Elsie at Nantucket by Martha Finley
"Wave high your torches on each crag and cliff. Let many lights blaze on our battlements; Shout to them in the pauses of the storm, And tell them there is hope." --Maturings "Bertram."
The evening was cool, and our whole party were gathered in the parlor of the cottage occupied by the Dinsmores and Travillas--games, fancy-work, reading, and conversation making the time fly.
Edward and Zoe had drawn a little apart from the others, and were conversing together in an undertone.
"Suppose we go out and promenade the veranda for a little," he said, presently. "I will get you a wrap and that knit affair for your head that I think so pretty and becoming."
"Crocheted," she corrected; "yes, I'm quite in the mood for a promenade with my husband; and I'm sure the air outside must be delightful. But you won't have to go farther than that stand in the corner for my things."
He brought them, wrapped the shawl carefully about her, and they went out.
Betty, looking after them, remarked aside to her Cousin Elsie, "How lover-like they are still!"
"Yes," Elsie said, with a glad smile: "they are very fond of each other, and it rejoices my heart to see it."
"And one might say exactly the same of the captain and Violet," pursued Betty, in a lower tone, and glancing toward that couple, as they sat side by side on the opposite sofa--Violet with her babe in her arms, the captain clucking and whistling to it, while it cooed and laughed in his face--Violet's ever-beautiful face more beautiful than its wont, with its expression of exceeding love and happiness as her glance rested now upon her husband and now upon her child.
"Yes," Elsie said again, watching them, with a joyous smile still wreathing her lips and shining in her eyes; "and it is just so with my dear Elsie and Lester. I am truly blest in seeing my children so well mated and so truly happy."
"Zoe, little wife," Edward was saying, out on the veranda, "can you spare me for a day or two?"
"Spare you, Ned? How do you mean?"
"I should like to join the boys--Bob, Harold, and Herbert--in a little trip on a sailing vessel which leaves here early to-morrow morning and will return on the evening of the next day or the next but one. I should ask my little wife to go with us, but, unfortunately, the vessel has no accommodations for ladies. What do you say, love? I shall not go without your consent."
"Thank you, you dear boy, for saying that," she responded, affectionately, squeezing the arm on which she leaned; "go if you want to; I know I can't help missing the kindest and dearest husband in the world, but I shall try to be happy in looking forward to the joy of reunion on your return."
"That's a dear," he said, bending down to kiss the ruby lips. "It is a great delight to meet after a short separation, and we should miss that entirely if we never parted at all."
"But oh, Ned, if anything should happen to you!" she said, in a quivering voice.
"Hush, hush, love," he answered, soothingly; "don't borrow trouble; remember we are under the same protection on the sea as on the land, and perhaps as safe on one as on the other."
"Yes; but when I am with you I share your danger, if there is any, and that is what I wish; for oh, Ned, I couldn't live without you!"
"I hope you may never have to try it, my darling," he said, in tender tones, "or I be called to endure the trial of having to live without you; yet we can hardly hope to go together.
"But let us not vex ourselves with useless fears. We have the promise, 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be.' And we know that nothing can befall us without the will of our Heavenly Father, whose love and compassion are infinite. 'We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.'"
"But if one is not at all sure of belonging to Him?" she said, in a voice so low that he barely caught the words.
"Then the way is open to come to Him. He says, 'Come unto me.' 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.' The invitation is to you, love, as truly as if addressed to you alone; as truly as if you could hear His voice speaking the sweet words and see His kind eyes looking directly at you.
"It is my ardent wish, my most earnest, constant prayer, that my beloved wife may speedily learn to know, love, and trust in Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!"
"You are so good, Ned! I wish I were worthy of such a husband," she murmured, half sighing as she spoke.
"Quite a mistake, Zoe," he replied, with unaffected humility; "to hear you talk so makes me feel like a hypocrite. I haves no righteousness of my own to plead, but, thanks be unto God, I may rejoice in the imputed righteousness of Christ! And that may be yours, too, love, for the asking.
"'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.'
"They are the Master's own words; and He adds: 'For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.'"
Meanwhile the contemplated trip of the young men was under discussion in the parlor. "Dear me!" said Betty, who had just heard of it, "how much fun men and boys do have! Don't you wish you were one of them, Lulu?"
