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- Sara, a Princess - 5/43 -


without more ado, in spite of her drowsy and fretful resistance. She had scarcely touched the pillow, however, when she dropped into a heavy slumber; and the girl, filled with vague forebodings over her, and also because of the storm, sent unwilling Molly up-stairs alone, and camped down, fully dressed, before the fire, with a pillow and comforter.

The next thing she realized was the feeling that she was rising out of unknown depths of nothingness; and, after one bewildered glance about the room, she finally became conscious of a faint, hoarse voice calling, "Sairay! Sairay!"

She dragged herself to her feet, all cramped and stiff from her uncomfortable position, and at last, fully aware of her surroundings, answered, "Yes, mother, I'm coming!" as she hastened to the bedside.

Bending over it, she fairly started at the pallor of the face upon the pillow, from which the dark eyes seemed starting with an expression of pain and anxiety which set her heart to beating heavily.

"Sairay," whispered that strange voice, "I'm sick--I'm awful sick--in here."

The hand, already at her side, pressed it more closely, and her brows contracted with pain.

"O mother! what is it? your lungs? You've taken a dreadful cold."

She nodded; and Sara flew to call Morton, and send him for the doctor, then heated the flannels her mother asked for, and vainly tried to soothe the now frightened and crying baby.

It seemed an age till the doctor came stamping in,--a pudgy little man, with an expression of unquenchable good-humor on his round, florid face.

"Well, well," he said briskly, rubbing his hands before the freshly kindled blaze, "caught cold, has she? Lungs sore? That's right! Plenty of hot flannels. Now, let me see."

Having warmed himself, he proceeded to examine the sick woman; and Sara saw that his face was more serious as he turned away. He gave her careful directions about the medicines, and said he should look in again after breakfast (it was now towards morning); then tied his hat down with an old worsted tippet, and prepared to depart.

Sara followed him outside of the door, unmindful of the sweeping gusts of wind, and his admonitions to stay indoors or she too would be ill.

"Yes, doctor, but just a moment; what is it?"

"Pneumonia."

"Oh! and is she very sick?"

"Well, you look after her just as I tell you, and, God willing, we'll pull her through. Now go in and dry yourself quick! I don't want two patients in one house."

He pushed her in, shut the door behind her with a bang, and was gone.

The memory of the next three days was always like a troubled dream to Sara,--one of those frightful dreams in which one is laboring to go somewhere, to do something, without success. Work as she would, day and night, assisted by the kindly neighbors and the frightened children, she could not stay the progress of that fatal disease; and on the fourth it terminated in the going out of that life which, with all its faults, had been kindly in impulse at least.

As Sara bent over her mother at the last, trying to win a word, a look, the closed lids were raised a moment, and the dying woman said feebly, "Sairay, you've--allus--been good! Don't leave--the baby. There's--the-- money;" and, unable to finish, her voice ceased, her tired lids closed for their last, long sleep. She would never find fault, never give commendation, again. How the thought smote Sara as she stood helplessly gazing down upon her through her blinding tears!

"O mother, mother! I ought to have been more patient," she moaned as they led her away; "but I will try and make amends by my goodness to baby."

"Yes, that's right," said Mrs. Ruttger, wiping her eyes. "We kain't none of us help what's passed atween us an' the dead, but it oughter make us better to the livin'. Not thet I blame you, Sairay; some folks, even good ones, is dretful tryin' at times; but I know jest haow you feel, fur I've been thar myself."

There is among these honest fisherfolk a strong feeling of communism, which shows itself in the kindliest ways. They may be close-fisted, hard-headed, and sharp-tongued with each other when well and prosperous; but let poverty, wreck, illness, or death overtake one of their number, and the "nighest" of them at a bargain will open heart and purse with an astonishing generosity.

