailors stood in the boats to receive them. Edward drew nearer and nearer to the gangway, pulling Maggie with him. She was almost pressed to death, and stifled. Close in her ear, she heard a woman praying to herself. She, poor creature, knew of no presence but God's in that awful hour, and spoke in a low voice to Him.
"My heart's darlings are taken away from me. Faith! faith! Oh, my great God! I will die in peace, if Thou wilt but grant me faith in this terrible hour, to feel that Thou wilt take care of my poor orphans. Hush! dearest Billy," she cried out shrill to a little fellow in the boat waiting for his mother; and the change in her voice from despair to a kind of cheerfulness, showed what a mother's love can do. "Mother will come soon. Hide his face, Anne, and wrap your shawl tight round him." And then her voice sank down again in the same low, wild prayer for faith. Maggie could not turn to see her face, but took the hand which hung near her. The woman clutched at it with the grasp of a vice; but went on praying, as if unconscious. Just then the crowd gave way a little. The captain had said, that the women were to go next; but they were too frenzied to obey his directions, and now pressed backward and forward. The sailors, with mute, stern obedience, strove to follow out the captain's directions. Edward pulled Maggie, and she kept her hold on the mother. The mate, at the head of the gangway, pushed him back.
"Only women are to go!"
"There are men there."
"Three, to manage the boat."
"Come on, Maggie! while there's room for us," said he, unheeding. But Maggie drew back, and put the mother's hand into the mate's. "Save her first!" said she. The woman did not know of anything, but that her children were there; it was only in after days, and quiet hours, that she remembered the young creature who pushed her forward to join her fatherless children, and, by losing her place in the crowd, was jostled—where, she did not know—but dreamed until her dying day. Edward pressed on, unaware that Maggie was not close behind him. He was deaf to reproaches; and, heedless of the hand stretched out to hold him back, sprang toward the boat. The men there pushed her off—full and more than full as she was; and overboard he fell into the sullen heaving waters.
His last shout had been on Maggie's name—a name she never thought to hear again on earth, as she was pressed back, sick and suffocating. But suddenly a voice rang out above all confused voices and moaning hungry waves, and above the roaring fire.
"Maggie, Maggie! My Maggie!"
Out of the steerage side of the crowd a tall figure issued forth, begrimed with smoke. She could not see, but she knew. As a tame bird flutters to the human breast of its protector when affrighted by some mortal foe, so Maggie fluttered and cowered into his arms. And, for a moment, there was no more terror or thought of danger in the hearts of those twain, but only infinite and absolute peace. She had no wonder how he came there: it was enough that he was there. He first thought of the destruction that was present with them. He was as calm and composed as if they sat beneath the thorn-tree on the still moorlands, far away. He took her, without a word, to the end of the quarter-deck. He lashed her to a piece of spar. She never spoke:
"Maggie," he said, "my only chance is to throw you overboard. This spar will keep you floating. At first, you will go down—deep, deep down. Keep your mouth and eyes shut. I shall be there when you come up. By God's help, I will struggle bravely for you."
She looked up; and by the flashing light he could see a trusting, loving smile upon her face. And he smiled back at her; a grave, beautiful look, fit to wear on his face in heaven. He helped her to the side of the vessel, away from the falling burning pieces of mast. Then for a moment he paused.
"If—Maggie, I may be throwing you in to death." He put his hand before his eyes. The strong man lost courage. Then she spoke:
"I am not afraid; God is with us, whether we live or die!" She looked as quiet and happy as a child on its mother's breast! and so before he lost heart again, he heaved her up, and threw her as far as he could over into the glaring, dizzying water; and straight leaped after her. She came up with an involuntary look of terror on her face; but when she saw him by the red glare of the burning ship, close by her side, she shut her eyes, and looked as if peacefully going to sleep. He swam, guiding the spar.
"I think we are near Llandudno. I know we have passed the little Ormes' head." That was all he said; but she did net speak.
He swam out of the heat and fierce blaze of light into the quiet, dark waters; and then into the moon's path. It might be half an hour before he got into that silver stream. When the beams fell down upon them he looked at Maggie. Her head rested on the spar, quite still. He could not bear it. "Maggie—dear heart! speak!"