"No, I don't," returned Lulu, promptly. "I'd like to be allowed to do some of the things they do that we mustn't, but I don't want to be a boy."
"That is right," said her father; "there are few things so unpleasant to me as a masculine woman, who wishes herself a man and tries to ape the stronger, coarser sex in dress and manners. I hope my girls will always be content, and more than content, to be what God has made them."
"If you meant to hit me that time, captain," remarked Betty, in a lively tone, "let me tell you it was a miserable failure, for I don't wish I was a man, and never did. Coarse creatures, as you say--present company always excepted--who would want to be one of them."
"I'd never have anything to do with one of them if I were in your place, Bet," laughed her brother.
"Perhaps I shouldn't, only that they seem a sort of necessary evil," she retorted. "But why don't you invite some of us ladies to go along?"
"Because you are not necessary evils," returned her brother, with a twinkle of fun in his eye.
"You should, one and all, have an invitation if we could make you comfortable," said Harold, gallantly: "but the vessel has absolutely no accommodations for ladies."
"Ah, then, you are excusable," returned Betty.
The young men left the next morning, after an early breakfast. Zoe and Betty drove down to the wharf with them to see them off, and watched the departing vessel till she disappeared from sight.
Zoe went home in tears, Betty doing her best to console her.
"Come, now, be a brave little woman; it's for only two or three days at the farthest. Why, I'd never get married if I thought I shouldn't be able to live so long without the fortunate man I bestowed my hand upon."
"Oh, you don't know anything about it, Betty!" sobbed Zoe. "Ned's all I have in the world, and it's so lonesome without him! And then, how do I know that he'll ever get back? A storm may come up and the vessel be wrecked."
"That's just possible," said Betty, "and it's great folly to make ourselves miserable over bare possibilities--things which may never happen."
"Oh, you are a great deal too wise for me!" said Zoe, in disgust.
"Oh," cried Betty, "if it's a pleasure and comfort to you to be miserable--to make yourself so by anticipating the worst--do so by all means. I have heard of people who are never happy but when they are miserable."
"But I am not one of that sort," said Zoe, in an aggrieved tone. "I am as happy as a lark when Ned is with me. Yes, and I'll show you that I can be cheerful even without him."
She accordingly wiped her eyes, put on a smile, and began talking in a sprightly way about the beauty of the sea as they looked upon it, with its waves dancing and sparkling in the brilliant light of the morning sun.
"What shall we do to-day?" queried Betty.
"Take a drive," said Zoe.
"Yes; I wish there was some new route or new place to go to."
"There's a pretty drive to the South Shore, that maybe you have not tried yet," suggested the hackman.
"South Shore? That's another name for Surfside, isn't it?" asked Betty.
"It's another part of the same side of the island I refer to," he answered. "It's a nice drive through the avenue of pines--a road the lovers are fond of--and if the south wind blows, as it does this morning, you have a fine surf to look at when you get there."
"If a drive is talked of to-day, let us propose this one, Zoe," said Betty.
"Yes; I dare say it is as pleasant as any we could take," assented Zoe. "I wish Edward was here to go with us."
Elsie, with her usual thoughtfulness for others, had been considering what could be done to prevent Zoe from feeling lonely in Edward's absence. She saw the hack draw up at the door, and meeting the young girls on the threshold with a bright face and pleasant smile: "You have seen the boys off?" she said, half inquiringly. "The weather is so favorable, that I think they can hardly fail to enjoy themselves greatly."
"Yes, mamma, I hope they will; but ah, a storm may come and wreck them before they can get back," sighed Zoe, furtively wiping away a tear.
"Possibly; but we won't be so foolish as to make ourselves unhappy by anticipating evils that may never come," was the cheery rejoinder. "The Edna has a skilful captain, a good crew, and is doubtless entirely seaworthy--at least so Edward assured me--and for the rest we must trust in Providence.
"Come in, now, and let me give you each a cup of coffee. Your breakfast with the boys was so early and so slight, that you may find appetite for a supplement," she added, sportively, as she led the way into the cosey little dining-room of the cottage, where they found a tempting repast spread especially for them, the others having already taken their morning meal.
"How nice in you, Cousin Elsie!" exclaimed Betty. "I wasn't expecting to eat another breakfast, but I find a rapidly coming appetite; these muffins and this coffee are so delicious."