Sara found all responsibility taken out of her hands. In fact, Miss Prue, finding her standing in the midst of her room with her hand pressed to her head, gazing bewilderedly about, and asking softly, "Where am I?" took her vigorously in hand, and soon had her in bed, where, exhausted as she was, she slept for hours without dreams or movement,--a sleep which doubtless saved her an illness, and brought her strong young body into excellent condition once more.

Through all this Sara longed inexpressibly for her father, but knew it was hopeless wishing.

All she could do was to intrust the news to a fishing-smack which was about leaving harbor, and might possibly run across the Nautilus somewhere on the broad highway of the ocean. Yet, even then, he could only return in case of some lucky opportunity; for the fleet would not put back for weeks yet, as this was their harvest-time, when even the dead must wait, that the necessities of the living might be supplied.

After a few days things were strangely quiet and natural once more.

Morton and Molly, thoroughly subdued for the time by recent events, helped her about the house, the short winter's term of school having closed for the long vacation.

Even the baby seemed less fretful than before; and the lengthening, softening days went by in a quiet that left Sara many hours for her beloved books.

But the children were needing clothes, and she herself must have a cotton gown; so, as the little store of silver in the old blue teapot had been almost exhausted by the simple funeral requirements, she put on her sunbonnet one afternoon, and leaving the baby, with many injunctions, to the care of the twins, started to call on Squire Scrantoun, who had for many years been her father's banker.

The old gentleman's office was in a wing of his big yellow house of colonial architecture, and was entered by means of a glass door, which now stood open in the balmy warmth of an early June day.

Stepping within, she found him reading a paper, from which he glanced up to scowl inquiringly at her over his glasses, afterwards relaxing his brows a trifle as he observed,--

"Oh, it's you, Sara: come in, come in! Here's a seat. Now, what can I do for you?"

"Thank you, squire; I came to get some money if you please."

"Money? Oh, yes, certainly. Want to borrow a little, eh? Well, I guess I could accommodate you; how much?"

She looked up inquiringly. "Not to borrow, squire; but I've had extra expenses, as you know; and, as father always leaves his money with you"--

The squire put down his paper, and looked at her so queerly the sentence died on her lips.

"I haven't any money of your father's--don't you know? He drew it all just before he sailed, and took it home; said his wife wanted him to. She had dreamed of a good place to hide it in, I believe."

He smiled sarcastically as he made the explanation; and Sara, in her new tenderness toward the dead mother, resented this smile.

"Mother was a good manager," she said warmly, "and father always trusted her."

"Oh, of course! Reub Olmstead always trusts everybody; he's born that way. But didn't she tell you where she'd put it before she died?"

"No; but now I remember, she tried to, I'm sure. She began something about the money, but was too weak to finish--poor mother!"

"Quite likely; it's a pity she couldn't have finished. But then, you'll find it somewhere. Look in all the old stockings and sugar-bowls,-- there's where these people generally stow away their savings,--and if you don't find it, why, come to me; I can let you have a little, I guess, on interest of course."

He took up his paper again; and Sara, feeling sore and resentful, rose, said a curt "Very well," and walked out.

Two years ago she might not have noticed his contemptuous reference to "these people," nor to her father's innate trust in human nature; but now, for some reason, they rankled, and she was glad to get beyond the reach of his small, keen blue eyes and rasping voice.

CHAPTER III.

A SEARCH AND ITS ENDING.

Sara had not walked far, however, before she began to feel the silent, irresistible influences of the day. It was the balmy blossoming time. The whole atmosphere was rich with sweet scents and sounds, while the sky had that marvellous depth and tone which makes the name of heaven seem no misnomer.

The sea, limpid and tender, wooed the shore with gentle whispers and caressings, which seemed to have no likeness to the wild rushes and blows of two months before. She looked towards it wistfully,--for Sara loved the sea,--then, yielding to the homesick impulse, turned from the narrow street to the beach, and walked briskly away towards a spur of rock which jutted into the water sharply at some distance away.


Sara, a Princess - 5/43

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