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Chapter 33


"Nay, your pardon! Cry you, 'Forward.' Yours are youth, we hope--but I?" - BROWNING.

The visit of the Bishop of Albertstown had, in fact, been deferred till he could quit his fellow-sufferers, especially Wilfred, who could not well be left to the charge of the two girls, with the Larne doctor evidently in difficulty about his case.

It was with great joy that a telegram was received with tidings that General Mohun and Mysie were on the way, and also Magdalen Prescott, who met them at Liverpool, being unable to stay away from Agatha under such circumstances. At Belfast they obtained a trained nurse, and a doctor was to follow them.

The joy of the meeting between Magdalen and Agatha was almost that of mother and daughter, and nothing could be more entirely convincing that they were one.

Indeed, Agatha was thoroughly worn out; for the main strain of attendance had fallen upon her, since the Bishop was fully occupied with some of the seriously hurt in other cottages; and though Dolores tried to be helpful, it was chiefly in outside work, and attempts at sick cookery, in which she was rather too scientific, and found the lack of appliances very inconvenient. Besides, cousin though she was, or perhaps for that very reason, Wilfred was far less amenable to her voice than Agatha's; and if she attempted authority it was sure to rouse all the resistance left in him. Agatha had been constantly on the alert, liable to be called on every half-hour, to soothe fretful distress over impossible impatience at delay, anger at want of comforts, and dolefulness over the chances of improvements, and abuse, whether just or not, of the only accessible doctor.

In fact, Magdalen, on seeing how utterly worn out she was, and how little space the cottages afforded, thought it best, now that the patient was in the hands of sister, uncle, and nurse, to carry her off at once by the return car to Larne; and Dolores thought it best to accompany them, after Mysie had hung on her as one restored from death. But Mysie was absorbed in her brother, and Dolores had a strong yearning to be with her father, so strong that she decided not to return to England, but to procure a second outfit at Belfast, and to set forth again from thence, nothing daunted, for, as she said (not carelessly), such things did not happen immediately after, in a second voyage. In fact, though thankful and impressed by the loss of the others, she had gone through the crisis of the life of her heart and affections, and she had likewise been once in imminent peril through a convulsion of nature. Thus she was inclined to look on the wreck and the Irish cliffs as an experience in the way of business, so she was resolved to see the Giant's Causeway, and to make notes upon it for her lectures.

But it was a different thing with Agatha. She had been brought face to face with death; and though the actual time had been spent in hurry and bustle, and even the subsequent tossing in the boat had been not so much waiting and thinking as attending to others more terrified and injured than herself, and there followed the incessant waiting on Wilfred; still the experiences had worked in. She rested very silently, dwelling little to Magdalen on her thoughts; but each word she said, and her very countenance, showed that she had made a great step in life and realised the spiritual world, which hitherto had been outside her life--not disbelieved, but almost matter of speculation and study.

She was not at all desirous of falling back from Dolores, whose grave steadiness and fortitude, the result of a truly brave and deep trust, had given her a sense of confidence and protection. So they wrote, and arranged for their passage, and, with Magdalen, spent the intermediate time in needful preparations at Belfast, and in an expedition to the Causeway, where they laid in a stock of notes and observations, all in a spirit that made Magdalen feel that she knew both in a manner she had never done before, and loved them with a deep value and confidence.

Wilfred meanwhile made very slow, if any, progress.

They took him to Belfast as soon as it was possible, and his mother came to him. He was gentle and quiet, with little power of movement, and scarcely any of thought; and in a consultation of doctors, the verdict was given that he must be carefully tended for months, if not for years to come; and though there might finally be full recovery, yet it would depend on the most tender and careful treatment of body and mind. London doctors, when he could be moved thither, confirmed the decision, and he began a helpless invalid life, in which a certain indifference and dulness made him a much less peevish and trying patient than would have been anticipated. Mysie was his willing, but intelligent slave; and his mother was not only thankful to have him brought back to her at any price, but really--though she would not have confessed it even to herself--was less troubled and anxious about him than she had been since he had begun to "roam in youth's uncertain wilds." Indeed, there were hopes that slow recovery might find him a much changed person in character.

He had become so uninterested in his former predilections that he heard with little emotion that Vera was to marry Petros White.

"I thought she would take up with some cad," he said. But his family were really glad that this wedding was to take place at Rocca Marina, whither the two sisters and Magdalen were invited.

Paulina would not go. She still resented the treatment of Hubert Delrio, and she was devoted to her study of nursing at the Dearport Sisterhood; but Magdalen thought it right to take Thekla, and give her the advantages of improvement in languages, and the sight of fine scenery.

And certainly Rocca Marina was a wonderful place for marriages. Vera, handsome and happy and likely to turn into a fairly good commonplace wife, had no sooner been sent off on a honeymoon tour to Greece and Egypt, and Mrs. White had begged the other two to prolong their visit, considering, perhaps, if one or the other aunt or niece could not be promoted to the vacant post of lady-in-waiting, than Hubert Delrio came to secure specimens of marble for some mosaic work on which he was engaged. He was fast becoming a man of mark, whom the Whites were delighted to receive and entertain, and who was delighted to be with the old friends who had had so great an influence on his life. And was it Magdalen alone to whom he chiefly looked up as his helper and guide? So he thought; but before the time of separation had come, he had found out that Thekla was far prettier than ever Vera had been, and with a mind and principle--no Flapsy, but a real sympathetic and poetic nature, which had grown up in these years. Young as she was, their destinies were fixed.

And Magdalen? The railroad had obtained authority to pass through the Goyle, and thus break up her home and shelter. Still she was not tempted by Adeline White's desire to make her a companion; but rather she accepted the plan on which Dolores had first started, and on which Elizabeth Merrifield and Miss Arthuret were set, of making her the head of their home at Penbeacon, partly a convalescent home, and partly a training college for young women in need of technical instruction in nursing or other possible feminine avocations. Tom May was delighted with all it might set on foot, and Clement saw in her leading the hopes that a high and pure spirit might inspire it.


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Charlotte M. Yonge