"So they are," said Zoe. "I never knew anybody else quite so kindly thoughtful as mamma."
"I think I know several," Elsie rejoined; "but it is very pleasant to be so highly appreciated. Now, my dear girls, you will confer a favor if you will tell me in what way I can make the day pass most pleasantly to you."
"Thank you, cousin. It is a delightful morning for a drive, I think," said Betty; then went on to repeat what their hackman had said of the drive to the South Shore.
"It sounds pleasant. I think we will make up a party and try it," Elsie said. "You would like it, Zoe?"
"Yes, mamma, better than anything I know of beside. The man says that just there the beach has not been so thoroughly picked over for shells and other curiosities, and we may be able to find some worth having."
No one had made any special plans for the day, so all were ready to fall into this proposed by Zoe and Betty. Hacks were ordered--enough to hold all of their party now at hand--and they started.
They found the drive all it had been represented. For some distance their way lay along the bank of a long pond, pretty to look at and interesting as connected with old times and ways of life on the island. Their hackmen told them that formerly large flocks of sheep were raised by the inhabitants, and this pond was one of the places where the sheep were brought at a certain time of year to be washed and shorn. On arriving at their destination, they found a long stretch of sandy beach, with great thundering waves dashing upon it.
"Oh," cried Zoe and Betty, in delight, "it is like a bit of 'Sconset!"
"Look away yonder," said Lulu; "isn't that a fisherman's cart?"
"Yes," replied her father. "Suppose we go nearer and see what he is doing."
"Oh, yes; do let us, papa!" cried Lulu, always ready to go everywhere and see everything.
"You may run on with Max and Grace," he said; "some of us will follow presently."
He turned and offered his arm to Violet. "It is heavy walking in this deep sand; let me help you."
"Thank you; it is wearisome, and I am glad to have my husband's strong arm to lean upon," she answered, smiling sweetly up into his eyes as she accepted the offered aid.
The young girls and the children came running back to meet them. "He's catching blue-fish," they announced; "he has a good many in his cart."
"Now, watch him, Mamma Vi; you haven't had a chance to see just such fishing before," said Max. "See, he's whirling his drail; there! now he has sent it far out into the water. Now he's hauling it in, and--oh yes, a good big fish with it."
"What is a drail?" Violet asked.
"It is a hook with a long piece of lead above it covered with eel-skin," answered her husband.
"There it goes again!" she exclaimed. "It is a really interesting sight, but rather hard work, I should think."
When tired of watching the fisherman, they wandered back and forth along the beach in search of curiosities, picking up bits of sponge, rockweed, seaweed, and a greater variety of shells than they had been able to find on other parts of the shore which they had visited.
It was only when they had barely time enough left to reach home for a late dinner that they were all willing to enter the carriages and be driven away from the spot.
As they passed through the streets of the town, the crier was out with his hand-bell.
"Oh yes! oh yes! all the windows to be taken out of the Athenaeum to-day, and the Athenaeum to be elevated to-night."
After listening intently to several repetitions of the cry, they succeeded in making it out.
"But what on earth does he mean?" exclaimed Betty.
"Ventilated, I presume," replied the captain. "There was an exhibition there last night, and complaints were made that the room was close."
Toward evening of the next day our friends in the cliff cottages began to look for the return of the Edna with the four young men of their party. But night fell, and yet they had not arrived.
Elsie began to feel anxious, but tried not to allow her disturbance to be perceived, especially by Zoe, who seemed restless and ill at ease, going often out to the edge of the cliff and gazing long and intently toward that quarter of the horizon where she had seen the Edna disappear on the morning she sailed out of Nantucket harbor.
She sought her post of observation for the twentieth time just before sunset, and remained there till it grew too dark to see much beyond the line of breakers along the shore below.
Turning to re-enter the house, she found Captain Raymond standing by her side.
"O captain," she cried, "isn't it time the Edna was in?"
"I rather supposed they would be in a little earlier than this, but am not at all surprised that they are not," he answered, in a cheery tone. "Indeed, it is quite possible that they may not get in till to-morrow. When they left it was uncertain that they would come back to-day. So, my good sister, I think we have no cause for anxiety."
"Then I shall try not to be anxious," she said; "but it seems like a month since I parted from Ned, and it's a sore disappointment not to see him to-night. I don't know how Vi stands your long absences, captain."
