Before that voyage was over, Captain Lane resolved to abandon the sea and retire to his fine estate at Mariana, a village on the seashore not a score of miles from Baltimore. He kept his intentions a secret until the vessel was in port; then the merchants with whom he had been engaged in business for years, were astounded to learn that Captain Lane had made his last voyage. A nurse was engaged for little Morgianna and the great mansion house on the hill within a fourth of a mile of Mariana was fitted up for habitation. Servants were sent to the place, and the villagers were lost in wonder.
The gossips had food for conjecture for weeks, and many were the strange stories afloat. Some of the old dames thought the captain was going to be married after all. Then the young widows and ancient maidens who had heard much about Captain Lane, sighed and looked disconsolate. Every kind of a story but the truth was afloat.
When on one bright autumnal day, a carriage from Baltimore was seen to dash into the village and roll up the great drive, between the rows of poplars, it was whispered he had come. One who watched averred that only the captain and a child not over a year and a half old alighted from the coach. (The nurse came in another vehicle.) The child started another rumor. She was a mysterious, unknown factor, and the gossips bandied the captain’s name about in a reckless manner. Good old dames shook their heads knowingly and declared they had suspected the captain had a wife all the time in some far-off city.
“You kin never depend on these sea-captains!” Mrs. Hammond declared.
But despite all their conjectures, the captain lived in the old stone mansion house with his servants and Morgianna. A few weeks after his arrival, she was christened at the village church as Morgianna Lane, her parents not known.
Would wonders never cease? Bit by bit, the sensational story of Morgianna got out into the village, and she became the object of the greatest interest. Captain Lane adopted her, and when she became old enough to accompany him, he seldom went away without her. Morgianna loved the good old man, who, with all his rough seaman-like ways, was father and mother both to her.
Never had daughter a kinder or more indulgent father.
As years went on, Morgianna grew in beauty, intelligence, grace and goodness. Captain Lane was proud of her, and she was never so happy as when sitting on his knee listening to his yarns of the sea. Her own sad, dark story had never been told to her,—that was left for the future.