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The Moorland Cottage by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

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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

"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

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

"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

"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.


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