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Papa and Miss Standish seemed to think it a Christian duty to sustain a cheerful spirit throughout the household. Susan was now with us to assist Meta, and also to take the initiatory steps, essential to her, if she were ever to fill Katrina's place.
Hark! The storm that had for three days been slowly gathering, broke at nightfall in unprecedented fury. I sat with papa in the west sitting-room, and gazed out upon the driving rain, the dark, ominous clouds rolling up into mountains against the sky. The winds howled in the forest, then came sweeping down, wrestling with our great elms, who tost their ponderous arms toward heaven, and shrieked and moaned, and the thick foliage was scattered afar, like chaff. Flashes of lurid lightning quivered along the wall; then crash upon crash came the deafening thunder, beneath which was heard the sharp click of hailstones, as they cut and shivered upon the thick panes of glass.
I was no egoist then, (or ever) but was almost unconscious of my own existence. I felt as if swept and hurled away by the spirit of the storm. I started with a shriek, as I felt myself gathered up by a strong arm. It was papa, lifting me from an unconscious attitude-leading me into the centre of the room, saying very kindly—
“You are safer here, Minnie. But do not show any alarm —our people are already nearly frantic; we must calm their fears."
“I do not think I am much alarmed, dear papa ; but a scene of such terific grandeur carries me away."
“This love of the sublime will be misinterpreted, child
taken for mortal fear, or, perhaps, idiocy (smiling,) by all here, except your papa, upon whom,” he added, in an undertone, "rests at this moment many an agonizing thought.”
At that instant, the whole room was one lurid glare of ghastly light, the garden, the walk, and the great trees stood out in fearful distinctness, then came a fearful crash, and Lion the great house-dog howled a mournful, death-like wail.
Metà opening the door paused and stood still, in speechless terror. Miss Standish had, an hour before, begged permission to remain alone in her chamber.
Papa prest my hand, saying—“My child, you are the mistress now in your father's house, show yourself a worthy daughter of your mother."
I felt that he said this to encourage me, so I went to Meta, took her hand, saying
“My good girl, we shall soon be in worse than Egyptian darkness. Please hasten to put a light in the hall, I am coming out with papa to talk with you all, and to see if this is really such a dreadful storm."
“Oh, Miss Minnie, I would scarcely for my life touch my hand to a match !”
“Then I will go with you to the kitchen fire, and we will procure a light, without increasing your fears."
We went, procured lights and placed them in the hall, where we found a trembling and affrighted group. Hans and Monica were upon their pale faces an unusually troubled look, and Susan, who was henceforth to remain at the house, to supply Katrine's place, sat holding on sturdy little Yoppa's hand. John, who took an occasional turn to see that all the doors and windows were safe, had just returned from one of these visits, and was standing by the side of Biddy Malone and her Patrick, who was holding their fat baby. These, driven by their superstitious fears, had fled up to “The House,” softly. Then there was an old sea-faring man, ill and far from home, who had, in the morning, come to Glenelvan to ask aid of papa to enable him to return to his
family. This had been given with something over for the young ones at home. But papa, fearing lest this poor man should be overtaken by the gathering storm, had given him a cordial welcome to his house, to remain with Hans and Monica until there should be fine weather. Baxter, so he gave his name, weary and disheartened, gratefully accepted this unlooked for kindness. He was not alarmed apparently hy this fearful storm, yet his look was a troubled one. His thoughts might have been with his helpless family, or with his tried companions, now far away upon the stormy-swept ocean.
John brought a large arm-chair for papa and placed it in the centre of the hall, and a smaller one for me, beside it. Then in a voice far from steady, said-
" Please to speak a kind word to them, if you can, sir they fear for those who may be on the sea.”
A sudden pallor passed across papa’s face. He went over quickly and spoke to Monica. A deafening roar filled all the house with its many voices. Papa returned, sat down by me and took one of my hands in bis-_“Minnie, we must talk to each other, even though our thoughts be far away from our subject."
