Two of them, at all events,—one a tall, grizzled, weather-beaten, stoop-shouldered old man, in tattered raiment, and the other more battered still, but with no “look of the sea” about him,—stood on a sand-drift, gloomily gazing at the group of shipwrecked people on the shore, and the helpless mass of timber and spars out there among the beatings of the surf.
“Not more’n three hunder’ yards out She’d break up soon, ’f there was no one to hender. Wot a show we’d hev!”
“I reckon,” growled the shorter man. “’S your name Peter?”
“Ay. I belong yer. Allers lived ’bout high-water mark. Whar’d ye come from?”
The only answer was a sharp and excited exclamation. Neither of them had been paying any attention to the bay side of the bar; and, while they were gazing at the wreck, a very pretty little yacht had cast anchor, close in shore; and then, with the help of a rowboat, quite a party of ladies and gentlemen—the latter somewhat young-looking for the greater part—had made their way to the land, and were now hurrying forward. They did not pay the slightest attention to Peter and his companion, but in a few minutes more they were trying to talk to those poor people on the seaward beach. Trying, but not succeeding very well; for the wreck had been a Bremen bark, with an assorted cargo and some fifty passengers, all emigrants. German seemed to be their only tongue, and none of Mrs. Kinzer’s pleasure-party spoke German.
“Too bad,” Ford Foster was saying about it, when there came a sort of wail from a group at a little distance, and it seemed to close with,—
“French!” exclaimed Ford. “Why, they look as Dutch as any of the rest. Come on, Annie, let’s try and speak to them.”
The rest followed, a good deal like a flock of sheep; and it was a sad enough scene that lay before them. No lives had been lost in the wreck; but there had been a good deal of suffering among the poor passengers, cooped up between decks, with the hatches closed, while the storm lasted. Nobody drowned, indeed; but all had been dreadfully soaked in the surf in getting ashore, and among the rest had been the fair-haired child, now lying there on his mother’s lap, so pinched and blue, and seemingly so nearly lifeless.
French, were they?
Yes and no; for the father, a tall, stout young man, who looked like a farmer, told Ford they were from Alsace, and spoke both languages.
“The child, was it sick?”
Not so much “sick” as dying of starvation and exposure. Oh, such a sad, pleading look as the poor mother lifted to the moist eyes of Mrs. Kinzer, when the portly widow pushed forward and bent over the silent boy! Such a pretty child he must have been, and not over two years old; but the salt water was in his tangled curls now, and his poor lips were parted in a weak, sick way, that told of utter exhaustion.
“Can any thing be done, mother?”