Chapter III. The Captain’s Children
Lord Edward Glenarvan’s fortune was enormous, and he spent it entirely in doing good. His kindheartedness was even greater than his generosity.
He was thirty-two years of age, tall, and had stern features; but there was an exceeding sweetness in his look. He was known to be brave. He had scarcely been married three months, and his bride was the daughter of great traveler. Miss Helena did not belong to a noble family, but she was Scotch, and that was better than all nobility in the eyes of Lord Glenarvan; and she was, moreover, a charming, religious young woman.
Lord Glenarvan did not forget that his wife was the daughter of a great traveler, and he had the Duncan built expressly that he might take his bride to the most beautiful lands in the world, and complete their honeymoon by sailing up the Mediterranean.
However, Lord Glenarvan had gone now to London. Lady Helena was too much concerned herself about the lives of the shipwrecked men.
In the evening, when Lady Helena was sitting alone in her room, the house steward came in and asked if she would see a young girl and boy that wanted to speak to Lord Glenarvan.
“Some of the country people?” asked Lady Helena.
“No, madame,” replied the steward, “I do not know them at all.”
“Tell them to come up.”
In a few minutes a girl and boy were shown in. They were evidently brother and sister. The girl was about sixteen years of age; her tired pretty face, and sorrowful eyes, as well as her neat though poor attire, made a favorable impression. The boy she held by the hand was about twelve, but his face expressed such determination, that he appeared quite his sister’s protector.
Lady Helena said, with an encouraging smile:
“You wish to speak to me, I think?”
“No,” replied the boy, in a decided tone; “not to you, but to Lord Glenarvan.”
“Excuse him, ma’am,” said the girl, with a look at her brother.
“Lord Glenarvan is not at the castle just now,” returned Lady Helena; “but I am his wife, and if I can do anything for you—”
“You are Lady Glenarvan?” interrupted the girl.
“The wife of Lord Glenarvan, that put an announcement in the TIMES about the shipwreck of the Britannia?”
“Yes, yes,” said Lady Helena, eagerly; “and you?”
“I am Miss Grant, ma’am, and this is my brother.”
“Miss Grant, Miss Grant!” exclaimed Lady Helena, drawing the young girl toward her, and taking both her hands and kissing the boy’s rosy cheeks.
“What is it you know, ma’am, about the shipwreck? Tell me, is my father living? Shall we ever see him again? Oh, tell me,” said the girl.
“My dear child,” replied Lady Helena. “I cannot answer you lightly such a question; I would not delude you with vain hopes.”
“Oh, tell me all, tell me all, ma’am. I can bear to hear anything.”
“My poor child, there is but a faint hope; it is just possible you may one day see your father once more.”
The girl burst into tears, and Robert seized Lady Glenarvan’s hand and covered it with kisses.
As soon as they grew calmer they asked some questions, and Lady Helena recounted the whole story of the document, telling them that their father had been wrecked on the coast of Patagonia, and that he and two sailors, the sole survivors, had written an appeal for help in three languages.
During the recital, Robert Grant more than once cried out, “Oh, papa! My poor papa!” and pressed close to his sister.
Miss Grant sat silent and motionless, with clasped hands, and all she said when the narration ended, was: “Oh, ma’am, the paper, please!”
“I don’t have it now, my dear child,” replied Lady Helena.
“You don’t have it?”
“No. Lord Glenarvan took it to London, for the sake of your father; but I have told you all it contained, word for word. But except the longitude, unfortunately.”
“We can do without that,” said the boy.
“Yes, Mr. Robert,” rejoined Lady Helena, smiling at the child’s decided tone. “And so you see, Miss Grant, you know the smallest details now just as well as I do. Well, tomorrow, perhaps, Lord Glenarvan will be back. My husband wanted to lay the document before the Lords of the Admiralty, to induce them to send out a ship immediately in search of Captain Grant.”
“Is it possible, ma’am,” exclaimed the girl, “that you have done that for us?”
“Yes, my dear Miss Grant, and I am expecting Lord Glenarvan back every minute now.”
“Oh, ma’am! Heaven bless you and Lord Glenarvan,” said the young girl.
“My dear girl, we deserve no thanks; anyone in our place would have done the same. Till my husband returns, you will remain at the Castle.”
“Oh, no, ma’am. We are just strangers.”
“Strangers, dear child!” interrupted Lady Helena; “you and your brother are not strangers in this house!”
It was impossible to refuse an invitation given with such heart, and Miss Grant and her brother consented to stay till Lord Glenarvan returned.
Chapter IV. Lady Glenarvan’s Proposal
Lady Helena began to interrogate Miss Grant, asking her about her past life and her present circumstances. It was a touching, simple story she heard in reply, and one which increased her sympathy for the young girl.
