At the word “Francona” Nyoda started up. That was the boat Hinpoha’s parents were coming on! She hurried out into the hall after the two teachers. “What did you say about the Francona?” she asked. They handed her the “extra” they had been reading and she saw with her own eyes the account of the disaster. The list of “saved” was pitifully small, and Hinpoha’s parents were not among them. Soon she came to the notation, “Among the lost are Mr. and Mrs. Adam Bradford, prominent Cleveland lawyer and his wife. Mr. Bradford was the son of the late Judge Bradford and a well-known man about town.” Of what little avail is “prominence” when calamity stretches out her cruel hands! “Well known” and obscure gave up their lives together and found a grave side by side.
“You look like a ghost, Miss Kent,” said one of the teachers. “Any friends of yours on board?”
“Dorothy Bradford’s mother and father,” answered Nyoda, “one of the pupils here at school.”
Leaving her work unfinished, she hastened to Hinpoha’s house. The news had just been learned there. Aunt Grace had fainted and was being revived with salts. Hinpoha flung herself on Nyoda and clung to her like a drowning person. Between neighbors and friends coming to sympathize and reporters from the newspapers seeking interviews the house was a pandemonium. Nyoda saw that Hinpoha would never quiet down in those surroundings and took her away to her own apartment. Of all the friends who offered consolation Nyoda was the one to whom Hinpoha turned for comfort. Here the brilliant young college woman and the simple girl were on a level, for they shared a common experience, and each could comprehend the other’s sorrow.
Poor Hinpoha! She had need of all the consolation that Nyoda could give her in the days that followed. Full of bitterness as her cup was, there was to be added yet one more drop—the drop that caused it to run over. Aunt Phoebe came to live with her and be the mistress of the Bradford house. At some time in the past Judge Bradford and his sister Phoebe had been named joint guardians of Hinpoha, but the Judge was now dead and Aunt Phoebe was the sole guardian. Aunt Phoebe was a spinster of the type usually described in books, tall and spare, with steely blue eyes. She was sixty years old, but she might have been a hundred and sixty, for all the sympathy she had with youth. She had been disappointed in love when she was twenty and had never thought kindly of any man since. From her earliest childhood Hinpoha had dreaded the very name of Aunt Phoebe. When she came to visit a restraint fell over the whole house. The usual lively chatter at the dinner table was hushed, and Aunt Phoebe held forth in solemn tones, generally berating some unfortunate person who nearly always happened to be a good friend of Mrs. Bradford’s. Hinpoha would be called up for a minute examination of her clothes and manners and would invariably do something which was not right in her great aunt’s eyes.