ABOARD THE S.S. MAJESTIC
Mrs. Harris was naturally a brave woman, but the telegram, and the sudden separation perhaps forever from her husband and Gertrude, unnerved her. She sank back into an easy chair on the steamer, murmuring, “Why this terrible disappointment? Why did I not turn back with my husband? This is worse than death. Mr. Harris is in great trouble. Why did I not at once sacrifice all and share his misfortunes? How noble in Gertrude to go ashore with her father. It is just like the child, for she is never happy except when she forgets self, and does for others.”
Mrs. Harris sobbed as if her loved ones had been left in the tomb. Lucille tenderly held her mother’s hand, and spoke comforting words: “Cheer up, mother, all will yet be well. Father can now take Mr. Searles to Harrisville.”
“To see what, child—men misled and on a strike and the mills all closed down! It means much trouble, and perhaps disaster for the Harrises.”
“Oh, no, mother, all will soon be well. Let us go on the deck.”
Alfonso led his mother, and Leo took Lucille up among the passengers.
They were just in time to see the white cloud of fluttering handkerchiefs on the pier. Leo said that he could distinguish with his field-glass Colonel Harris and Gertrude, and tears again came into Mrs. Harris’s eyes.
European steamers always leave on time, waiting for neither prince nor peasant. A carriage with foaming horses drove in upon the pier as the tug pulled the steamer out upon the Hudson. Its single occupant was an English government agent bearing a special message from the British embassador at Washington to Downing Street, London.
“Now what’s to be done?” the British agent sharply inquired.
“Two pounds, sir, and we will put you and your luggage aboard,” shouted an English sailor.
“Agreed,” said the agent, and to the surprise of everybody on the pier, two robust sailors pulled as for their lives, and each won a sovereign, as they put the belated agent on board the “Majestic.”
This race for a passage caught the eye of Mrs. Harris. At first she thought that the little boat might contain her husband, but as the English agent came up the ship’s ladder, she grasped Alfonso’s arm, and said, “Here, my son, take my hand and help me quickly to the boat; I will go back to Mr. Harris.”
“No! No!” said Alfonso, “Look, mother, the little boat is already returning to the dock.” Later the purser brought to Mrs. Harris an envelope containing the steamer tickets and a purse of gold, which the colonel thoughtfully had sent by the English agent.
Mrs. Harris re-examined the envelope, and found the colonel’s personal card which contained on the back a few words, hastily scribbled: “Cheer up everybody; glad four of our party are on board. Enjoy yourselves. Gertrude sends love. Later we will join you in London perhaps. God bless you all. R.H.”