"Don't you suppose it's about as hard for me as for her, considering how charming she is?" he asked, lightly.
"Perhaps it is; but men don't live in their affections as women do; love is only half the world to the most loving of them, I verily believe, while it's all the world to us."
"There is some truth in that," he acknowledged; "we men are compelled to give much time and thought to business, yet many of us are ardent lovers or affectionate husbands. I, for one, am extremely fond of wife and children."
"Yes, I am sure of it, and quite as sure that Ned is very fond of me."
"There isn't a doubt of it. I think I have never seen a happier couple than you seem to be, or than Leland and his Elsie; yet Violet and I will not yield the palm to either of you."
"And was there ever such a mother-in-law as mamma?" said Zoe. "I don't remember my own mother very distinctly, but I do not believe I could have loved her much better than I do Edward's mother."
"Words would fail me in an attempt to describe all her excellences," he responded. "Well, Lulu, what is it?" as the child came running toward them.
"Tea is ready, papa, and Grandma Rose says 'please come to it.'"
Shortly after leaving the table, the captain, noticing that Zoe seemed anxious and sad, offered to go into the town and inquire if anything had been seen or heard of the Edna.
"Oh, thank you," she said, brightening; "but won't you take me along?"
"Certainly, if you think you will not find the walk too long and fatiguing."
"Not a bit," she returned, hastily donning hat and shawl.
"Have you any objection to my company, Levis?" Violet asked, with sportive look and tone.
"My love, I shall be delighted, if you feel equal to the exertion," he answered, with a look of pleasure that said more than the words.
"Quite," she said. "Max, I know you like to wait on me; will you please bring my hat and shawl from the bedroom there?"
"Yes, indeed, with pleasure, Mamma Vi," the boy answered, with alacrity, as he hastened to obey.
"Three won't make as agreeable a number for travelling the sidewalks as four, and I ought to be looking out for Bob," remarked Betty; "so if anybody will ask me to go along perhaps I may consent."
"Yes, do come," said Zoe. "I'll take you for my escort."
"And we will walk decorously behind the captain and Vi, feeling no fear because under the protection of his wing," added the lively Betty. "But do you think, sir, you have the strength and ability to protect three helpless females?" she asked, suddenly wheeling round upon him.
"I have not a doubt I can render them all the aid and protection they are at all likely to need in this peaceful, law-abiding community," he answered, with becoming gravity, as he gave his arm to his wife, and led the way from the house.
"It is a rather lonely but by no means dangerous walk, Cousin Betty," he added, holding the gate open for her and the others to pass out.
"Lonely enough for me to indulge in a moderate amount of fun and laughter, is it not, sir?" she returned, in an inquiring tone.
She seemed full of life and gayety, while Zoe was unusually quiet.
They walked into the town and all the way down to the wharf; but the Edna was not there, nor could they hear any news of her. Zoe seemed full of anxiety and distress, though the others tried to convince her there was no occasion for it.
"Come, come, cheer up, little woman," the captain said, seeing her eyes fill with tears. "If we do not see or hear from them by this time to-morrow night, we may begin to be anxious; but till then there is really no need."
"There, Zoe, you have an opinion that is worth something, the captain being an experienced sailor," remarked Betty. "So thry to be aisy, my dear, and if ye can't be aisy, be as aisy as ye can!"
Zoe laughed faintly at Betty's jest; then, with a heroic effort, put on an air of cheerfulness, and contributed her full quota to the sprightly chat on the homeward walk.
She kept up her cheerful manner till she had parted from the rest for the night, but wet her solitary pillow with tears ere her anxiety and loneliness were forgotten in sleep.
Her spirits revived with the new day, for the sun rose clear and bright, the sea was calm, and she said to herself, "Oh, surely the Edna will come in before night, and Ned and I will be together again!"
Many times that day both she and his mother scanned intently the wide waste of waters, and watched with eager eyes the approach of some distant sail, hoping it might prove the one they looked and longed for.
But their hopes were disappointed again and again; noon passed, and the Edna was not in sight.
"Mamma, what can be keeping them?" sighed Zoe, as the two stood together on the brow of the hill, still engaged in their fruitless search.
"Not necessarily anything amiss," Elsie answered. "You remember that when they went it was quite uncertain whether they would return earlier than to-night; so let us not suffer ourselves to be uneasy because they are not yet here."