With a great effort she was called back from the borders of death by that voice, and opened her filmy eyes, which looked abroad as if she could see nothing nearer than the gleaming lights of Heaven. She let the lids fall softly again. He was as if alone in the wide world with God.
"A quarter of an hour more and all is over," thought he. "The people at Llandudno must see our burning ship, and will come out in their boats." He kept in the line of light, although it did not lead him direct to the shore, in order that they might be seen. He swam with desperation. One moment he thought he had heard her last gasp rattle through the rush of the waters; and all strength was gone, and he lay on the waves as if he himself must die, and go with her spirit straight through that purple lift to heaven; the next he heard the splash of oars, and raised himself and cried aloud. The boatmen took them in—and examined her by the lantern—and spoke in Welsh—and shook their heads. Frank threw himself on his knees, and prayed them to take her to land. They did not know his words, but they understood his prayer. He kissed her lips—he chafed her hands—he wrung the water out of her hair—he held her feet against his warm breast.
"She is not dead," he kept saying to the men, as he saw their sorrowful, pitying looks.
The kind people at Llandudno had made ready their own humble beds, with every appliance of comfort they could think of, as soon as they understood the nature of the calamity which had befallen the ship on their coasts. Frank walked, dripping, bareheaded, by the body of his Margaret, which was borne by some men along the rocky sloping shore.
"She is not dead!" he said. He stopped at the first house they came to. It belonged to a kind-hearted woman. They laid Maggie in her bed, and got the village doctor to come and see her.
"There is life still," said he, gravely.
"I knew it," said Frank. But it felled him to the ground. He sank first in prayer, and then in insensibility. The doctor did everything. All that night long he passed to and fro from house to house; for several had swum to Llandudno. Others, it was thought, had gone to Abergele.
In the morning Frank was recovered enough to write to his father, by Maggie's bedside. He sent the letter off to Conway by a little bright-looking Welsh boy. Late in the afternoon she awoke.
In a moment or two she looked eagerly round her, as if gathering in her breath; and then she covered her head and sobbed.
"Where is Edward?" asked she.
"We do not know," said Frank, gravely. "I have been round the village, and seen every survivor here; he is not among them, but he may be at some other place along the coast."
She was silent, reading in his eyes his fears—his belief.
At last she asked again.
"I cannot understand it. My head is not clear. There are such rushing noises in it. How came you there?" She shuddered involuntarily as she recalled the terrible where.
For an instant he dreaded, for her sake, to recall the circumstances of the night before; but then he understood how her mind would dwell upon them until she was satisfied.
"You remember writing to me, love, telling me all. I got your letter—I don't know how long ago—yesterday, I think. Yes! in the evening. You could not think, Maggie, I would let you go alone to America. I won't speak against Edward, poor fellow! but we must both allow that he was not the person to watch over you as such a treasure should be watched over. I thought I would go with you. I hardly know if I meant to make myself known to you all at once, for I had no wish to have much to do with your brother. I see now that it was selfish in me. Well! there was nothing to be done, after receiving your letter, but to set off for Liverpool straight, and join you. And after that decision was made, my spirits rose, for the old talks about Canada and Australia came to my mind, and this seemed like a realization of them. Besides, Maggie, I suspected—I even suspect now—that my father had something to do with your going with Edward?"
"Indeed, Frank!" said she, earnestly, "you are mistaken; I cannot tell you all now; but he was so good and kind at last. He never urged me to go; though, I believe, he did tell me it would be the saving of Edward."
"Don't agitate yourself, love. I trust there will be time enough, some happy day at home, to tell me all. And till then, I will believe that my father did not in any way suggest this voyage. But you'll allow that, after all that has passed, it was not unnatural in me to suppose so. I only told Middleton I was obliged to leave him by the next train. It was not till I was fairly off, that I began to reckon up what money I had with me. I doubt even if I was sorry to find it was so little. I should have to put forth my energies and fight my way, as I had often wanted to do. I remember, I thought how happy you and I would be, striving together as poor people 'in that new world which is the old.' Then you had told me you were going in the steerage; and that was all suitable to my desires for myself."