Mary and Robert were the captain’s only children. Harry Grant was a fearless sailor and lived in Dundee, in Perthshire, Scotland. His father had given him a thorough education. He lost his wife when Robert was born, and during his long voyages he left his little ones in charge of his cousin, a good old lady. Now, the old cousin has died, and Harry Grant’s two children were left alone in the world.
Mary Grant was then only fourteen, but she devoted herself entirely to her little brother, who was still a mere child. She managed to support and educate him, working day and night, denying herself everything, that she might give him all he needed, watching over him and caring for him like a mother.
The two children were living in Dundee, struggling patiently and courageously with their poverty. Mary thought only of her brother, and indulged in dreams of a prosperous future for him. She was fully persuaded that her father was dead. What, then, was her emotion when she accidentally saw the notice in the TIMES!
She decided to go to Dumbartonshire immediately, to learn the best and worst. She told her brother about the advertisement, and the two children took the train, and arrived in the evening at Malcolm Castle.
Such was Mary Grant’s sorrowful story, and she recounted it in a simple and unaffected manner. But Lady Helena put her arms round both the children, and could not restrain her tears.
As for Robert, while his sister was speaking, he gazed at her with wide-open eyes, only knowing now how much she had done and suffered for him; and, as she ended, he exclaimed:
“Oh, mamma! My dear little mamma!”
It was quite dark by this time, and Lady Helena made the children go to bed, for she knew they must’ve been tired after their journey. They were soon both sound asleep, dreaming of happy days.
Mary Grant and her brother were up very early next morning, and were walking about in the courtyard when they heard the sound of a carriage approaching. It was Lord Glenarvan; and, almost immediately, Lady Helena and the Major came out to meet him.
Lady Helena flew toward her husband; but he embraced her silently, and looked gloomy and disappointed—indeed, even furious.
“Well, Edward?” she said; “tell me.”
“Well, Helena, dear; those people have no heart!”
“They have refused?”
“Yes. They have refused me a ship! They declared the document was obscure and unintelligible. And, then, they said it was two years since they were cast away, and there was little chance of finding them. They said that the search would be vain and perilous, and cost more lives than it saved. The truth is, they remembered Captain Grant’s projects, and that is the secret of the whole affair. So the poor fellow is lost forever.”
“My father! My poor father!” cried Mary Grant, throwing herself on her knees before Lord Glenarvan, who exclaimed in amazement:
“Your father? What? Is this Miss—”
“Yes, Edward,” said Lady Helena; “this is Miss Mary Grant and her brother.”
“Oh! Miss Grant,” said Lord Glenarvan, raising the young girl, “if I had known of your presence—”
He said no more, and there was a painful silence in the courtyard, broken only by sobs. No one spoke. At last the Major said, addressing Lord Glenarvan: “Then you have no hope whatever?”
“None,” was the reply.
“Very well, then,” exclaimed little Robert, “I’ll go and speak to those people myself, and we’ll see if they—” He did not complete his sentence, for his sister stopped him.
“No, Robert,” said Mary Grant, “we will thank this noble lord and lady for what they have done for us, and never cease to think of them with gratitude; and then we’ll both go together.”
“Mary!” said Lady Helena, in a tone of surprise.
“Go where?” asked Lord Glenarvan.
“I am going to throw myself at the Queen’s feet, and we shall see if she will be deaf to the prayers of two children, who implore their father’s life.”
Lord Glenarvan shook his head. Lady Glenarvan felt the young girl’s attempt would be useless. Suddenly, a grand, generous purpose fired her soul, and she called out: “Mary Grant! Wait, my child, and listen to what I’m going to say.”
The young wife went up to her husband, and said, with tears in her eyes, though her voice was firm, and her face beamed with animation: “Edward, God has sent that letter to us—to us! Undoubtedly God intends us to undertake the rescue of these poor men.”
“What do you mean, Helena?”
“Well, Edward, to please me you planned a pleasure trip; but what could give us such genuine pleasure, or be so useful, as to save those unfortunate fellows?”
“Helena!” exclaimed Lord Glenarvan.
“Yes, Edward, you understand me. The Duncan is a good strong ship, it can venture in the Southern Seas, or go round the world if necessary. Let us go, Edward; let us start off and search for Captain Grant!”
Lord Glenarvan made no reply to this bold proposition, but smiled, and, holding out his arms, drew his wife into a close, fond embrace. Mary and Robert seized her hands, and covered them with kisses; and the servants shouted with one voice, “Hurrah! Three cheers for Lord and Lady Glenarvan!”