Linnet lay on her mother’s bed and wept, and then slept from exhaustion, to awake with the cry, “Oh, why didn’t I die in my sleep?”
One evening Mrs. Rheid appeared at the kitchen door; her cap and sunbonnet had fallen off, her gray hair was roughened over her forehead, her eyes were wild, her lips apart. Her husband had brought her, and sat outside in his wagon too stupefied to remember that he was leaving his old wife to stagger into the house alone.
Mrs. West turned from the table, where she was reading her evening chapter by candle light, and rising caught her before she fell into her arms. The two old mothers clung to each other and wept together; it seemed such a little time since they had washed up Linnet’s dishes and set her house in order on the wedding day. Mrs. Rheid thrust a newspaper into her hand as she heard her husband’s step, and went out to meet him as Mrs. West called Marjorie. Linnet was asleep upon her mother’s bed.
“My baby, my poor baby!” cried her mother, falling on her knees beside the bed, “must you wake up to this?”
She awoke at midnight; but her mother lay quiet beside her, and she did not arouse her. In the early light she discerned something in her mother’s face, and begged to know what she had to tell.
Taking her into her arms she told her all she knew. It was in the newspaper. A homeward-bound ship had brought the news. The Linnet had been seen; wrecked, all her masts gone, deserted, not a soul on board—the captain supposed she went down that night; there was a storm, and he could not find her again in the morning. He had tried to keep near her, thinking it worth while to tow her in. Before she ended, the child was a dead weight in her arms. For an hour they all believed her dead. A long illness followed; it was Christmas before she crossed the chamber, and in April Captain Rheid brought her downstairs in his arms.
His wife said he loved Linnet as he would have loved an own daughter. His heart was more broken than hers.
“Poor father,” she would say, stroking his grizzly beard with her thin fingers; “poor father.”
“Cynthy,” African John’s wife, had a new suggestion every time she was allowed to see Linnet. Hadn’t she waited, and didn’t she know? Mightn’t an East Indian have taken him off and carried him to Madras, or somewhere there, and wasn’t he now working his passage home as she had once heard of a shipwrecked captain doing! Or, perhaps some ship was taking him around the Horn—it took time to go around that Horn, as everybody knew—or suppose a whaler had taken him off and carried him up north, could he expect to get back in a day, and did she want him to find her in such a plight?
So Linnet hoped and hoped. His mother put on mourning, and had a funeral sermon preached; and his father put up a grave-stone in the churchyard, with his name and age engraved on it, and underneath, “Lost at sea.” There were, many such in that country churchyard.