"I am ashamed of myself," Zoe said. "I wish I could learn to be as patient and cheerful as you are, mamma."
"I trust you will be more so by the time you are my age," Elsie said, putting an arm about Zoe's waist and drawing her close, with a tender caress. "I still at times feel the risings of impatience; I have not fully learned to 'let patience have her perfect work.'
"There is an old proverb, 'A watched pot never boils,'" she added, with sportive look and tone. "Suppose we seat ourselves in the veranda yonder and try to forget the Edna for awhile in an interesting story. I have a new book which looks very interesting, and has been highly commended in some of the reviews. We will get papa to read it aloud to us while we busy ourselves with our fancy-work. Shall we not?"
Zoe assented, though with rather an indifferent air, and they returned to the house.
Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore, the only ones they found there, the others being all down on the beach, fell readily into the plan; the book and the work were brought out, and the reading began.
It was a good, well-told story, and even Zoe presently became thoroughly interested.
Down on the beach Violet and the captain sat together in the sand, he searching sea and sky with a spyglass.
She noticed a look of anxiety creeping over his face.
"What is it, Levis?" she asked.
"I fear there is a heavy storm coming," he said. "I wish with all my heart the Edna was in. But I trust they have been wise enough not to put out to sea and are safe in harbor some where."
"I hope so, indeed," she responded, fervently, "for we have much precious freight aboard of her. But the sky does not look very threatening to me, Levis."
"Does it not? I wish I could say the same. But, little wife, are you weatherwise or otherwise?" he asked, laughingly.
"Not wise in any way except as I may lay claim to the wisdom of my other half," she returned, adopting his sportive tone.
"Ah," she exclaimed the next moment, "I, too, begin to see some indications of a storm; it is growing very dark yonder in the northeast!"
Betty came hurrying up, panting and frightened. "O captain, be a dear, good man, and say you don't think we are to have a storm directly--before Bob and the rest get safe to shore!"
"I should be glad to oblige you, Betty," he said, "but I cannot say that; and what would it avail if I did? Could my opinion stay the storm?"
"Zoe will be frightened to death about Edward," she said, turning her face seaward again as she spoke, and gazing with tear-dimmed eyes at the black, threatening cloud fast spreading from horizon to zenith, "and I--oh, Bob is nearer to me than any other creature on earth!"
"Let us hope for the best, Betty," the captain said, kindly; "it is quite possible, perhaps I might say probable, that the Edna is now lying at anchor in some safe harbor, and will stay there till this storm is over."
"Oh, thank you for telling me that!" she cried. "I'll just try to believe it is so and not fret, though it would pretty nearly kill me if anything should happen to Bob. Still, it will do no good to fret."
"Prayer would do far more," said Violet, softly--"prayer to Him whom even the winds and the sea obey. But isn't it time to go in, Levis? the storm seems to be coming up so very fast."
"Yes," he said, rising and helping her to get on her feet. "Where are the children?"
"Yonder," said Betty, nodding in their direction. "I'll tell them--shall I?"
"No, thank you; you and Violet hurry on to the house as fast as you can; I will call the children, follow with them, and probably overtake you in time to help you up the stairs."
Before they were all safely housed, the wind had come down upon them and was blowing almost a gale. It was with considerable difficulty the captain succeeded in getting them all up the long steep flights of stairs by which they must reach the top of the cliff.
About the time they started for the house the party on the veranda became aware that a storm was rising.
Zoe saw it first, and dropped her work in her lap with the cry, "Oh, I knew it would be so! I just knew it! A dreadful storm is coming, and the Edna will be wrecked, and Edward will drown. I shall never see him again!"
The others were too much startled and alarmed at the moment to notice her wild words or make any reply. They all rose and hurried into the house, and Mr. Dinsmore began closing windows and doors.
"The children, papa!" cried Elsie; "they must be down on the beach, and--"
"The captain is with them, and I will go to their assistance," he replied, before she could finish her sentence.
He rushed out as he spoke, to return the next moment with Walter in his arms and the rest closely following.
"These are all safe, and for the others I must trust the Lord," Elsie said softly to herself as her father set Walter down, and she drew the child to her side.
But her cheek was very pale, and her lips trembled as she pressed them to the little fellow's forehead.
He looked up wonderingly. "Mamma, what is the matter? You're not afraid of wind and thunder?"
