It was useless to resist such an appeal, nor was it necessary, for, as she spoke, a woman, running, drew near to them.
“Tell me, what does it mean?” cried Howard to her.
“Near twenty men on board, dead and dying. The ship is half full of water, and is sinking.”
They urged their way along, passing groups in attendance on the prostrate ones upon the shore. Howard and Martin led; the others followed. The whole party gathered about a boat that had just come in, and from which Eric was trying to lift the apparently lifeless body of a young man.
All at once, Mrs. Morton threw up her arms, uttered a piercing cry, and fell forward to the ground. Then, in quick succession, horror, surprise and joy filled the hearts of the little group, as they, too, recognized in Eric’s burden the form and features of Digby Morton!
[IN THE ICE. [SEE PAGE 499.]]
A STRANGE STORY.
The wind is hushed now. The sea beats no longer with rude shocks against the echoing cliffs. The sea-birds have gone to their nests, and the moon, bright and beautiful, is flooding ocean and land with its calm, clear light.
Howard and Martin walk together along the grassy way between their cottage and the sea.
They look anxiously, from time to time, along the road, for they are expecting the arrival of the doctor, and they make a start together as they see a form in the distance. But it is not the doctor; it is Eric.
“Well, Eric, what news? How are your patients to-night?”
“Going on well, thank God!” he answered. “Gideon is sitting up in bed, and has been talking a bit, but not much, for the doctor says it would be the worst thing he could do. And Robbie is picking up strength, but it’s slowly—slowly, poor Robbie!”
“We must hope and pray, and use the best means we can. God helps those who help themselves,” said Howard.
“But He helps those most who cannot help themselves, it seems to me,” said Martin, “when I think of all that has happened during the past few days.”
“It really does seems so, sir,” said Eric; “and to think that Mr. Digby, that you all thought was dead and gone years ago, should have sailed in that same ship along with my two brothers whom we had given up as lost, and that all should come back again together, and their ship drift into the very port they started from! I feel as if I couldn’t believe it; I’m sure I shouldn’t if I read it in a book.”
“It is strange, very strange; yet there are stranger things happening around us every day, Eric, than any man could invent. But, tell me, has Gideon yet spoken of Mr. Digby in his talk?”
“Bless you, sir, he’s talked of nothing else! From what I can make out, Mr. Digby has been the life and soul of the party, and that everybody loved him you may guess from the fact that almost the first question of every one that has come to, has been about him. But I beg pardon for not asking before, sir; how is Mr. Digby, to-night?”