“I will try. Perhaps you will tell me how uncle Hastings came to be so deeply interested in Edgar !"
“Ah, I see you mean that I shall do double duty--but I fear I shall be rather rambling and disconnected, so please to commence catechising.”
“When Edgar has finished his collegiate course and mastered a profession, he is to marry Haidee and become uncle Hastings' heir !”
“Yes. That is the present wish of the parties concerned."
“ But, papa, I have always thought you had an insuperable objection to the intermarriage of full cousins !"
“What! and if I have !_" papa said, with a quick start.
“Oh," I said, somewhat alarmed-~" Indeed I thought Edgar would yield to your wishes, sir, or at least not cross them."
“ This is a very different casc,” papa said slowly--but to what other" case” he alluded, I was unaware.
After a silence of some few minutes, he calmly added “Stanly Hastings has no son. He has great wealth, and means that this shall never be sought through the medium of his daughter's hand—though the mere thought of such a thing can but excite a smile—for the young lady is very beautiful, and gives promise of great personal worth. Then he has some reasons of his own for wishing his family to be connected with his sisters, as they will then reside a part of the time in England. But then, Haidee is not like any other cousin of Edgar's. She is of a different nation, of different blood, and, though her mother, a Hindoo Princess, had little learning, and Haidee herself be at this time but imperfectly educated, the marriage is one greatly to be desired."
" Haidee is richly gifted, I know, and there is no fear but that Miss Browne will render her a thoroughly educated and highly accomplished young lady. The rudiments — the remaining part of the sentence died on my lips. The whole house seemed one blaze of lurid light, whilst the maddening roar of heaven's artillery thundered and crashed through those spacious halls. We sat motionless-awe-stricken.
This passed—a breathless silence reigned, save the far-off muttering and warring of this elemental strife. A door was suddenly thrown open, and John entered from the vestibule of the north gable.
“It has struck, sir, struck and burning." “What is burning, John ?” " The fir-tree, sir, old Noah, that has stood since the flood." Hastening to the north vestibule, we saw the old fir-tree uprooted by the storm, some of the dead branches crackling in the blaze. It was a fearful thought, the winds were blowing the flames directly toward the house. Another crash ! And the rain poured in torrents, extinguishing the fire-and the whole visible world seemed in a moment deluged in storm and darkness.
I felt conscious that papa uttered prayer and thanksgiving. I could scarcely note any abatement of the storm, and the night wore away. But I bethought me of my duties. I would be a considerate and judicious mistress over my father's house, so at a very late hour I persuaded our people to get to their beds, and gave directions to have the strangers all comfortably lodged in that department appropriated to Hans and Monica.
The fury of the storm had by this time, evidently passed far beyond Glenelvan, and little was now heard above the moaning and sobbing of the winds and driving rain. I will not say I passed the night-but I fell asleep listening to those wailing voices, with a wearying pain at my heart, which left me not when the morning broke.
Days passed, serenely now, for the storm was over, though evidences of its wrath were abundant. Days passed-three --four—and news came of heavy shipwrecks and widespread desolation. Where were our dear ones? how fared it with them ?
The elder Mr. Sterling, my new brother's father, had sent papa information respecting the ship in which our family had embarked. We began to look eagerly and fearfully for news of this. It came. Watching with trembling eagerness, which almost amounted to frenzy, the elder Sterling had gained sure and unmistakable evidence of the truth. The facts, briefly stated, he immediately forwarded by a swift messenger. Papa took the letter, tore it open, read.-I watched with breathless anxiety-his face grew deathly pale. The letter fell from his hands—he rose to his feet exclaiming
“Great God ! my wife, my children, dead ["
Hans and Monica_their usually calm faces distorted with fear, forgot their wonted reserve, and came in and seized pa pa's hands, crying
“And Katrine--where is our Katrine ! tell us of her 1" A kind of wild despair overspread the whole group. Sobs,