"No, dear; but I fear for your brothers out on this stormy sea," she whispered in his ear. "Pray for them, darling, that if God will, they may reach home in safety."
"Yes, mamma, I will; and I believe He'll bring them. Is it 'cause Ned's in the ship Zoe's crying so?"
"Yes; I must try to comfort her." And putting him gently aside, Elsie went to her young daughter-in-law, who had thrown herself upon a couch, and with her head pillowed on its arm, her face hidden in her hands, was weeping and sobbing as if her heart would break.
"Zoe, love," Elsie said, kneeling at her side and putting her arms about her, "do not despair. 'Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear.'"
"No, but--He does let people drown; and oh, I can never live without my husband!"
"Dear child, there is no need to consider that question till it is forced upon you. Try, dear one, to let that alone, and rest in the promise, 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be.'"
The captain had drawn near, and was standing close beside them.
"Mother has given you the best of advice, my little sister," he said, in his kind, cheery way; "and for your further comfort let me say that it is altogether likely the Edna is safe in harbor somewhere. I think they probably perceived the approach of the storm in season to be warned not to put out to sea till it should be over."
"Do you really think so, captain?" she asked, lifting her head to wipe away her tears.
He assured her that he did; and thinking him a competent judge of what seamen would be likely to do in such an emergency, she grew calm for a time, though her face was still sad; and till darkness shut out the sight, she cast many an anxious glance from the window upon the raging waters.
"If not in harbor, they must be in great peril?" Mr. Dinsmore remarked, aside, and half inquiringly, to the captain.
"Yes, sir; yes, indeed. I am far more anxious than I should like to own to their mother, Zoe, or Violet."
It was near their tea hour when the storm burst; they gathered about the table as usual, but there was little eating done except by the children, and the meal was not enlivened, as was customary with them, by cheerful, sprightly chat, though efforts in that direction were not wanting on the part of several of their number.
The storm raged on with unabated fury, and Zoe, as she listened to the howling of the wind and the deafening thunder peals, grew wild with terror for her husband. She could not be persuaded to go to bed, even when her accustomed hour for retiring was long past, but would sit in her chair, moaning, "O Ned! Ned! my husband, my dear, dear husband! Oh, if I could only do anything to help you! My darling, my darling! you are all I have, and I can't live without you!" then spring up and pace the floor, sobbing, wringing her hands, and sometimes, as a fierce blast shook the cottage or a more deafening thunder peal crashed over-head, even shrieking out in terror and distress.
In vain Elsie tried to soothe and quiet her with reassuring, comforting words or caresses and endearments.
"Oh, I can't bear it!" she cried again and again. "Ned is all I have, and it will kill me to lose him. Nobody can know how I suffer at the very thought."
"My dear," Elsie said, with a voice trembling with emotion, "you forget that Edward is my dearly loved son, and that I have two others, who are no less dear to their mother's heart, on board that vessel."
"Forgive me, mamma," Zoe sobbed, taking Elsie's hand and dropping tears and kisses upon it. "I did forget, and it was very shameful, for you are so kind and loving to me, putting aside your own grief and anxiety to help me in bearing mine. But how is it yon can be so calm?"
"Because, dear, I am enabled to stay my heart on God, my Almighty Friend, my kind, wise, Heavenly Father. Listen, love, to these sweet words: 'O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto Thee? or to thy faithfulness round about Thee? Thou rulest the roaring of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them.'"
"They are beautiful," said Betty, who sat near, in a despondent attitude, her elbow on her knee, her cheek in her hand. "Oh, Cousin Elsie, I would give all the world for your faith, and to be able to find the comfort and support in Bible promises and teachings that you do!"
The outer door opened, and Mr. Dinsmore and Captain Raymond came in, their waterproof coats dripping with rain.
They had been out on the edge of the cliff taking an observation, though it was little they could see through the darkness; but occasionally the lightning's lurid flash lit up the scene for a moment, and afforded a glimpse of the storm-tossed deep.
"Be comforted, ladies," the captain said; "there are at least no signs of any vessel in distress; if any such were near, she would undoubtedly be firing signal-guns. So I think we may hope my conjecture that our boys are safe in harbor somewhere, is correct."
"And the storm is passing over," said Mr. Dinsmore; "the thunder and lightning have almost ceased."