"It was Erminia's kindness that prevented our going there. She asked your father to take us cabin places unknown to me."
"Did she? dear Erminia! it is just like her. I could almost laugh to remember the eagerness with which I doffed my signs of wealth, and put on those of poverty. I sold my watch when I got into Liverpool—yesterday, I believe—but it seems like months ago. And I rigged myself out at a slop-shop with suitable clothes for a steerage passenger. Maggie! you never told me the name of the vessel you were going to sail in!"
"I did not know it till I got to Liverpool. All Mr. Buxton said was, that some ship sailed on the 15th."
"I concluded it must be the Anna-Maria, (poor Anna-Maria!) and I had no time to lose. She had just heaved her anchor when I came on board. Don't you recollect a boat hailing her at the last moment? There were three of us in her."
"No! I was below in my cabin—trying not to think," said she, coloring a little.
"Well! as soon as I got on board it began to grow dark, or, perhaps, it was the fog on the river; at any rate, instead of being able to single out your figure at once, Maggie—it is one among a thousand—I had to go peering into every woman's face; and many were below. I went between decks, and by-and-by I was afraid I had mistaken the vessel; I sat down—I had no spirit to stand; and every time the door opened I roused up and looked—but you never came. I was thinking what to do; whether to be put on shore in Ireland, or to go on to New York, and wait for you there;—if was the worst time of all, for I had nothing to do; and the suspense was horrible. I might have known," said he, smiling, "my little Emperor of Russia was not one to be a steerage passenger."
But Maggie was too much shaken to smile; and the thought of Edward lay heavy upon her mind.
"Then the fire broke out; how, or why, I suppose will never be ascertained. It was at our end of the vessel. I thanked God, then, that you were not there. The second mate wanted some one to go down with him to bring up the gunpowder, and throw it overboard. I had nothing to do, and I went. We wrapped it up in wet sails, but it was a ticklish piece of work, and took time. When we had got it overboard, the flames were gathering far and wide. I don't remember what I did until I heard Edward's voice speaking your name."
It was decided that the next morning they should set off homeward, striving on their way to obtain tidings of Edward. Frank would have given his only valuable, (his mother's diamond-guard, which he wore constantly,)as a pledge for some advance of money; but the kind Welsh people would not have it. They had not much spare cash, but what they had they readily lent to the survivors of the Anna-Maria. Dressed in the homely country garb of the people, Frank and Maggie set off in their car. If was a clear, frosty morning; the first that winter. The road soon lay high up on the cliffs along the coast. They looked down on the sea rocking below. At every village they stopped, and Frank inquired, and made the driver inquire in Welsh; but no tidings gained they of Edward; though here and there Maggie watched Frank into some cottage or other, going to see a dead body, beloved by some one: and when he came out, solemn and grave, their sad eyes met, and she knew it was not he they sought, without needing words.
At Abergele they stopped to rest; and because, being a larger place, it would need a longer search, Maggie lay down on the sofa, for she was very weak, and shut her eyes, and tried not to see forever and ever that mad struggling crowd lighted by the red flames.
Frank came back in an hour or so; and soft behind him—laboriously treading on tiptoe—Mr. Buxton followed. He was evidently choking down his sobs; but when he saw the white wan figure of Maggie, he held out his arms.
"My dear! my daughter!" he said, "God bless you!" He could not speak more—he was fairly crying; but he put her hand in Frank's and kept holding them both.
"My father," said Frank, speaking in a husky voice, while his eyes filled with tears, "had heard of it before he received my letter. I might have known that the lighthouse signals would take it fast to Liverpool. I had written a few lines to him saying I was going to you; happily they never reached—that was spared to my dear father."
Maggie saw the look of restored confidence that passed between father and son.
"My mother?" said she at last.
"She is here," said they both at once, with sad solemnity.
"Oh, where? Why did not you tell me?" exclaimed she, starting up. But their faces told her why.