"But the wind has not fallen, and that is what makes the great danger, grandpa, isn't it?" asked Zoe. "Oh, hark, what was that? I heard a step and voice!" And rushing to the outer door as she spoke, she threw it open, and found herself in her husband's arms.
"O Ned, Ned!" she cried, in a transport of joy, "is it really you? Oh, I thought I should never see you again, you dear, dear, dear boy!"
She clung round his neck, and he held her close, with many a caress and endearing word, drawing her a little to one side to let his brothers step past them and embrace the tender mother, who wept for joy as she received them, almost as if restored to her from the very gates of death.
"There, love, I must let you go while I take off this dripping coat," Edward said, at length, releasing Zoe. "How wet I have made you! I fear your pretty dress is quite spoiled," he added, with a tender, regretful smile.
"That's nothing," she answered, with a gay laugh; "you'll only have to buy me another, and you've plenty of money."
"Plenty to supply all the wants of my little wife, I hope."
"Ah, mother dear," as he threw aside his wet overcoat and took her in his arms, "were you alarmed for the safety of your three sons?"
"Yes, indeed I was," she said, returning his kisses; "and I feel that I have great cause for thankfulness in that you are all brought back to me unharmed. 'Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!'"
Betty had started up on the entrance of her cousins, glancing eagerly from one dripping figure to another, then staggered back and leaned, pale and trembling, against the wall. In the excitement no one had noticed her, but now she exclaimed, in tremulous accents, and catching her breath, "Bob--my brother; where is he?"
"O Betty," Harold answered, turning hastily at the sound of her voice, "forgive our thoughtlessness in not explaining that at once! Bob went to a hotel; he said we could bring the news of his safety and our own, and it wasn't worth while for him to travel all the way up here through the storm."
"No, of course not; I wouldn't have had him do so," she returned, with a sigh of relief, her face resuming its wonted gayety of expression; "but I'm mighty glad he's safe on terra firma."
"But your story, boys; let us have it," said Mr. Dinsmore.
"Yes, we have a story, grandpa," said Edward, with emphasis and excitement; "but Harold should tell it; he could do it better than I."
"No, no," Harold said; "you are as good a story-teller as I."
"There!" laughed Herbert. "I believe I'll have to do it myself, or with your extreme politeness to each other you'll keep the audience waiting all night.
"The storm came suddenly upon us when we were about half way home, or maybe something more; and it presently became evident that we were in imminent danger of wreck. The captain soon concluded that our only chance was in letting the Edna drive right before the wind, which would take us in exactly the direction we wished to pursue, but with rather startling celerity; and that was what he did.
"She flew over the water like a wild winged bird, and into the harbor with immense velocity. Safely enough, though, till we were there, almost at the wharf, when we struck against another vessel anchored near, and actually cut her in two, spilling the crew into the water."
"Don't look so horrified, mother dear," said Harold, as Herbert paused for breath; "no one was drowned, no one even hurt."
"Barring the wetting and the fright, as the Irish say," added Edward.
"But the latter was a real hurt," said Harold; "for the cry they sent up as they made the sudden, involuntary plunge from their berths, where they were probably asleep at the moment of collision, into the cold, deep water of the harbor, was something terrible to hear."
"Enough to curdle one's blood," added Herbert.
"And you are quite sure all were picked up?" asked Elsie, her sweet face full of pity for the unfortunate sufferers.
"Yes, mother, quite sure," answered Edward; "the captain of the craft said, in my hearing, that no one was missing."
"And the captain of the other will probably have pretty heavy damages to pay," remarked Mr. Dinsmore.
"I presume so," said Edward; "but even that would be far better than the loss of his vessel, with all the lives of those on board."
"Money could not pay for those last," Elsie said, low and tremulously, as she looked at her three tall sons through a mist of unshed tears; "and I will gladly help the Edna's captain to meet the damages incurred in his efforts to save them."
"Just like you, mother," Edward said, giving her a look of proud, fond affection.
"I entirely approve, and shall be ready to contribute my share," said her father. "But it is very late, or rather early--long past midnight--and we should be getting to bed. But let us first unite in a prayer of thanksgiving to our God for all His mercies, especially this--that our dear boys are restored to us unharmed."
They knelt, and led by him, all hearts united in a fervent outpouring of gratitude and praise to the Giver of all good.