"Edward is drowned—is dead," said she, reading their looks.
There was no answer.
"Let me go to my mother."
"Maggie, she is with him. His body was washed ashore last night. My father and she heard of it as they came along. Can you bear to see her? She will not leave him."
"Take me to her," Maggie answered.
They led her into a bed-room. Stretched on the bed lay Edward, but now so full of hope and worldly plans.
Mrs. Browne looked round, and saw Maggie. She did not get up from her place by his head; nor did she long avert her gaze from his poor face. But she held Maggie's hand, as the girl knelt by her, and spoke to her in a hushed voice, undisturbed by tears. Her miserable heart could not find that relief.
"He is dead!—he is gone!—he will never come back again! If he had gone to America—it might have been years first—but he would have come back to me. But now he will never come back again;—never—never!"
Her voice died away, as the wailings of the night-wind die in the distance; and there was silence—silence more sad and hopeless than any passionate words of grief.
And to this day it is the same. She prizes her dead son more than a thousand living daughters, happy and prosperous as is Maggie now—rich in the love of many. If Maggie did not show such reverence to her mother's faithful sorrows, others might wonder at her refusal to be comforted by that sweet daughter. But Maggie treats her with such tender sympathy, never thinking of herself or her own claims, that Frank, Erminia, Mr. Buxton, Nancy, and all, are reverent and sympathizing too.
Over both old and young the memory of one who is dead broods like a dove—of one who could do but little during her lifetime—who was doomed only to "stand and wait"—who was meekly content to be gentle, holy, patient, and undefiled—the memory of the invalid Mrs. Buxton.
"THERE'S ROSEMARY FOR REMEMBRANCE."
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%Mary Queen of Scots.%
This history is given here minute in every point of real interest, and without the encumbrance of useless opinions. There is no sentence thrown away—no time lost in mere ornament. Perhaps no book extant containing so few pages, can said to convey so many genuine historical facts. There is here no attempt to glaze over recorded truth, or win the reader by sophistry to opinions merely those of the author. The pure, simple history of Queen Mary is placed before the reader, and each one is left to form an unbiased opinion from events impartially recorded there. One great and most valuable feature in this little work is a map of Scotland, with many engravings of the royal castles and wild scenes connected with Mary's history. There is also a beautiful portrait of the Queen, and a richly illuminated title-page such as only the Harpers can get up—National Magazine.
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Full of instructive and heart-stirring incident, displayed by the hand of a master. We doubt whether old Queen Bess ever before had so much justice done to her within the same compass. Such a pen as Jacob Abbott wields, especially in this department of literature, has no right to lie still—Albany Express.
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%Charles the First.%
We incline to think that there never was before so much said about this unfortunate monarch in so short a space; so much to the purpose; with so much impartiality; and in such a style as just suits those for whom it is designed—the "two millions" of young persons in the United States, who ought to be supplied with such works as these. The engravings represent the prominent persons and places of the history, and are well executed. The portrait of John Hampden is charming. The antique title-page is rich.—Southern Christian Advocate.
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%Hannibal the Carthaginian.%
A new volume of the series projected by the skillful book-manufacturer, Mr. Abbott, who displays no little tact in engaging the attention of that marvellous body "the reading public" in old scholastic topics hitherto almost exclusively the property of the learned. The latter, with their ingenious implements of lexicons and scholia, will be in no danger of being superseded, however, while the least-furnished reader may gain something from the attractively-printed and easily-perused volumes of Mr. Abbott. The story of Hannibal is well adapted for popular treatment, and loses nothing for this purpose in the present explanatory and pictorial version.—Literary World.
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In a style copious and yet forcible, with an expression singularly clear and happy, and in language exceedingly chaste and at times very beautiful, he has given us a plain, unvarnished narrative of facts, as he himself says, unclogged by individual reflections which would "only encumber rather than enforce." The present work wants none of the interest inseparably connecting itself with the preceding numbers of the same series, but is characterized throughout by the same peculiar beauties, riveting the attention and deeply engraving on the mind the information with which they every where teem.—Evening Mirror.